Tuesday, 20 November 2012 22:53

Hamilton Wins Inaugural USGP

 

An exuberant crowd of 117,429 packed the new 330-acre facility to watch Vodafone McLaren Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton claim his fourth Grand Prix of the season.

Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel, current points leader in the drivers’ standings, was second with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso third. McLaren was awarded the constructor’s trophy for Austin’s inaugural event. Hamilton’s victory means the driver’s title won’t be decided until the season’s final race in Saὀ Paulo, Brazil, next weekend, while Red Bull sealed the deal by winning the 2012 constructors' title based on the overall standings at the end of the Austin race.

The $400 million sports and entertainment venue, completed only days before its first major event, received rave reviews from the tens of thousands of fans who traveled the world to witness Formula 1’s return to the United States. The 3.4-mile, 20-turn circuit produced several opportunities for overtaking, highlighted by Hamilton slipping past pole sitter Vettel on Turn 12 to take the race lead during Lap 43. Fans packed the stands and general admission areas to cheer on their favorites and to watch Hamilton pass under the checkered flag and back into U.S. racing history. Total attendance for the three-day event was 265,499 with Friday’s practice sessions and Saturday’s qualifying rounds drawing 65,360 and 82,710, respectively.

The entire Circuit of The Americas team thanks our guests, our community, our new Formula One family and racing fans around the world for making our first Grand Prix such a remarkable experience,” Circuit Chairman Bobby Epstein said. “The racing was spectacular. The crowd was enthusiastic and appreciative, and we showed the world that Formula 1 has a new U.S. home in Austin, Texas.”

Second place at the United States Grand Prix for Sebastian Vettel was good enough to hand Red Bull Racing its third consecutive Constructors’ Championship title.

After starting the race from pole position, Vettel controlled proceedings deep into his second stint but when he hit traffic on lap 42 he was passed by McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and was forced to settle for second place. Behind the leaders, though, Mark Webber was in trouble, an alternator problem ending his race after 16 laps.

However, despite that setback, the 18 points earned by Vettel mean Red Bull Racing claims its third consecutive manufacturers’ crown, becoming only the fourth team to take three in a row alongside Ferrari, McLaren and Williams.

“I’m very, very happy for the team to win a third Constructors’,” said Vettel afterwards. “It’s been a tough year and they have been pushing incredibly hard; they deserve to win, as we have been the best team.

“Obviously Mark and I were pushing throughout the year. It was a shame for Mark not to finish today. It was a very good race and we did everything we could, but unfortunately we ran into traffic at the wrong time and lost the gap to Lewis. He used his chance well, I tried to cover the inside but he had more speed down the straight. I respect the positions; Lewis beat us fair and square.”

Team Principal Christian Horner was naturally overjoyed with the team’s third title.

“It’s incredible for the whole team to have won a third consecutive World Championship,” he said. “The Constructors’ is what we use to measure ourselves against our competitors and, for every member of the team, it’s how we gauge our performance. The Drivers’ obviously has the prestige and public following but within the team they carry equal importance.

“So, to have achieved a consecutive third World Championship, which only three other teams in the history of the sport have achieved, puts us into a very elite group and having done it in such a short space of time is testimony to all the members of the team. That’s all the hard work, the long hours and dedication from every department. It’s a very proud moment for every single member of the team and Red Bull.”

Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey admitted that the road to the title had not been an easy one.

“It’s been a difficult year and unfortunately my pre-season concerns proved to be right,” he said. “Having developed the car around side exhaust technology for the last two years, losing that was a bigger step back for us than our competitors and it’s been quite a difficult evolution to get the car back to where we wanted.

“Getting a third title shows we’re not a flash in the pan; we’ve managed to stay at the top, to understand the car and maintain consistency which is not easy at all,” he added. “The first title was amazing because when I left McLaren for Red Bull, it was a bit of a career gamble, I was joining with a dream of perhaps trying to win races in the future with the team that I’d been involved with more or less from the start. To actually fulfil that dream and to achieve three titles has been amazing. We can all have dreams, but to do it is something special. It’s not just me personally but it’s the whole team and this is a tribute to everyone within it.

“It’s been an amazing year. To achieve the hat trick is a tremendous tribute to the whole team,” he said. “It shows we’ve managed to keep our standards up and keep consistency. The hard work, the dedication, the talent of the people back in Milton Keynes – that’s what this is all about. I hope they are celebrating and having a drink tonight.

While Mark was naturally disappointed with his DNF in the race, he too hailed the team’s championship result.

“A third Constructors’ for the team is an incredible achievement,” he said. “Three years in a row is something that I think all of us would never have envisaged when we first started to be successful, so the results that we’ve had over the years is really astonishing. This Championship was probably the toughest one so far, for lots of different reasons and – it’s a cliché – but it’s been a real team effort.

“Looking to today, we had low battery voltage for a few laps before and then I lost gearbox sync and KERS, something was happening on the battery side,” he said. “It’s frustrating; as we had a reasonable start to the race and a good fight with Lewis. We had issues to manage, but even when I knew we had them we tried to keep going and get something out of it, but we had to stop.”

Seb’s second place in the race also extends his lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings. He now holds a 13-point lead over sole title rival Fernando Alonso, who finished third in Austin. The battle will now go down to the wire in Brazil next weekend a race Vettel is looking forward to.

“We showed we had the pace today and now it’s full steam ahead to the next race,” he smiled.

Lewis Hamilton:

"I’m massively proud and extremely happy. I nearly lost my voice because I was screaming so much on the in-lap – not cool at all!

"To overtake both Red Bulls in the race was the coolest thing for me. 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!

"I won the last United States Grand Prix, in 2007, so, to come back and win it again – in front of such a great crowd – feels very special indeed. There are a couple of grands prix that are somehow out on their own: there’s Monaco, Silverstone, Montreal, Spa and Monza. Now you can this circuit to that list – it’s already one of the best racetracks in the world, maybe even right up there in the top three.

"It’s a brilliant feeling to be finishing the season on a high. Hopefully, we’ll go to Brazil next week with the same level of performance – I’d love to win my final two races for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes."

Sebastian Vettel:

“I’m very, very happy for the team to win a third Constructors’. It’s been a tough year so far and they have been pushing incredibly hard; they deserve to win, as we have been the best team.

Obviously Mark and I were pushing throughout the year. It was a shame for Mark not to finish today. It was a very good race and we did everything we could, but unfortunately we ran into traffic at the wrong time and lost the gap to Lewis. He used his chance well, I tried to cover the inside but he had more speed down the straight. I respect the positions; Lewis beat us fair and square. We showed we had the pace today and now it’s full steam ahead to the next race.”

Fernando Alonso:

“It was an unexpected podium which came at the end of a particularly difficult weekend. We did not have the pace to match Red Bull and McLaren, so to only lose three points to Vettel is in fact a nice present. It could have been much worse, but now we will arrive in Sao Paolo in Brazil in with a chance right to the last. Maybe on paper that chance is not so big, maybe 25%, but deep down, I feel it’s much more than that. Anything can happen at Interlagos and we saw again how important reliability can be, didn’t we? Then, there’s the chance of rain and a race in the wet can be very risky and we definitely have nothing to lose. Clearly, if it’s dry and we have a normal race, one can expect Red Bull to be in front of everyone and us on the third or fourth row, so the more unknown factors there are, the better it is for us. The decision regarding Felipe’s gearbox? It was a team decision of which I am proud, especially as it proved to be the right one: I don’t think everyone in this environment can say the same thing… The start was very good as was the first corner: in this second part of the season, we have made up a lot of places actually in the first few hundred metres. Then I had a good enough pace to get on the podium but not to fight with the two in front. The pit stop wasn’t perfect, maybe for the first time this season: which means we’ll be looking for perfection in the pit stops next Sunday, and in fact for the whole race! Felipe was fantastic all weekend, quicker than me in all three qualifying sessions: we need him to be on this good form in Interlagos too, because we will be up against very strong opposition. We need to be a united team if we want to win!”


Jenson Button:

"Starting on the dirty side of the racetrack was very tough – I ended up 15th by the end of the first lap. So fifth was probably the best result I could have had. I had a lot of fun this afternoon, and fought a lot of good battles on my way through.

"There was lots of action and lots of overtaking – and most of it was very clean, which was good to see.

"Obviously, however, fifth place wasn’t the result I’d have ideally liked, but the car was working really well, and, with a better grid position, I could definitely have been right up there. Still, big congratulations to Lewis and the whole Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team.

"It was great to race in front of so many fantastically enthusiastic American fans – they looked like they really enjoyed themselves. Before we arrived here, we knew we were going to have to put on a good show, and I think we did just that. There was action and suspense all the way through, which is exactly what you need to create a great sporting spectacle.

"I really hope the US will now embrace Formula 1 at last."

Mark Webber:
“A third Constructors’ for the team is an incredible achievement. Three years in a row is something that I think all of us would never have envisaged when we first started to be successful, so the results that we’ve had over the years is really astonishing. This Championship was probably the toughest one so far, for lots of different reasons and – it’s a cliché – but it’s been a real team effort. Looking to today, I had to stop with an alternator problem. We had low battery voltage for a few laps before and then I lost gearbox sync and KERS, something was happening on the battery side. It’s frustrating; as we had a reasonable start to the race and a good fight with Lewis. We had issues to manage, but even when I knew we had them we tried to keep going and get something out of it, but we had to stop.”

Christian Horner

“It’s incredible for the whole team to have won a third consecutive World Championship. The Constructors’ is what we use to measure ourselves against our competitors and, for every member of the team, it’s how we gauge our performance. The Drivers’ obviously has the prestige and public following but within the team they carry equal importance. So, to have achieved a consecutive third World Championship, which only three other teams in the history of the sport have achieved, puts us into a very elite group and having done it in such a short space of time is testimony to all the members of the team. That’s all the hard work, the long hours and dedication from every department. It’s a very proud moment for every single member of the team and Red Bull.”

Adrian Newey

“It’s been an amazing year. To achieve the hat-trick is a tremendous tribute to the whole team. It shows we’ve managed to keep our standards up and keep consistency. The hard work, the dedication, the talent of the people back in Milton Keynes – that’s what this is all about. I hope they are celebrating and having a drink tonight. We are always thinking how we can improve the car and what we can do in the coming races. It’s been a difficult year and unfortunately my pre-season concerns proved to be right. Having developed the car around side exhaust technology for the last two years, losing that was a bigger step back for us than our competitors and it’s been quite a difficult evolution to get the car back to where we wanted. Getting a third title shows we’re not a flash in the pan; we’ve managed to stay at the top, to understand the car and maintain consistency which is not easy at all. The first title was amazing because when I left McLaren for Red Bull, it was a bit of a career gamble, I was joining with a dream of perhaps trying to win races in the future with the team that I’d been involved with more or less from the start. To actually fulfil that dream and to achieve three titles has been amazing. We can all have dreams, but to do it is something special. It’s not just me personally but it’s the whole team and this is a tribute to everyone within it.”

Sergio Pérez:
“My start worked really well and the first laps were good too. I had a good pace, and the car was really quick, but then around lap ten I had a problem with the brakes. The pedal became very long and I had big difficulties before every corner. This cost a lot of time and so we didn’t manage to get any points here. Regardless of the result it was a great experience to race here in front of so many Mexicans. The COTA is a great track and I hope we can have this Grand Prix on the calendar for many years. Now we will get ourselves together for the final attempt to improve to fifth place in the Constructors’ World Championship next week.“

Kamui Kobayashi:
“For the entire weekend here I had warm up problems and didn’t get the tyres to work. We have to find out why this was. The grip level only increased in the last laps of the race at the end of a very long stint with the hard tyres. This was crazy and I do hope very much we are stronger in Sao Paulo to finish the season on a high.“

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