Sebastian Vettel shocked the racing world this morning by announcing his retirement from Formula 1 with immediate effect. Vettel is looking forward to spending more time with his model train collection, a pleasure that his hectic Formula 1 schedule had made all but impossible for the past few years.
Speaking from his Thurgovia, Switzerland home today, Vettel expressed relief that he had finally come to this difficult decision, saying, “It’s such a weight off my shoulders. This whole domination thing… it’s not really me. I prefer to just have fun in my sport. Winning’s really not my main priority.
“It’s been hard for me in Formula 1. Although I come across as a ruthless perfectionist who will do anything to win a race, I’m really a softy at heart. I felt bad for all the other guys every time I beat them in the last four years. They wanted those championships so badly, but I was really just here for the free energy drinks.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was not surprised by Vettel’s decision. He praised the young German’s courage in taking such a selfless step, saying, “Seb’s just such a nice guy. He feels it’s time for Fernando [Alonso] to get that third title he’s wanted for so long, and he knows the only way that’s going to happen is if he [Vettel] isn’t there anymore.
“As for all of us at Red Bull, we fully support Seb’s retirement. Our projections for the 2014 season had us just beating Mercedes and Ferrari at the last race, but with Seb gone, it looks like we’re out of the fight now. It’s only fair, really. We’ve had enough success.”
Horner also suggested that Vettel may have patched up his relationship with Mark Webber, Vettel’s former team-mate at Red Bull. Webber confirmed the good news, describing the plans he and Vettel have for the future:
“Seb’s such a great guy. We had our problems in the past, but it was all because I didn’t understand Seb’s motivation. He didn’t want to beat me so comprehensively. All he really wanted was to make sure he earned as many free Red Bull drinks as possible. I didn’t know he got a crate for every lap he led for Red Bull. If I’d had that in my contract, I’d have driven a whole lot faster.
“Now that he’s decided to hang up his helmet, we’re going to spend some time together with our model trains. Between us, we’ve got a big enough collection to cover the Monte Carlo street circuit. We’re hoping to put it on show for this year’s Monaco Grand Prix, assuming Bernie [Ecclestone] will allow it.”
Ecclestone was not available for comment. He was too busy listening to the sound of V8 engines with a vacant grin on his face to answer questions about Formula 1.
11 Formula One teams head to Austin, Texas, this weekend for the United States Grand Prix. It’s the second running of the event at the Circuit of the Americas, which was purpose-built for Formula One.
The track is one of just five anti-clockwise circuits on the F1 calendar, the others being Singapore, Korea, Abu Dhabi and Brazil. The Circuit of the Americas consists of 20 corners, including some that are reminiscent of well known curves on other tracks – notably part of the first sector strong resembles the Maggots-Becketts-Chapel complex at Silverstone, and turns 16 to 18 are a mirror of the long, flat-out triple-apex turn 8 at Istanbul Park in Turkey.
Of the drivers racing this weekend, only Lewis Hamilton has ever won the United States Grand Prix. He won the last event held at Indianapolis in his rookie season of 2007 and won again last year when F1 returned to the US at the Circuit of the Americas. If Hamilton is to maintain his perfect record in the US (he has only raced there twice, and won both times), he will have to beat Sebastian Vettel, who is certainly the form man in Formula One after winning his fourth World Championship just a few weeks ago.
This weekend, for the first time since he returned to Formula One in 2012, Kimi Raikkonen will be absent from a Grand Prix. The Finn has elected to miss the final two races of 2013 in order to have surgery to alleviate pain in his back that has apparently troubled him since a heavy testing crash back in 2001.
Lotus have yet to announce the identity of Raikkonen’s replacement for these final two races. Nico Hulkenberg’s manager confirmed this week that Lotus had asked Hulkenberg to race for them, but Hulkenberg turned down the request as he is still committed to Sauber for the rest of the season.
Although Lotus have a full-time reserve in Davide Valsecchi, it looks increasingly unlikely that he will be asked to step in for Raikkonen. The strongest rumours at present are that Heikki Kovalainen will drive for Lotus in the USA and Brazil. The popular and highly-rated Finn has not raced in F1 this season, but has taken part in some Friday practice sessions for Caterham. Kovalainen previously raced for Lotus (when they were called Renault) in 2007, before moving on to McLaren, where he spent two seasons and scored his only F1 victory to date.
Pirelli are bringing their two hardest compounds – the hard and medium tyres – to this weekend’s race. Pirelli’s motorsport boss Paul Hembery explains the choice of tyres and what we can expect in terms of pit stops on Sunday:
“The hard and medium tyres are the best choice for the United States Grand Prix, because it’s a circuit that places several high-energy demands on the tyres, so you need the most durable compounds in the range. There are some fast corners and many rapid elevation changes as well: in that respect it’s a bit like Spa. When you have more energy going through the tyre, you have a bigger heat build-up – which is what increases wear and degradation.
“Now that we’re coming to the USA for the second time we have a better idea of what to expect, whereas last year – when we also nominated the hard and the medium – it was much more of a step into the unknown. This year’s compounds are softer, so we would expect around two pit stops in the race, depending also on the rate of track evolution. Even though it’s November we’re still likely to have warm weather, which obviously affects thermal degradation too.”
Circuit Length: 5.513 km
Race laps: 56
Race length: 308.405 km
Lap Record: 1:39.347 – Sebastian Vettel / Red Bull Racing (2012)
Race winner: Lewis Hamilton / McLaren
Pole position: Sebastian Vettel / Red Bull Racing – 1:35.657
Fastest lap: Sebastian Vettel / Red Bull Racing – 1:39.347
Accuweather.com is predicting a chance of rain on Saturday, which could result in a mixed-up qualifying session if the weather does intervene. Formula1.com, the official Formula 1 website, is showing a forecast of thunderstorms for Saturday. Friday and Sunday are expected to be dry.
The weekend should generally be warm, which will be good for racing and for race fans who will hopefully turn out in great numbers as they did last year.
If anyone other than Sebastian Vettel wins on Sunday, it will be an unlikely result. Vettel has won the last seven races in a row in commanding fashion, showing that he is in arguably the form of his career. At this point of the season, the Red Bull RB9 is easily the fastest car in the field, which makes it certain that Vettel and team-mate Mark Webber will be competitive this weekend. Vettel is the firm favourite to win in Texas on Sunday.
Qualifying could provide an interesting battle of the team-mates. In recent races, Mark Webber has found a bit of extra pace and has had two pole positions, including last time out in Abu Dhabi where he produced a stunning lap in qualfiying to relegate Vettel to second on the grid. With just two races left in his F1 career, Webber will be keen to end on a high note, and starting from pole position this weekend would certainly help his cause in that regard.
The youngest triple World Champion in F1 history is set to become the youngest four-time World Champion at the end of this season. Sebastian Vettel just keeps on winning, and stretching his championship lead. With six races remaining in the season, Vettel is now 60 points ahead of main title rival Fernando Alonso and it’s becoming less and less likely that the Ferrari driver will be able to do anything about the German’s dominance this year.
To put Vettel’s lead into practical terms, let’s take a look at what his rivals must do in order to beat him this season:
Alonso is second in the championship, 60 points behind Vettel. With six races remaining in the season, that means Alonso has to score an average of 10 points more than Vettel per race until the year is over. Plus one point, of course. That’s the equivalent of Alonso winning and Vettel finishing third at each remaining race (If Alonso does that, he only needs to equal Vettel’s points tally, as he will then have more wins, 8, than Vettel, currently on 7).
If Alonso finishes second at each remaining race, Vettel must finish sixth, and once Vettel must finish lower than sixth. If Alonso finishes third, Vettel must be eighth. If Alonso finishes fourth, Vettel must finish ninth, and have one result worse than ninth. If Alonso finishes fifth or lower at every race left in the 2013 season, Vettel will be World Champion, unless of course one of the other title contenders pulls off one of the miracles listed below.
Hamilton is third in the championship, 96 points behind Vettel. Hamilton must score an average of 16 points more than Vettel at each remaining round, plus 1 more point, in order to be World Champion. Let’s leave the gap to Alonso out of this calculation, as it will just get too complicated.
If Hamilton wins each remaining race and Vettel finishes sixth or lower, Hamilton will win the title. If Hamilton finishes second and Vettel ninth each time, plus one tenth or worse for Vettel, Hamilton will be World Champion. However, if Hamilton finishes an average of third or lower, he is out of the title race, regardless of what Vettel does in the remaining races.
Raikkonen is in the same boat as Hamilton, being just two points behind the Mercedes driver. The only difference is Raikkonen needs Vettel to finish tenth or lower three times or worse rather than just once in the event that Raikkonen finishes second at each remaining race.
Webber is fourth in the championship, 117 points behind Vettel. That means he has to score 19.5 more points per race than Vettel if he is to overhaul his team-mate in the title race. If Webber wins each remaining race, he has to hope that Vettel finishes an average of eighth or lower. If Vettel scores 8 more points than Webber at the next race in Korea, Webber will be mathematically out of the title race.
Rosberg is the last driver in the points table who could still, in theory, beat Vettel to the 2013 title. Vettel is 131 points ahead of Rosberg with six races remaining. If Rosberg wins each race and Vettel finishes ninth or lower each time, Rosberg can be World Champion. However, if Rosberg does not finish at least 6 points ahead of Vettel at the next race in Korea, he will no longer be in contention (realistically or otherwise) for the 2013 title.
Realistically, only Alonso is in with a chance, and it’s a small chance at that. But a single retirement from Vettel could suddenly bring Alonso back into contention. A 60 point gap with 6 races remaining seems enormous. A 35 point gap (which is what it would be if Alonso were to win and Vettel score no points in Korea) with 5 races remaining seems slightly less daunting. Another retirement for Vettel with a win for Alonso would see it fall to 10 points.
At the earliest, Vettel could be crowned 2013 World Champion in Japan on 13 October. That’s if he wins the next two rounds (Korea and Japan) and Alonso scores 10 points or fewer in those two races combined. What happens to the other contenders in those two races is immaterial in that scenario.
So the title race is not over, not by any means, but the odds are stacked heavily in Vettel’s favour. It’s unlikely that he will take the title in Japan, but he could do so at the next race in India. That’s if Vettel wins the next three races, no matter where Alonso finishes.
Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull emerged from second practice in Singapore well on top, as the triple World Champion topped the FP2 times, six tenths ahead of his team-mate, Mark Webber, and a full second faster than the rest of the field. It’s hard to see a way back from here for Vettel’s title rivals this weekend, which will be a situation that well pleases Vettel and Red Bull.
Early in the FP2 session, it looked like Webber might have an edge on Vettel around the streets of Singapore, but Vettel soon put paid to that idea when he bolted on a set of the supersoft option tyres and blasted around the Marina Bay circuit six tenths of a second faster than Webber could manage. In Webber’s defence, he did brush the wall on the exit of turn 21 quite hard on his hot lap, which would have cost him some time, if only as a result of the inevitable small hesitation during the incident.
Ahead of the weekend, Mercedes were optimistic about their chances of challenging for victory, particularly as the high-downforce setup required for Singapore is similar to that used in Hungary, where Lewis Hamilton dominated qualifying and the race. Hamilton started this weekend by setting the fastest time in FP1, but could not maintain his advantage in FP2 and fell to fourth in the times, over a second slower than Sebastian Vettel. Nico Rosberg was a fraction quicker than Hamilton and set the third fastest time for Mercedes.
Fernando Alonso, who is Vettel’s major title rival this season, struggled for pace and could only manage sixth fastest in FP2, 1.442 seconds off Vettel’s time. While the pace of the Ferrari might not be quite as poor as that comparison suggests, it looks like Ferrari may at least be struggling for pace over a single lap, which will hurt their qualifying performance on Saturday evening. And qualifying is so crucial in Singapore, where passing is difficult due to the tight and twisty nature of the street circuit.
Kimi Raikkonen, who by now is probably out of the title chase, could only manage the eighth fastest time, just over a third of his team-mate, Romain Grosjean, who was fifth fastest, and a 1.529 seconds slower than pace-setter Vettel. The lack of pace of the Lotus is a surprise, as they were expected to be quick in high-downforce configuration, but it’s still early in the weekend and there could still be more pace available from the Lotus E21.
At the back of the field, the order normalised in FP2, with Caterham drivers Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic setting times marginally quicker than the Marussia pair of Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi. In FP1, the Marussia drivers had both been quicker than the Caterhams, which is unusual given the recent form of the two teams. Max Chilton will be pleased with his performance in FP2, as he was quicker than Bianchi, something that hasn’t happened very often this season.
Williams appear to be continuing their difficult season, and look to be well off the pace of the top ten, suggesting that they will struggle to score points on Sunday. Valtteri Bottas was 17th fastest, 3.185 seconds off the pace, with Pastor Maldonado a further third of a second back in 18th place. Maldonado damaged his front wing against the wall after misjudging his braking during the session. That was the most eventful incident of the day, highlighting just how accurate Formula One drivers are around a tight street circuit.
Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg has so far not managed to repeat the miracles he performed two weeks ago at Monza, where he qualified third and finished fifth in the Italian Grand Prix. He could do no better than 14th fastest in FP2, well over 2 seconds off the pace. In the other Sauber, Esteban Gutierrez was 16th, a further half second behind his team-mate.
Full results from FP2:
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1:44.249||34|
|2||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull||1:44.853||0.604||30|
|9||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India||1:46.002||1.753||27|
|13||14||Paul di Resta||Force India||1:46.606||2.357||33|
|19||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham||1:49.434||5.185||34|
Lewis Hamilton has set the fastest time in first practice for the Singapore Grand Prix by a convincing margin, over a third of a second ahead of the leading Red Bull of Mark Webber. Sebastian Vettel set the third fastest time, almost half a second behind his team-mate Webber, with Nico Rosberg fourth for Mercedes.
There are some changes to the Marina Bay street circuit this year. The notorious “Singapore Sling”, the turn 10 triple-apex chicane has been replaced by a smooth, quicker left-hand corner, to the general approval of the drivers. In 2010, Lewis Hamilton described the corner as “the worst corner I’ve ever driven in Formula 1,” which suggests it will not be missed at all.
That’s the only change to the layout, but there appear to have been some changes to the track surface. It’s normal to have a patchy surface on a street circuit, as the track uses public roads that have to be maintained from time to time. But this year it looks like large sections of the road surface have been replaced, possibly with better tarmac. Some parts of the surface are significantly darker than others, and they appear to be rubbering in faster than the rest of the surface, as Lewis Hamilton commented on his team radio during the session.
The result of the changes to the track, together with the inevitable car development that takes place in Formula One, is significantly increased lap times around the circuit. Hamilton’s leading FP1 time was 3.5 seconds faster than last year’s fastest first practice time. Hamilton’s time is also just seven tenths of a second slower than his own pole position time from 2012, and that’s before any of the drivers have run the option tyres at all this weekend, nevermind on low fuel.
It’s always tough to predict Sunday results on the basis of Friday running, but the early indications are that Mercedes and Red Bull are quick around the streets of Singapore. Ferrari have probably not shown their pace yet, which is not unusual for the Italian team at this stage of the weekend. Ferrari have brought some new parts to Singapore, including a new diffuser, and likely used the FP1 session to test the new pieces rather than look for ultimate lap time.
Lotus are also looking reasonably strong, albeit over a second off the pace of Hamilton in FP1. But they could well have much more pace available in the Lotus E21 than we’ve seen in the first session. FP2 and FP3 will provide a much better idea of the running order.
Somehow, all 22 drivers avoided crashing out of the FP1 session. The streets of singapore are slippery early in the weekend and the walls are always close under braking and on the corner exits. A number of drivers brushed the walls (Giedo van der Garde managed it twice) but there seemed to be no resulting damage. Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez each had to execute a half spin to rejoin the track after getting their braking wrong and taking to a run-off area, illustrating just how accurate the drivers need to be to stay on line.
At the back of the grid, the order was reversed from the last few races. Marussia’s two drivers were quicker than their Caterham counterparts. Marussia started the season well, and as a result currently sit 10th in the Constructors’ Championship. Caterham have developed faster than Marussia through the season, however, to the point that they have seemed for most of the year to have a significant edge on their rivals. But in Singapore, for whatever reason, the order has returned to what it was when the season started.
Full results from FP1:
|2||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull||1:47.420||0.365||20|
|3||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1:47.885||0.830||19|
|9||18||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||1:49.348||2.293||23|
|15||14||Paul di Resta||Force India||1:49.887||2.832||18|
|16||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India||1:50.092||3.037||20|
|18||19||Daniel Ricciardo||Toro Rosso||1:50.757||3.702||16|
|21||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham||1:52.920||5.865||24|