Rolex AGP Sign

The weather has been mostly beautiful for the 20th running of the Albert Park in Melbourne for the Rolex Australian Grand Prix. This is the thirty-first year run for the Australians, with the first eleven races being held in Adelaide.

The sun has mostly shone with temperatures ranging from mild to flat-out hot. The breezes sometimes gusted but usually were a pleasant respite from the sun. The only rain has been negligible and fallen off-hours.

There are 20 cars entered, with eighteen qualifying. But the numbers fell to fifteen by the start of the race, the smallest-ever grid for an AGP. Valteri Bottas/Williams Martini Racing hurt his back during Satuday afternoon qualifying and didn’t participate in any Sunday activities. He was third in the first practice.

Kevin Magnussen’s McLaren Honda blew up on the formation lap, Daniel Kvyat’s Infinity Red Bull slowed and stopped on that same lap and was towed in, and the ill-fated Manor Marussia team never turned a wheel. It showed up with a token crew and will be around for the race, and then be shipped to Malaysia for the next race.

Lewis Hamilton/Mercedes AMG Petronas had the pole, with teammate Nico Rosberg second, followed by Felipe Massa/Williams Martini Racing.

The Mercedes drivers dominated the weekend. Rosberg and Hamilton were fastest in the first and second practice sessions, in that order.

Aussie crowd favorite, Daniel Ricciardo/Infiniti Red Bull Racing qualified seventh, better than he did in the three practice session. With mechanical woes plaguing Red Bull, ran tenth, seventeenth and fifteenth in the practice sessions.

There was more drama off-track, with the question of who would be driving with the Sauber team – Marcus Ericsson or Giedo van der Garade, with Felipe Nasr in the other seat. Van der Garde’s lawsuit to regain his contracted seat and the team’s appeals went through various Australian courts for several days, before being withdrawn “for the good of F1.” It’s not over, but both parties are saying they will work it out. Stay tuned.

The race is shown on NBC Sports Network in the middle of the night in the United States, and 4pm Melbourne time – a year earlier than last. The race’s contract has been renewed through 2020, and will also be the first race of the season during those years and will not be a night race.

Harking back to shipping, Bill Gibson, of Gibson Freight, said this year a record six 747 airplanes flew thirty-five 40 foot containers. As the next race is two weeks out, the pack-up and flying out will spread out four days, until Thursday. In years past, the next race was a week out and everything was gone by Monday morning – which Gibson prefers.

Daniel Ricciardo filming GP TV crew

Daniel Ricciardo filming GPTV

Daniel Ricciardo**

Carlos Sainz Jr

Jenson Button

Valteri Bottas

Sebastian Vettel

Nico Rosberg

Lewis Hamilton

Valteri Bottas

Nico Hulkenberg

Kimi Raikkonen

Kevin Magnussen

Max Verstappen

Sergio Perez

Roberto Merhi

David Coulthard

Damon Hill

Koala Treed close

Opening Ceremonies Flag Bearers


Photos courtesy of Michael Shaw


Lewis Hamilton Winning USGP
Photo by Jay Bonvouloir

Lewis Hamilton drove his Mercedes AMG Petronas to his fifth consecutive F1 victory Sunday before a sun-baked crowd at the United States Grand Prix held at Circuit of the Americas Sunday. He now leads the points standings by 24 points ahead of his teammate, pole sitter Nico Roseberg, who finished 4.314 seconds behind, in second place.

The Mercedes 1-2 finish made it only the tenth time for a team to have five 1-2 finishes in a single season.

Third, sporting the iconic Dale Earnhardt number 3 on his helmet, was Daniel Ricciardo from Infinity Red Bull Racing. He remains third in the Driver’s Championship standings, but has been mathematically eliminated from winning overall.

USGP Start!
Photo by Jon Cronk

Hamilton leading Rosberg

Daniel Ricciardo

Felipe Massa leading Valtteri Bottas

Fernando Alonso leading Pack

Sebastian Vettel

Kevin Magnussen

Photos by Jay Bonvouloir and Jon Cronk.

Fourth and fifth were Williams Martini Racing teammates, Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas.

The other points-earning drivers were Fernando Alonso/Scuderia Ferrari; Sebastien Vettel/Infiniti Red Bull Racing; Kevin Magnussen/McLaren Mercedes; Jules Vergne/Scuderia Toro Rosso, who survived skirmishes and two penalties; and Pastor Maldonado/Lotus F1 Team, who was assessed a time penalty during the race for his part in the First Lap Turn One incident, the penalty being a record five for the season. The three-car incident retired Adrian Sutil/Sauber F1 Team and Sergio Perez/Sahara Force India F1 Team, who was also assessed a penalty for his part.

The other retirement in the race was Nico Hulkenberg/Sahara Force India F1 Team, who pulled off course on Lap 17 on orders from his team because of a drive problem.

Vettel charged through the field from his pit lane start to finish the seventh and turn the fastest race lap of 1:41.379 on Lap 50 of the 56-lap race. He made four pit stops, two under the Safety Car situation on Lap One.

USGP Podium
Photo by Jay Bonvouloir

The ambient temperatures ranged 80 degrees down to 75F at the end, translating to 27/23C. The track temperature was 89F/32C. There wasn’t as much wind as earlier in the weekend.

Although crowd counts aren’t given, those watching thought attendance was good. This despite the NASCAR race a few hours away at Texas Motor Speedway.

USGP Track Invasion
Photo by Jay Bonvouloir


COTA Cowboy Hat

Day Four of USGP COTA week. What a difference a day makes. Gone was Wednesdays somnambulant demeanor. The tempo picked up and there was activity everywhere.

First up for the 18 Formula One cars was Scrutineering, and everyone was a happy camper. The teams were pleasant and cooperative, and by noon all but two of the teams had passed inspection, and by 2pm local time the 30 Scrutineers were done.

Lotus F1 Car


Infiniti Red Bull Racing Pit Stop Practice

Shortly after the deadline for official entries the FIA Stewards listed all 18 current drivers as eligible to drive, and added two other drivers cleared for FP1 – Max Verstappen in No.38 Scuderia Toro Rosso and Felipe Nasr No.40 Williams Martini Racing.

The Stewards also clarified Qualifying: the slowest four cars in Q1 would not advance to Q2, and the slowest four cars in Q2 wouldn’t advance to Q3.

Other Steward decisions including no penalties assessed to either Marussia F1 Team or Caterham F1 Team for their non-participation at USGP, despite breaching regulations due to current financial circumstances. However both cases were referred to Jean Todt, FIA President.

The weather warmed up nicely and was downright hot by end of day. The beautiful people came out, F1 drivers and owners were interviewed, and F1 held its F1 Extrication Practice in the pits of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team, much to the delight of the large crowd of spectators on a Pit Walk.

Several teams practiced pit stops. Amazing how fast four tires can be changed when you only have seventeen to twenty crew members swarming all over the car.

2009 Mercedes AMG F1 Safety Car

The corner stations were staffed mid-afternoon for the obligatory Systems Check. Safety Car driver, Bernd Maylander and Medical Car Driver, Alan van der Merwe, took turns driving their respective cars around the 3.4-mile elevated road course. Maylander took TTOD with a purple (fastest) lap of 2:26.869. He has been driving the F1 Safety Car since 2000. Maylander has been in his role since 2009. The 2013 USGP COTA pole time was 1:36.338, set by Sebastian Vettel in No.1 Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault.

Formula One has two practice sessions, as does the Ferrari Challenge Series. The Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup Series has an afternoon practice, and the day ends with the annual Marshal Pit Lane Walk.

Let the fun begin!


FIA F1 Safety & Medical Cars

Wednesday – Day Three of USGP COTA week, and it’s so quiet compared to what I thought it would have been the day before all the F1 cars go through Scrutineering and all the FIA officials go through their systems checks. Not much activity to be seen, especially in Pit Lane.

The FIA Scrutineering Bay was all dressed up … and looking quite lonely.

FIA Scrutineering Bay

Only a few F1 teams – mostly at the far end of the pits – have their garages open on the track side. The rest are a closed book. Ingenious and often decorative means are utilized to prevent the cars and teams from being seen. And on the back side in the Paddock/Hospitality Area, the closures are so cleverly installed so that all one sees is branding opportunities, often quite stunning.

Red Bull Racing Garage

Sahara Force India Garage

Lotus Garage

Ferrari Back Door

Lotus Back Door

FIA Back Door

For the most part, working with tires seems to be the only visible activity.

The Marussia and Caterham garage signs have finally been replaced with Pirelli signage, and inside those repurposed garages all kinds of activity is undergoing. Williams also scored another garage.

Red Bull Racing tires

Pirelli signage installation

Pirelli Garage

Track personnel are putting the finishing touches on everything, including painting, striping and still more container placement.

Pit Lane painting & striping

Container Movement

Foliage Transport

The teams have until 4pm Thursday to officially enter, after which time the FIA Stewards will determine the Qualifying Process.

Registration packets have been put together for the nearly 300 volunteer race marshals and officials, in readiness for Thursday’s big rush. By Friday morning at 6:30am, Worker Reg is closed and all Registrars are off to other duties.

Keeping busy and behind the scenes were all the specialty chiefs and a few helpers, putting the finishing touches on all that there was left to do.

Dr. Steve Olvey
Dr. Steve Olvey

The weather was quite mild, with overcast skies and breeze lasting into the early afternoon. There was just the right amount of warmth and it felt like Indian Summer. As Dr. Steve Olvey said “Let’s hope this great weather lasts.”

Thursday morning the F&C seniors have their first meeting, before heading out on course for the hour-long FIA systems test.

F1 Bull Pen


Tuesday – Day Two of USGP COTA week, and the pace has picked up but is not outwardly frenetic, fast or furious. Our long-time friend, Lon Bromley is the COTA Director of Safety. He has a staff of 48 handling fire, rescue, safety, track repair, MRV’s, plus Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steve Olvey who brings five-six doctors including Dr. Chris Pinderski from Champ Car, and Dr.Gregg Summerville from ALMS. Lon tells me that this year’s preparations and readiness is at least on schedule, if not ahead. And even though all the basic freight arrived last week, it’s still being moved in – he’s never seen so much F1 gear. More than last year.

F1 Medical Garage Setup

Mercedes Gear Moving

Lotus Garage

It’s always fascinating to watch the circus come to town and set itself up in orderly fashion. There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes to make the show go on – we’ll never know all that is entailed. Everyone has a part to play.

Red F1 Lights

Yellow F1 Lights

Green F1 Lights

Race Official Specialty Chief’s Bill Armitage (F&C) and Ben Coleman (Pit/Grid), along with Bob Pearson, spent the day tending to all the last minute details such as making and installing signs for all the marshal posts.

The empty F1 garages have been claimed by Pirelli tires – who used to be further away from the garages in a tent. As priorities go, taking down the Marussia and Caterham driver signs is probably not high on the list, but it could happen.

Tired Mechanic

McLaren Setting Up

Sauber Setting Up

The COTA F1 Administration setup is linear. One can go from Race Control down a hall and through doors to Scrutineering, through the F1 garages and end with Pirelli. No muss. No fuss.

Behind the F1 garages, in the Paddock/Hospitality area, it is all compact. The backs of the garages, are all closed off and it’s like the teams are competing even there with the decor of their back doors. Ever seen a black Coke Cooler? Lotus has. Ferrari continues to one-up everyone with its blinding all-red color scheme , down to the shoes and socks of the crew and their bicycles. And they again brought their very own smoking booth for the Paddock.

Red Bull Back Door
Ferrari Hospitality

Black Coke Cooler

Ferrari Smoking Booth

The weather continues to be gorgeous. Warm but not unbearable. No chance of rain, and more of the same throughout the weekend. Just enough clouds in the skies to make dazzling sunsets.


COTA SignMonday – Day One of USGP COTA week, and the tempo is already picking up. All the F1 containers have arrived and mostly put in place near and by the appropriate garages. In Pit Lane, the Caterham garage sign is gone, replaced by a track sign, but Marussia and three of the four driver’s signs are still in place. Those empty garages will be ‘repurposed’ including making more area for race marshals.

The weather was hot but with a brisk tempering breeze. Almost too much for my hat outside the track, but no problem in the Pits and Paddock.

COTA Tower

Up Pit Lane

Down Pit Lane

Ferrari Equipment

Williams Garage

COTA Tower

Del Valle Sunset

Del Valle TX treated me to a beautiful sunset as I left the track for a good meal and more research. I had dinner with F&C Chief, Bill Armitage, and learned of some impressive training sessions and learning opportunities in store for the trackside marshals.

It’s going to be a great week!


IndyCar Pit Lane

It’s bright, sunny and warm at Sonoma Raceway for the first of the three-day race weekend in the famed Northern California wine country. The feature race is the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, starring the Verizon IndyCar Series. The support races are SCCA Pro Racing’s Pirelli World Challenge Series with all the GT classes, Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, Pro Mazda Series presented by Cooper Tires, and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Series powered by Mazda. The usual afternoon brisk breeze cut the mid-seventies temperature.

This weekend has a different schedule than in the past. IndyCar is only on track Saturday and Sunday, which means its two forty-five minute practice sessions on Saturday are mid morning and early afternoon. The 70-minute qualifying starts at 4:35pm Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning half-hour warm-up is at 10am, with the 85-lap race starting at 1:40 pm, all Pacific Coast Daylight time.

Juan Pablo Montoya's No.2 Chevrolet

Ryan Hunter-Reay's No.28 Honda

Tony Kanaan's No.10 Chevrolet

On Friday, the IndyCar teams were unloading, prepping and teching the cars. Drivers were scarce. Several drivers were at the Presidio Golf Course for a Charity Golf Tournament. One IndyCar foursome was Rookie Mikhail Aleshin of Russia, Josef Newgarden/USA, Simon Pagenaud/France, and Sebastian Saavedra/Colombia. Although I heard points leader Will Power and Penske teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya were at the track, the only IndyCar people I spotted in the paddock were IndyCar Director of Competition, Derek Walker; IndyCar Series Race Director, Beaux Barfield; Andretti Autosport Honda Rookie, Carlos Munoz was tooling around on his bicycle; Schmidt Peterson Hamilton team owner, Davey Hamilton; and Ed Carpenter, who owns his Ed Carpenter Racing Team, but is not driving this weekend. He runs the oval track races, and Mike Conway of England races on the road and street courses.

Recently announced was the merger of the Carpenter and another single-car team, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. Its driver is Josef Newgarden in No.67 Honda. No details so far on which engine package, driver line-up, or personnel absorption. Both teams want to get through this 2014 season, which ends Labor Day weekend. Then plans will become more apparent.

Will Power's No.12 Chevrolet getting a final dusting

Will Power in No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet is leading the IndyCar Driver Standings with 602 points. His team seemed to have everything under control as the only person I saw was someone dusting the car. Power’s teammate, Helio Castroneves in No.3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet is second, 39 points behind. Simon Pagenaud in No.77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda, 92 points behind. Power’s Penske teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya in No.2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, is fifth, 114 points behind the leader, and 16 points behind fourth placed 2013 IndyCar Champion, Ryan Hunter-Reay in No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda.

For the other series, there was practice, qualifying and races. Each of the support series has two races this three-day weekend on the 12-turn 2.38 IndyCar configurated road course.

Rumor has it that Honda challenged Chevrolet to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. That should prove interesting. Stay tuned.

The paddock had a few fans, and some unexpected, to me, visitors. TUDOR USCC driver, Scott Pruett had an off day as his DP class was not on the schedule for this weekend’s race at Virginia International Raceway. This is the second weekend in a row that he showed up as a relaxed spectator. Last weekend he enjoyed his first-ever Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Pruett, who lives in Northern California, was again relaxed and low profile.

Another familiar face – to me – was Michael Smith all the way from Melbourne, Australia on a ‘working holiday.’ He is the CAMS (Confederation of Australian Motor Sports) F1 Secretary of the Meeting at the annual Formula One race in Melbourne. Smith was at the track just for the day before heading East. He is also on the FIA Commission for Volunteer and Officials, which happens to be having its quarterly meeting this Friday. Smith’s good news from Down Under was that the date for the 2015 AGP has been announced as 12-15 March 2015, and it will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the race being in Melbourne. The race had its contract extended for another five years, and guaranteed to be the first race of each F1 season during that time.

IndyCar Paddock


Nico Rosberg

NICO ROSBERG started second on the Formula One grid for the Australian Grand Prix, but got the jump on his pole-sitting Mercedes teammate, LEWIS HAMILTON, and never looked back. Rosberg went on to win the race IN Melbourne’s Albert Park, while Hamilton retired with engine problems after just four laps. Turns out he was down power from the get-go, faded and retired to save the car.

Rosberg turned the race’s fastest lap of 1:32.478 on Lap 19, for 125.787 mph/206.436 kph.

Hamilton got off to a bad start, with only a half-lap of practice Friday while teammate Rosberg finished sixth, with FERNANDO ALONSO/Ferrari the fastest. Mercedes then proceeded to dominate the weekend. Even with pitstops during the race, Rosberg didn’t relinquish the lead during the 57-lap race around the 3.295-mile/5.303km street circuit.

The weather held out, being cool and breezy but dry all day. So much for believing the weatherman forecasting 90 percent chance of Sunday rain. The Saturday forecast was only 80 percent chance, and it bucketed torrentially, with thunder and lightning. Go figure.

Sunday’s estimated attendance was 100,500, down a bit from last year’s figure of 103,000. Overall estimated attendance for this year was 314,900, compared to 323,300 last year.

Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo

RBR steering wheel

“I always dreamed of having such a strong Silver Arrow and now it seems we are there. In the race, everything went perfectly for me. My start was great and I was able to push from there until the end, with our fuel consumption well under control.

The highly-partisan Aussie crowd cheered for their favorite, DANIEL RICCIARDO/Red Bull Racing, who finished second in his first race for dominant team.

Third was KEVIN MAGNUSSEN/Mclaren, who briefly ran second. Fourth and fifth were JENSON BUTTON/McLaren and FERNANDO ALONSO/Ferrari.

However, many will be quite surprised and disappointed when they read the Monday morning news that Ricciardo was disqualified and referred to the Stewards. FIA’s results show on the bottom “Note – Ricciardo originally finished second but was excluded after his car was found to have exceeded the maximum permitted fuel flow rate.”

The matter in questions is a “breach of Article 3.2 of the Fia Formula One Sporting Regulations and article 5.1.4 of the FIA Formula One Technical Regulations” with Ricciardo’s car. The team has notified FIA of “its intention to appeal with immediate affect.” The team went on further to say “Inconsistencies with the FIA fuel flow meter have been prevalent all weekend up and down the pit lane. The Team and Renault are confident the fuel supplied to the engine is in full compliance with the regulations.”

Ricciardo’s teammate, Vettel, was shown on TV, in team gear, sitting in the garage with crew members at a work station, appearing to be engaged in or engrossed by what he seeing or doing.

In the FIA F1 bulletin sent by Technical Delegate, JO BAUER, to the FIA Steward of the Meeting, among other things, Ricciardo’s car was checked in ten of 12 tests performed on specific cars. All results were in compliance, including the fuel samples taken and the fuel consumption, which was checked on all cars. All cars passed the wide variety of tests performed.

McLaren stated in its late-night announcement that “Nevertheless, as a result of Ricciardo’s exclusion, Kevin’s second-place finish makes him the most successful F1 rookie since Jacques Villeneuve managed the same feat in the 1996 Australian Grand Prix, also in Melbourne.”

Kevin Magnussen

Aussie Crowd

Jenson Button

Current World Champion, SEBASTIAN VETTEL/Red Bull Racing gridded twelfth, but didn’t last more five laps. He’s not having a great start to the season. He pitted early to save the engine.

Rookie DANIL KVYAT/Toro Rosso, who hardly looks old enough to shave, much less drive a Grand Prix car, finished a very credible tenth after starting eighth. At nineteen, he’s the youngest-ever podium finisher.

The race was relatively processional, with little passing among the top five for much of the time. The action was behind the leaders.

JULES BIANCHI/Marussia didn’t have the best start. He stalled on the grid and was pushed back to Pit Lane. This aborted the start. He did run the race, and was the top driver in the not classified section, with 49 laps.

Two cars didn’t make it past Turn One. KAMUI KOBAYASHI/Caterham hit FELIPE MASSA/Williams, causing front suspension failure and both cars retired. Kobayashi accepted responsibility, was called to the Stewards, and was absolved.

Drama for VALITERI BOTTAS/Williams, who hit the wall and lost his right rear tire bringing out the Safety Car, allowing time for the track marshals to retrieve the parts. He kept the car on course, pitted for new tires, and then worked his way back up to finish sixth.

Massa won the pool, by predicting on Thursday that 14 drivers would finish the race. Eleven of those fourteen drivers finished on the lead lap. Only four of the unclassified drivers had mechanical problems, not as many as predicted.

While the initial FIA results list Rosberg leading the Drivers’ Championship with 25 points, followed by Ricciardo-18, Magnussen-15, Button-12, and Alonso with 10, McLaren’s press release just distributed indicates that its drivers, Magnussen and Button have 18 and 15 points, respectively – in second and third point, and no Ricciardo in the top ten.

McLaren leads the Constructor’s Championship with 27 points, as its two drivers finished well – either way you look at it. However, if the RBR DQ remains, then Mercedes and Ferrari move up, as does Williams, Force India and Toro Rosso, with no listing for RBR. As originally announced, McLaren led, followed by Mercedes with 25, Red Bull Racing third with 18, Ferrari with 14, and Williams with eight.

The FIA tewards have indicated they want ore tests, so there probably won’t be anything new for the morning headlines.

The next race is 30 March at Sepang in Malaysia.


AGP Start-Finish

It’s Thursday at Albert Park in Melbourne for the first of four days of flat-out racing. First and foremost, starting Friday, will be the 2014 season’s opener Formula One race, with the new cars, rules, and Rookies. Also on the weekend schedule, starting Thursday, are the wildly-popular MSS Security V8 Supercars, as well as Porsche Carrera Cup, Mazda Celebrity Challenge, The Ultimate Speed Challenge, Shannon’s Historic Demonstrations, and Targa Tarmac Rally Car Demonstrations. And that was just on the track. Elsewhere there were all kinds of activities including multiple Pit Lane Walks, Formula One Pit Stop Practices, the Women in Motorsports luncheon, the launch of the new Australian Formula Four car/series, Porsche’s huge car exhibit front and center near Pit Lane, and lots of people everywhere including many school children. Thursday was a free day for the public.

Everyone and everything was testing, practicing, rehearsing and getting set up. Already the F1 Podium was installed and being tested with audio and visual, F1 teams were practicing their precision, split-second Pit Stop strategies, and selfies were being taken everywhere.

Williams Martini livery



McLaren Sculpture
McLaren Sculpture. Photo by Michael Shaw

McLaren Pit Box

McLaren Engineer

F1 Podium

had a busy two days, interviewing F1 Race Director, CHARLIE WHITING; F1 Race Control Observer and head of the FIA Volunteer Officials & Marshals Commission, HERBIE BLASH; and countless race officials, marshals and drivers. I got to observe many aspects of the race operations including Race Control, Pit Lane, and marshal stations. I saw more than a few famous drivers and spent most of that time gawking instead of photographing; and was able to see first-hand how much it takes to put on an event of this magnitude. And then I got to write about it for the CAMS Gazette, aka AGP Officials Newsletter. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Because of my staring instead of shooting, these driver photos are courtesy of Michael Shaw.


Sebastian Vettel

Jean-Eric Vergne

Jason Bright

Craig Lowndes

I savored the sound of the Swisse two-seater Formula One car, giving customer rides, and listening to the changing gears. Won’t be hearing that sound much this year, except for the two-seater runs at each Grand Prix. The new F1 car turbo sounds spit like a turbo. Not quite the same.

Swisse F1 car

Pit Lane barrier

Morning Marshals Muster

The 3.295-mile/5.303km Albert Park circuit hasn’t changed from last year, save replacing the Turn 12 kerb. Some photographers say that there are fewer photography holes around the track. FIA F1 security has tightened considerably, and I swear it would be easier to break into Fort Knox than to get into the F1 Pit/Paddock area.

Pirelli has brought two new slightly harder compound tires, white mediums and yellow softs. Albert Park is considered a ‘hard and fast’ circuit. Brembo Brakes advises there are nine braking areas, all of which are considered to be medium-high difficulty level. Brembo estimates the drivers will spend 15 percent of each lap under braking. As Albert Park is an urban multi-use parklands and sports complex, the AGP circuit is a temporary, street course, and as such, it takes a while for the rubber to meet the road, so to speak. And if it rains as predicted on Sunday, the race track will be green. Melbourne hasn’t had any real rain for two months, except for the Wednesday rain during MARK WEBBER’s Fun Run. Last year it bucketed on Saturday, raining out F1 qualifying, which had to be held Sunday morning.

As this is Melbourne, after all, the weather often changes during a single day. So stay tuned. In the meantime, the weather cleared up after Wednesday’s shower, and Thursday was beautiful at the track. Definitely sunblock weather, with just enough clouds at dusk to make for a beautiful sunset.

Albert Park Sunset


Sebastian Vettel

Eight turned out to be the lucky number for SEBASTIAN VETTEL/Red Bull Racing at Circuit of the Americas where he won his eighth straight 2013 Formula One race at the United States Grand Prix, breaking the existing record of MICHAEL SCHUMACHER-7. Vettel won from the pole position, his eighth this season. He did doughnuts, third race in a row and FIA is no longer fining him for not bringing the car directly back to Parc Ferme. And then he did a little dance across the podium to the top step.

The Sunday attendance figures was 113,162. This coupled with the Friday count of 58,276 and Saturday’s 78,886 meant a total of 250,324. Last year’s Sunday attendance was 117,429 and a three-day total of 265,499.

Roman Grosjean & Mark Webber
Roman Grosjean & Mark Webber

Second and third were ROMAN GROSJEAN/Lotus and MARK WEBBER/Red Bull Racing.

RICK PERRY, Texas Governor, presented Vettel’s trophy. The Constructors trophy was presented by RED McCOMBS, COTA Co-Founder. Texas Attorney General, GREG ABBOTT gave the runner-up trophy to Grosjean. ACCUS President, NICK CRAW, did the honors for Webber.

MARIO ANDRETTI did the podium interviews. Vettel gave a great big shout out to Texas, congratulated his team, and told Mario he was a legend. Mario told Grosjean to keep up the good work. With Webber, Mario talked about this being his last race in America. Webber said starting position was crucial, good job for the team, gave well wishes to the American fans for the last time, and then exited Stage Left before all the pomp and circumstance were quite finished.

Meanwhile down below the podium, the first annual Track Invasion had begun.

Adrian Newey & Christian Horner
Adrian Newey & Christian Horner

Red Bull has won the Constructor’s trophy so many times it seems as though everyone on the team has had a chance to accept the trophy.

Three Red Bull Racing trophies
Three Red Bull Racing trophies

I’ve heard the German national anthem so many times this year I know it better than Advance Australia Fair. I’m even recognizing the Austrian anthem.

Fourth and fifth were LEWIS HAMILTON/Mercedes and FERNANDO ALONSO of Ferrari.

NICO HULKENBERG of Sauber, who had run fifth much of the race, was finally passed by Alonso, who had gridded and run seventh for a long time. Seventh, behind Hulkenberg were SERGIO PEREZ/McLaren, VALTTERI BOTTAS/Williams, NICO ROSBERG of Mercedes, and JENSON BUTTON/McLaren.

What did Lotus know that we didn’t prior to the race? An hour before green flag, Lotus handed out music DVD’s to listen to “in case the race got boring.”

Mark Webber

There wasn’t a lot of on-track passing up at the front of the field, and notably the top five stayed in position for a long while. After pit stops there was some recycling of positions. But, there was no concern that Vettel wouldn’t win the race. And for a while, Webber thought he’d at least finish runner-up, until he had bobble and passing issues.

Adrian Sutil's wrecked car
Adrian Sutil’s wrecked car

All cars finished except ADRIAN SUTIL/Sahara Force India, who was hit by PASTOR MALDONADO/Williams and spun off into a barrier on the first lap, tearing up his car and strewing debris all over the course. It caused the only Safety Car situation, which was cleared up quickly. Sutil was not hurt. Last year the race ran caution-free.

On the last lap, JEAN-ERIC VERGNE/Toro Rosso hit ESTEBAN GUTIERREZ of Sauber, causing the young Mexican Rookie to spin. After the fact, the Race Stewards applied a 20-second penalty to Vergne in lieu of a drive-through penalty. This dropped Vergne from twelfth to sixteenth, and moved Gutierrez up to thirteenth. FELIPE MASSA/Ferrari moved up to P12, and HEIKKI KOVALAINEN/Lotus picked up P14. Vergne didn’t agree with the penalty, saying it was the fault of Gutierrez. NIGEL MANSELL was the driver on the Race Steward’s panel.

If your car number was 20, 21, 22 or 23, it would seem you got an automatic blue flag. Poor MAX CHILTON/Marussia. He got more blue flags than everyone put together, or so it would seem. Race Control seemed to be monitoring their times carefully in case the 107 percent rule had to be invoked.

Pit Stops were quick, and none more so than Webber, who had a 2.3 for his first stop. On the other hand, returning driver, Kovalainen had a lengthy pit stop for tires – more than thirty-seconds. Doesn’t sound like much in the context of things, but compare that to Webber’s stop and you can see how much distance could be made between two cars with that bit of luck. Kovalainen finished fifteenth.

The fastest laps just kept peeling off, one by one. Most were set by Red Bull Racing – almost equally by Vettel and Webber. Vettel had the ultimate fastest race lap of 1:39.856/123.500 mph/198.754 kph – on Lap 54 of the 56-lap race. Hulkenberg also had a good lap.

The TV feed had some technical issues. The picture was OK, but the sound was a high-pitched buzz near the end of the race, so there were a lot of commercial breaks until it was resolved. There was an encore TV broadcast aired soon after the original

The top Driver Points are: Vettel-372; Alonso-227; Hamilton-187; KIMI RAIKKONEN-183; and Webber-181.

Raikkonen had successful back surgery Thursday, and although he watched the race, the Lotus team reports he fell asleep half way through. The team handed out more music.

The top Constructor Points are: Red Bull Racing-553; Mercedes-348; Ferrari-333; Lotus-315; and McLaren-102

One race remains – the season’s finale next weekend in Brazil.