“Oh no!” I groaned, looking at the calendar. “Oh no! Just one more race? Oh no!”
It was past 2am on Monday morning. My eyes burned from staring unblinking at the computer, and I was a little light-headed. Now, that is what happens when you have a race in the wee hours of the morning. But hey, a small price to pay, right?
It didn’t help that the adrenalin was still pumping, my throat hurt from holding down excited yelps and cheers (my parents were fast asleep), and I still couldn’t believe that I had witnessed a thrilling US Grand Prix. This race was definitely one for the history books. After all, the last US race that went down in history was in 2005. Remember that year? There were only six cars on the grid following the Bridgestone-Michelin controversy.
Anyway, the US Grand Prix has always been a toughie. F1 doesn’t have much interest Stateside. Then there is Bernie Ecclestone and his determined We-Will-Not-Return-To-Indy attitude. But there is a distinct ring to the name Circuit of the Americas and it does look spectacular. I was hyped and hesitant. Kevin Schwantz may have helped with the circuit design but there was that dreaded Hermann Tilke touch.
What would happen? I was busy running through a variety of scenarios in my head that ranged from superb to yawn-worthy and boring. But I forgot about Lady Luck – who has, I might add, been a busy queen bee this season. In all this of course, I was also trying to come up with smart-ass Chuck Norris jokes, failing miserably in the process.
So, Ferrari decided to get up to its old tricks (I would really like that team, except their concept of racing strategy makes me angry). Sure, Fernando Alonso is fighting for championship points. But Felipe Massa is just as important and he earned that place on the grid after a superb Qualifying. Late in the day, Ferrari opened up the gearbox and incurred a five-place grid penalty, moving Massa down the grid from 6th to 11th. A move, Ferrari openly said was tactical, aimed at pushing Alonso up to 7th. The 7th position is where the grip is expected to be far better.
Then, they started, shooting past the red lights and taking the 1st corner. Lewis Hamilton fell back to 3rd, Vettel led the race and Mark Webber was close behind. But Lew-Lew was determined to hold off Lady Bad Luck who has been sitting on his shoulder. In a fabulous overtake, he swept past Webber and chased down Vettel. The German and Brit played footsie, showing phenomenal pace and great racing. It almost seemed like the circuit begged for true racing. Alonso, egged on by his new grid position, courtesy Massa, elbowed out Michael Schumacher (who has had woeful races post retirement-news) and grabbed the 4th. It was official. The championship race was still on, barring of course, any technical glitches. Speaking of glitches, poor Webber had a terrible day out on track, as his car died on him courtesy an alternator failure.
But it was without doubt, Lew-Lew who played the master. He swept past The Finger in a beautiful move to take 1st spot. He later said, “The backmarkers really came into play today – and, finally, they worked in my favour. I’ve often been caught out when I’ve been trying to get through traffic, but things finally went my way today. When Seb (Vettel) was delayed by a backmarker, I knew I had to grab my chance, so I turned the engine up to maximum revs and pushed like crazy. Along the back-straight I went to the to the outside, but Seb closed the door, so I moved to the inside, and he came back towards me. I was very lucky. It was very close. What made the difference today between Seb and me? I wanted it more, that’s what!”
Massa meanwhile, laughed at all the nay-sayers who have made his life miserable this season. He has regained his racing sheen, and made his way up, despite being way behind on the grid at 11th. He made up places, lost places, but did not give up. He raced a true race, fighting his way to 4th, and pulling off some great manoeuvres. He later said, “This morning, when I was told I was dropping five places, I can’t say I was jumping for joy, but I accepted it to help the team and my teammate…At the start, I made up three places, but then I ran wide and lost a few. After that, I had a strong pace and also pulled off some passing moves at various points on the track: once I even got two cars at the same time. We did the best we could have done today.” And he did. Now, if only his team would support him as well.
Jenson Button had an equally tough afternoon that ended well considering he started at 12th on the grid. It was the gritty side of the track though, which pushed him further down to 15. I groaned, but quickly changed my tune. Button was weaving his way up, sometimes bullying, and often sweeping past the pack. It was masterful and a well-deserved 5th for the Briton.
The Ice Man though ended up a grumpy Finn after his classy win at Abu Dhabi ending the race at 6th with teammate Romain Grosjean at 7th. Darling Bruno Senna though has just been improving race after race. It is incredible how he has been consistent and a point-scorer, despite the fact that he does not have a confirmed team for the next season. He fought through it all, making Pastor Maldonado sweat on numerous occasions. But towards the end, he allowed Maldonado to overtake, for the sake of the team. Here’s hoping though that he doesn’t end up becoming another Massa. He later said, “We had good pace though and were overtaking when we needed to. Unfortunately we came out of the pits behind Hulkenberg, which was frustrating as he was just quick enough exiting Turn 11 each lap and we couldn’t overtake him, which damaged my tyres allowing Pastor to catch us both. I knew Pastor would make a move and I wasn’t going to close the door, as we needed the points for the team.
Next up is the final race of the season – the Brazilian Grand Prix at Sao Paolo. It’s a race that throws up memories – beautiful ones at that of Ayrton Senna waving the national flag on the podium. It has always been my dream to watch a race there. But dreams aside, this is it. The race that will maketh or breaketh.
Red Bull has grabbed the Constructors and rightly so. They were definitely superior. Mathematically however, Alonso has a chance of winning the Drivers Championship. So can Vettel. But let’s not forget the series of racers who are all vying for 2012’s last podium. I bet you the Ice Man is bound to make the frontrunners miserable. There’s Sergio Perez who has been dismal since he signed up with McLaren. And of course, darling Lew-Lew who will be looking at breaking the Curse and making a successful exit to Mercedes AMG Petronas. I will of course, be dreaming of Bruno and the Brazilian flag on the podium once again.
It’s brilliant though isn’t it? A fantastic end to a fantastic season. Who would have thought it?