Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The land of the free

Saddle up compadres we’re off to the good old US or A, Yee and indeed Haar good buddies!

So, four rounds left, USA, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi – Two good tracks, an unknown and the perpetually dull  last middle eastern hurrah before three days holiday.

Yeah I like the Circuit of the Americas, an unusual stance from me I know. Sure it’s got no atmosphere, but it looks pretty good in an empty bit of America kind of way, it’s got that lovely fast flowing section off the start line hill, a balls out high speed straight and a technical arena section. I even like the silly tower thing it’s all kinds of quirky. What is especially important is it doesn’t look like a car park or an industrial estate in some grim northern service town off the M42 near Solihull. 

And the racing has generally been pretty good here. It rewards drivers willing to go out there and spank it, not sit there and wait for the race to come to them. It’s got a bit of give in it. It’s a lot like Istanbul used to be, which long term players will remember as a circuit that I would have happily had in France or Germany, anywhere but Turkey, but that’s by the by. I hope CoTA gets to stay on the calendar for long enough to get established. Rather than be tossed aside for the next third world dictator who rocks up with a shed full of cash and a pesky human rights record that needs a bit of a PR make over.  

Give it time to establish and it’ll get an atmosphere, some heritage and a bit of personality. And it’ll show the Americans that they don’t need to throw a full course yellow whenever race control needs to nip off for a cup of coffee. If you’ve ever seen any other America motorsport than you have my sympathies, NASCAR and INDY races are generally two to three hours or so, plenty of overtaking for the lead and if you ignore the fact they just turn left constantly its pretty good racing. But then someone does something silly and a bit of body work gets knocked off, in Europe that’s not a problem, wave a yellow flag and send the work experience lad out to pick it up, everyone carries on racing. Not so in America, they throw a full course yellow and everyone slows down behind a pace car, then and this is the bit I don’t get, they send a marshal out in a big Ford pickup truck, who stops next to the bit of  debris picks it up and then drives back. We then have 2o minutes of pits opening, then closing then opening a little bit then all those drivers who weren’t fast enough earlier get waved round to join the back of the leading pack and one lucky driver gets waved round a couple of times. Then race control packs away the coffee things, nips to the toilet, gives the fans a chance to get back form the beer tent (please drink responsibly)  and we go racing again. A typical 2 hour INDY street race can have at best 30 minutes of actual green flag racing.  Don’t even get me started on the “yellow flags for a dirty track but we actually need to have a commercial now” in NASCAR.

You think we have too many safety cars in F1, we have it lucky, we really do.

So yeah, the Circuit of the Americas, a bit of a pretentious name, for a pretentious champion to be re crowned. Anyone following Hamilton’s social media world will have seen his Miami beach buddies photo this week, we are most definitely not in Stevenage now. Still, he’s earned it this year, well really he earned all this with the last two championships, this one has been a bit of a cruise, I think he needs a hand full of points to beat Vettel and maybe a few more to stop Rosberg. Basically a win and he’s done it. anything less and he’ll win it in Mexico. Vettel looks like he’s got the momentum to keep second place in the championship, which sets 2016 up nicely if nothing else. A resurgent Ferrari battling an all-conquering Mercedes. Vettel V Hamilton, the finger versus the bling chains. That could be just a little bit tasty.

Further back Force India are pushing Redbull who are chasing Williams. Last year it was Williams swanking around the pits looking smug and giving it the “check it out ladies” best of the rest smile to the media, they had opportunities to beat Merc but fumbled the ball on the line but still held their heads up high at the end of the year. 2015 was going to be their comeback year to the top step. Except it hasn’t really happened, Valtteri has looked pretty handy at times, but I think the interest Ferrari showed in him rather took Williams eye off the ball and before they knew it Ferrari were past and off up the road without even a cheery wave of thanks. Now Redbull, with a couple of plucky mid seasons runs are starting to give the strategy boys a Williams a few sleepless nights. 

But Force India have finally got they’re car all peachy keen and they’re got Redbull in their sights. If only they can get both of their drivers to have weekend to remember. Imagine the Hulk and Smiles flanking Hamilton on the top step this weekend, wouldn’t that be something to behold, unlikely I know, but we can all dream.

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