Mixed grid should produce lively race – behind Vettel

2013 United States Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Sebastian Vettel looks hard to beat as he eyes a potentially record-breaking eighth consecutive grand prix victory this weekend.

But unless something unexpected happens with his car – and Red Bull have had reliability problems this year – it’s likely most of the interest in the United States Grand Prix will be around the places behind him.

Qualifying produced a few surprises and has left some drivers in unusually high starting positions (Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas) or further down the grid than usual (Nico Rosberg), which should create plenty of intrigue during the race.

The start

Last year the lack of grip off the racing line on the grid was a major cause of concern for teams at the start. So much so that Ferrari deliberately incurred a gearbox change penalty on Felipe Massa’s car when moved Fernando Alonso forward one place and onto the clean side of the track.

The Circuit of the Americas has now benefited from 12 months’ use and the difference between the two is not expected to be as severe. Last year drivers on the odd-numbered side of the grid were mostly able to draw level with those one place ahead of them within a few hundred metres of the start.

There will still be an advantage to starting on the clean side of the grid, as Vettel acknowledged after snatching pole position. That being so, and given Mark Webber’s often-lacklustre starts, it’s hard to see anyone beating Vettel to turn one and, thereafter, the win.

However Romain Grosjean should not be discounted. Remember his fantastic getaway at Suzuka, where he leapt into the lead from fourth on the grid. He stands a decent chance of taking the fight to the Red Bulls.


A single pit stop for tyres is likely to be the order of the day during the race. “Our tyre choice here is on the conservative side,” Pirelli motor sport director Paul Hembery acknowledged, which also presented problems for the drivers during qualifying, particularly when track temperatures dipped part-way through the session.

Sunday is expected to be unusually warm for this time of year in Austin, with temperatures pushing towards 30C. “I think that the sunshine predicted for tomorrow could help us to have a good race,” said Fernando Alonso, one of the drivers who judged conditions very well in qualifying, taking sixth on a day when the Ferrari F138 looked distinctly unco-operative.

“It just goes to show how much things can change with around ten degrees higher track temperature,” Alonso said. “Here we have suffered a lot in getting the tyres to work, especially in the morning sessions when the temperatures were lower.”

With just one stop for tyres likely for most drivers, making up positions will largely be a case of overtaking on the track. Last year drivers found the long sequence of corners from turn two to eleven made it hard to get close enough to another driver to launch an attack on the main straight. But the lack of grip on the track surface contributed to some good action.

As the surface is in better condition now it remains to be seen what effect that will have on the racing – as well as the addition of a second DRS zone on the pit straight.

Some drivers who were caught out by the conditions in qualifying find themselves out of position on the grid has a result. Nico Rosberg has several places to make up having been knocked out in Q2. Like Alonso he is counting on warmer weather bringing the track to him.

Finally, this is an especially important race for Heikki Kovalainen who lines up eighth on the grid as he tries to make good on his two-race run for Lotus and find a place on the grid for next year.

He knows he’s got big shoes to fill in the E21. “I’m not making any predictions, but we’ve seen that Kimi [Raikkonen] could do pretty well working forwards from similar grid positions,” he said.

Here’s all the data from qualifying for the United States Grand Prix.

Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Sebastian VettelRed Bull1’38.5161’37.065 (-1.451)1’36.338 (-0.727)
2Mark WebberRed Bull1’38.1611’37.312 (-0.849)1’36.441 (-0.871)
3Romain GrosjeanLotus1’38.6761’37.523 (-1.153)1’37.155 (-0.368)
4Nico HulkenbergSauber1’38.3391’37.828 (-0.511)1’37.296 (-0.532)
5Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’37.9591’37.854 (-0.105)1’37.345 (-0.509)
6Fernando AlonsoFerrari1’38.9291’37.368 (-1.561)1’37.376 (+0.008)
7Sergio PerezMcLaren1’38.3671’38.040 (-0.327)1’37.452 (-0.588)
8Heikki KovalainenLotus1’38.3751’38.078 (-0.297)1’37.715 (-0.363)
9Valtteri BottasWilliams1’37.8211’37.439 (-0.382)1’37.836 (+0.397)
10Esteban GutierrezSauber1’38.0821’38.031 (-0.051)1’38.034 (+0.003)
11Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso1’38.8821’38.131 (-0.751)
12Paul di RestaForce India1’38.8941’38.139 (-0.755)
13Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’38.5881’38.217 (-0.371)
14Nico RosbergMercedes1’38.7431’38.364 (-0.379)
15Felipe MassaFerrari1’39.0941’38.592 (-0.502)
16Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1’38.8801’38.696 (-0.184)
17Adrian SutilForce India1’39.250
18Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1’39.351
19Giedo van der GardeCaterham1’40.491
20Jules BianchiMarussia1’40.528
21Charles PicCaterham1’40.596
22Max ChiltonMarussia1’41.401

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Sebastian Vettel26.241 (2)38.573 (2)31.524 (1)
Mark Webber26.091 (1)38.507 (1)31.615 (2)
Romain Grosjean26.427 (8)38.874 (4)31.854 (3)
Nico Hulkenberg26.293 (3)38.964 (6)32.039 (9)
Lewis Hamilton26.369 (7)38.852 (3)31.979 (6)
Fernando Alonso26.330 (5)38.911 (5)32.025 (8)
Sergio Perez26.339 (6)39.174 (9)31.939 (4)
Heikki Kovalainen26.688 (15)39.083 (8)31.944 (5)
Valtteri Bottas26.318 (4)39.044 (7)32.002 (7)
Esteban Gutierrez26.528 (9)39.213 (10)32.077 (11)
Daniel Ricciardo26.656 (14)39.290 (13)32.165 (12)
Paul di Resta26.548 (10)39.257 (12)32.326 (14)
Jenson Button26.711 (16)39.426 (15)32.074 (10)
Nico Rosberg26.652 (13)39.241 (11)32.227 (13)
Felipe Massa26.728 (17)39.424 (14)32.396 (15)
Jean-Eric Vergne26.576 (11)39.430 (16)32.464 (16)
Adrian Sutil26.813 (18)39.730 (18)32.707 (17)
Pastor Maldonado26.640 (12)39.704 (17)32.755 (18)
Giedo van der Garde27.081 (19)40.405 (21)32.868 (19)
Jules Bianchi27.424 (22)40.140 (19)32.964 (20)
Charles Pic27.215 (20)40.337 (20)33.044 (21)
Max Chilton27.328 (21)40.702 (22)33.349 (22)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Paul di RestaForce India314.3 (195.3)
2Adrian SutilForce India312.6 (194.2)-1.7
3Jenson ButtonMcLaren312.4 (194.1)-1.9
4Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso311.8 (193.7)-2.5
5Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso311.2 (193.4)-3.1
6Lewis HamiltonMercedes311.1 (193.3)-3.2
7Valtteri BottasWilliams311.1 (193.3)-3.2
8Pastor MaldonadoWilliams310.8 (193.1)-3.5
9Sergio PerezMcLaren310.7 (193.1)-3.6
10Esteban GutierrezSauber309.6 (192.4)-4.7
11Nico RosbergMercedes309.4 (192.3)-4.9
12Felipe MassaFerrari308.5 (191.7)-5.8
13Fernando AlonsoFerrari308.4 (191.6)-5.9
14Nico HulkenbergSauber308.3 (191.6)-6.0
15Sebastian VettelRed Bull308.0 (191.4)-6.3
16Mark WebberRed Bull307.9 (191.3)-6.4
17Heikki KovalainenLotus307.9 (191.3)-6.4
18Giedo van der GardeCaterham306.9 (190.7)-7.4
19Charles PicCaterham306.6 (190.5)-7.7
20Romain GrosjeanLotus306.1 (190.2)-8.2
21Max ChiltonMarussia302.3 (187.8)-12.0
22Jules BianchiMarussia302.2 (187.8)-12.1

Over to you

Can anyone keep Red Bull from another one-two? And where will Heikki Kovalainen finish on his F1 comeback?

Share your views on the United States Grand Prix in the comments.

2013 United States Grand Prix

Browse all 2013 United States Grand Prix articles

Images © Lotus/LAT, Ferrari/Ercole Colombo

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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42 comments on “Mixed grid should produce lively race – behind Vettel”

  1. If you had said to me that by the end of the year the only car that could take the fight to Red Bull was Grosjean’s Lotus I’d have said you’re mad.

    1. @mike incredible isn’t it? I was thinking the exact same thing. Amaizing how strong and consistent he got to this stage of the year.

  2. Um, sector times between Mark adn Seb show Mark around 1 tenth of a second faster. So I suppose those are the best sector times from every lap? am I right?

    If so, it’s surprising this time it was Mark that **** his lap up. Could’ve been another pole.

    1. @fer-no65

      I suppose those are the best sector times from every lap?


    2. @fer-no65
      Yes, he even said he screwed the last part up after qualifying.

      1. It was clear from the timings on-screen that he had made a mess of the final sector. After S2 Mark was nearly half a second up on his previous pole time, but at the end of the lap he was only two tenths ahead.

        After that it was fairly obvious (to me, at any rate) that Vettel would get pole, barring a similar mistake.

  3. Talk about close, Webbers ultimate lap, 1st in sectors 1 & 2, 2nd in sector 3, is actually better than Vettels ultimate lap, 2-2-1, but then everybody knows that Webber is totally outclassed and it is only the car that puts him ahead of the best drivers.

    1. Agreed, It really irks me when people downplay Webber all the time, he’s a great driver and I maintain that he is still 3rd best qualifier on the grid behind Vettel and Hamilton

      1. @mnm101

        I agree he is a better qualifier than racer but why should it irk you the guy is only really getting front rows lately id say top 5 at best Ham is in the top 2 with vet and id put Ros ahead of Webber.

        1. @danclapp, it irks that the very same people who say Vettel is the greatest driver of all time (and he may be) and no-one could beat him even if they had the same car, in their very next breath say Webber is a poor driver who only does well because he has the best car, it’s illogical, mean-spirited and irksome.

          1. @hohum

            there are folks that say that. But mostly it’s folks who say that “any” driver in the RB would do what Vettel has done, and that it all the car. Let’s not forget Alonso last year saying he was racing against Newey. By far more people criticize Vettel and dismiss his achievements as being down to the car and that he’s a mediocre driver at best. If that’s the case, Webber must be the worse driver ever, or, if it’s the conspiracy theorist, Red Bull is deliberately sabotaging Webber.

            The truth is, Webber is a bit inconsistent over a season (and always has been), but on his day, he’s one of the fastest drivers/qualifiers on the grid. People keep saying Vettel has never proved himself against a quality teammate, yet people can only say that if they dismiss Webber. Outside of the WDCs on the grid, I’d put Webber above the others. As Webber said in a recent interview, it was too bad that there was 11 years difference in ages between him and Vettel, rather than 5 or 7.

          2. @uan, that too, it’s still irksome and mean-spirited.

          3. people forget what a great qualifier, and racer Webber was when he was younger in f1. I remember him qualifying in top 3 in Jaguars, and doing great races at Monaco. Webber is a great driver, who has unfortunantly been teamed with a greater driver.

      2. @mnm101

        Agreed, It really irks me when people downplay Webber all the time, he’s a great driver and I maintain that he is still 3rd best qualifier on the grid behind Vettel and Hamilton

        Back in 2010, perhaps, but these days I would put Rosberg, Hulkenberg, Grosjean, and probably Alonso & Kimi ahead of Mark in qualifying. He’s a shadow of what he used to be.

        1. @kingshark I was kind of including his whole stint as an F1 driver, so I partially agree with your point, Hulk, RoGro and Rosberg might be ahead of him now but I still wouldn’t put Alonso and Kimi ahead , not by a long shot

    2. Haha yes, an excellent point. I’ll miss Webber next year. He’s not just a character, he’s a bloody good driver too, but the anti-Vettel sentiment some have has caused Webber’s skills to be questioned far too often in order to undermine his team-mate.

  4. Again, he kind of flunked his Q3 lap but Alonso’s Q2 lap was a brilliant effort; I must give him credit for that.

    1. 8 thousandths of a sec, maybe just a gust of wind, that’s what I call consistency and those laps are probably close to perfect for that car, the great drivers seem to be able to find something extra when it counts.

      1. @hohum everyone else improved apart from Bottas and Gutierrez, which suggests that he failed to capitalise on improving track conditions.

        1. Cold,hard logic, damn.

          1. @hohum ’tis what I do best! :) Indeed, I reckon 5th was on the cards though based on Q2.

  5. “Behind Vettel”

    So in other words, a boring race.

    No one cares about second place.

    1. “Behind Vettel”

      It’s like you could add this at the end of every F1 related sentence in 2013.

      “We’re going to have a very interesting season, with an extremely competitive field – behind Vettel.”
      “Red Bull confirms Ricciardo will replace Webber – behind Vettel.”
      “Two DRS zones should increase overtaking in the field behind Vettel”.
      “At the FIA awards gala Mark Webber was sitting behind Vettel.”

      And so on.

      1. At the FIA awards gala Mark Webber was sitting behind Vettel.” LOL .

        But that is not likely to happen . or is it? Yes I think it can happen . Webber can still catch Lewis if he keeps finishing ahead.

    2. I care about watching a good race. If the competition’s fierce from 2nd-22nd then just because 1st is never in doubt doesn’t make the race boring.

      1. I’m with squid, behind Schumacher-senna-clark-fangio, great racing happens if you look for it.

    3. I take it you fell asleep during the Monaco and Hungarian Grand Prix’s as well than?

    4. Even if they show the Caterham’s fighting it out and nothing else happens I’d still watch and enjoy the race.

  6. Great racing can be anywhere in the field. Need I mention Dijon 1979? Rene and Gilles fighting wheel to wheel for second.

  7. What can Nico Hulkenberg do at the start if he keeps Lewis behind ? Grosjean is a difficult target for him to pass. But , I don’t expect too much at the start . If someone throws their car around , it can only be disaster . The run to the first corner is so short and blind . Too much aggression there isn’t a good thing . If Vettel gets the first corner , he will disappear in the twisty section and by the end of the first lap the gap will be 1.5-2 seconds . I hope the Mercs hold up as it is very important for constructors . We need both the mercs ahead of Heikki atleast . Assuming Alonso gets the better of Lewis (I don’t want it to happen ), Rosberg must finish ahead of Massa .

    1. Yikes ! I’ve just realized Alonso is just behind Lewis on the grid . So a 80 % chance of Alonso getting him at the start for obvious reasons.

  8. Webber will make one of his trademark starts, Vettel will lap a second quicker than the field and nothing much will happen. It won’t be lively.

    1. Did you miss the ” — behind Vettel” part of the title?

  9. Alonsos start here last year was incredible so I’m hoping for a repeat this year and I think Grosjean is hoping that he can make another start like Japan, that would mix things up.

  10. Should be a great WCC fight, with Lotus positioned the highest yet having a small ‘unknown’ in new-to-the-car HK, and Ferrari and Mercedes each having one driver quite far back.

  11. question to @keithcollantine – are the sector times based on all three sessions? I though they looked a bit strange (Vettel and Webber) so I added them up and Vettel’s equals his pole lap, but Webber’s equals 96.213 which is quicker! or is it a typo?

    1. This has already been clarified in comments on this very post.

  12. First corner is where it’s going to be decided, just hope Webber can get his start sorted and challenge Vettel.

  13. Will the dirty side of the track be terrible again like it was a year ago?

  14. We might have been looking at a better race if Mark was on pole and Seb on the dirtier side with Romain lurking

Comments are closed.