So, this is it: the final leg of the 2012 journey. Two races in the space of two weeks, after which we’ll know the identity of this year’s world champion. This battle commences this weekend in the United States, at a brand new venue in Austin, Texas; the circus then moves to Brazil for the season finale. May the best man win.
Red Bull and Ferrari have been working flat-out to develop their cars during the two-week break since Abu Dhabi and it’ll be fascinating to see which of them has done the better job when the action gets underway. Jenson Button is under no illusions as to which of the cars will be strong.
“Out of those two, you’d put your money on Red Bull,” he said on Thursday.
Given what’s at stake, Seb and Fernando seem surprisingly relaxed going into the weekend. One of them will become the youngest triple world champion in the history of the sport this year and neither wants to show a hint of weakness. When they sat next to each other in the FIA press conference on Thursday, they were ice cool. Smiling. Witty. They even shook hands for the cameras.
Both have been chilling away from the limelight too. On Thursday morning Alonso headed to Lance Armstrong’s bike shop, Mellow Johnnys, for a look before swapping helmets with his former team-mate Romain Grosjean. Vettel, meanwhile, was spotted strolling around downtown Austin with his girlfriend.
It’s almost as if the statisticians have been getting more excited about this race than the drivers. This is Vettel’s 100th grand prix (“that’s amazing; it makes you realise how quickly life passes by” - Vettel) and it’s Ferrari’s 850th Formula One start (“It’s the most famous racing team in the world” – Alonso). Alonso also comes into this race on the back of his 50th podium for Ferrari in Abu Dhabi.
The Circuit of the Americas has been well received by the drivers. Most have driven it on simulators already and all of them have now completed track walks. “It’s going to be spectacular,” says Mercedes AMG Petronas driver Nico Rosberg. “There are some really quick sections and some really technical bits as well, so it should be good fun to drive an F1 car around here. I can’t wait to get started.”
The only reservations about the layout were to do with the number of overtaking opportunities. “I think we’ll be relying on the DRS quite heavily at this race,” said Mark Webber.
It’s going to be a fascinating weekend, with a sell-out 120,000 crowd expected to watch on Sunday. Bring it on!