Red Bull Racing owns the front row for the USGP at Circuit of the Americas in Austin Texas, with SEBASTIAN VETTEL taking his eighth pole of the season, and teammate MARK WEBBER along side. It had looked like Webber was finally going to get his due with the pole position when his teammate pipped him literally at the last minute. There was a spontaneous, involuntary, collective groan heard in the Media Center when Vettel jumped to the top.
The qualifying gap is 0.103 seconds between the teammates. Vettel’s lap was 1:36.338/128.000 mph/206.012 kph. He had the pole last year, with a faster time of 1:35.657. That race was won by LEWIS HAMILTON, but Vettel won the 2012 Championship.
Eight is Vettel’s lucky number this weekend. Eight poles and if he wins on Sunday, it will be his eighth consecutive victory this year.
The body language was evident after qualifying. Webber was low-key, unsmiling and almost taciturn during the post-qualifying conference. Vettel was his usual ebullient self, and Grosjean was happy enough.
The crowd was up Saturday from Friday’s attendance. Saturday, 78,886 fans spread out all over the grandstands and grassy knolls in the warmth – for the most part.
Third in qualifying was ROMAN GROSJEAN/Lotus. Fourth and fifth were NICO HULKENBERG/Sauber and Hamilton. Grosjean’s new teammate, HEIKKI KOVALAINEN qualified eighth. It’s a good thing Kovalainen is secure and confident in his situation. The team never put his name above his garage.
JENSON BUTTON/McLaren was thirteenth fastest but will serve a three-position grid penalty for overtaking during a Red Flag situation on Friday. CHARLES PIC/Caterham qualified twenty-first in a field of 22 drivers, but will start from the back of the pack due to a five-grid position penalty for gearbox change before its allotted time.
Two drivers will have new (allowed) engines for the race – Pic’s teammate, GIEDO van der GARDE, and MAX CHILTON/Marussia.
After qualifying the teams went to work putting their cars to bed for the night. There didn’t appear to be much last-minute thrashing.
In the Sahara Force India garage, a gaggle of the mechanics were seen glued to their binoculars scoping out the grandstand.
NBCUniversal has promised hours of TV coverage of the USGP, spread out across its various platforms. Check your local listings to be sure you get the time and channel correct. The race itself will air live on Sunday on NBC at 1pm ET/noon local time, and will encore at 6pm ET/5pm local time.
The broadcast crew will all be on site, which isn’t the case for the other Grands Prix. Included in the broadcast team are LEIGH DIFFEY, DAVID HOBBS and STEVE MATCHETT in the booth, and WILL BUXTON in the pits.
Part of the Pre-Race Show will be a sit-down interview between Diffey and Vettel. The race introduction voice-over will be by RON HOWARD, director of the recent F1 movie, Rush.