The Undercut: Welcome to the Britney (and Lewis) Show!
Title decider to be held in place not fussed about F1. Never mind, Britney is in town..
There is no denying it, when it comes to the many new F1 tracks we’ve seen over the last couple of decades, the Circuit of the Americas is by far and away the King of the Hill.
America likes to think it does everything bigger and better.
Texas, which doesn’t care much for the rest of the country, thinks IT does everything bigger and better, and when it comes to steaks, hats, copious amounts of weaponry and race tracks, well, it probably does.
Think back to some of those circuits that have come and (thankfully) gone in recent years, such as the mind-numbingly dull Valencia street layout and that dreadful one stuck out in the marshlands of South Korea for starters and I’ll bet you’ll struggle to remember anything of note.
This place however, is a cracker of a track. Some great corners, plenty of fast bits and a flipping great big hill on the start line and you have one top venue.
It’s just a shame it is in America.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this is not me having a go at the country – though right now, there is plenty of ammunition (wrong word maybe) for me to do so – but as somewhere where we will likely see a five time F1 champion crowned, they just aren’t that bothered with F1.
“Guys, we ought to add a picture of a car, find a red one, it won’t spoil the poster too much.”
Again, nothing wrong with this. Most of us on this side of the pond don’t care for rounders or playing rugby with a suit of armour on – horses for courses and all that, but this race track is wasted out there.
Take a look at the website of the Austin American-Statesman, the major daily local newspaper, and check the sports pages.
Today (Friday) is the first day of the United States Grand Prix weekend, yet on the sports pages, you have to scroll down six times to get to anything about the race. F1 is below articles on High School Football.
In a state where NASCAR is really the only car racing that matters, the organisers have to find another way to get the locals in, and their answer has been to make it a pop concert that has a bit of motor racing.
Didn’t know Slipknot where playing COTA this year.
This year, Britney Spears and somebody called Bruno Mars are playing there.
For reasons I could not really be bothered to look into, qualifying has been shoved back to accommodate Mr Mars which means here in the UK, it isn’t on until 10pm.
Still, at least it won’t clash with Strictly Come Dancing.
Next year, it looks as if the Grand Prix (date still subject to confirmation) is going to be on the same weekend as a major NASCAR race, three hours up the road at the Texas Motor Speedway.
No idea quite why F1 schedulers would be so stupid to do this but you can forget Britney – they’ll need the Rolling Stones with ZZ Top and Willie Nelson supporting to get anybody to come.
Last year here, Lewis treated us to his famous Neo out of The Matrix impersonation.
Anyway, enough of all this popular culture stuff, we have an F1 race and as has been the case since we kicked off in Melbourne seven months ago, it is still all about two people, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
As you’ll no doubt be aware ‘all’ Lewis has to do for a fifth F1 world title is to win and hope Sebastian is not in second place.
There are other finishing positions that will do it of course but as Hamilton has won here five times out of six, this one is the most likely outcome.
Ferrari still, bless them, say they are in the fight and have turned up in Austin with a load of expensive updates and a nice new floor for the car.
Talk about rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.
HMS Arrivabene in full S.O.S mode
However, they threw away any hopes they had months ago.
Vettel finishing on Sunday right behind Hamilton, is only going to prolong the agony. He may as well get it over and done with, settle for third, so he can enjoy the next few races.
We’ve seen in the past, that when he wraps up the title early, Lewis tends to take his foot off the gas a bit, so maybe Ferrari can nab a win or two and they can then have the chance to say what they say EVERY year: that they go into the off-season with renewed confidence and ready to come out fighting next year.
For what it matters (which isn’t much) there is a tight old battle going on in the class b category.
Sergio Perez (set for his 23rd season with Force India next year), Kevin Magnussen (our fave Haas bully boy) and eternal podium dodger Nico Hulkenberg (Le Renault) are all on 53 points.
Below them, another 11 points are all that separate Fernando ‘Long Goodbye’ Alonso, spare-part Esteban Ocon and McLaren bound (have pity on him) Carlos Sainz.
Hopefully, with all those guys so close together and no silverware to worry about, we’ll get some decent racing going on. Chuck in what looks like some awful weather due and it could all be rather fun.
Before we finish, a quick look at the F1 news.
Yesterday, using lots of long words and business babble, McLaren boss Zak Brown announced he’d finally found a sponsor.
For the last few races of the season, Coca-Cola will be on the car. Not literally, it will just be a small sticker.
Is that it?
Various Coke brands may appear, with one wag on Twitter suggesting Coca-Cola Zero, nicely reflecting the number of wins for the team over the last six years.
Elsewhere, Toro Rosso, who once had a list of drivers as long as your arm to choose from, look to have chosen F2 racer Alexander Albon as their next sacrificial lamb to replace Brendon Hartley.
No idea how Albon will fare, he may be the next Vettel (once upon a time that was a good thing) but having him and Daniil Kvyat as their drivers is uninspiring, when you consider the likes of Stoffel Vandoorne, Pascal Wehrlein and, if they’d been a bit compromising, Esteban Ocon were available.
A 2019 Toro Rosso driver
That, apart from Perez inking a deal with Force India and little Georgie Russell off to join the horror show at Williams is about your lot.
As ever, you’ll find me, @GrandPrixDiary, spouting nonsense on Twitter over the weekend and we’ll have the DriveTribe chat channel open for business too.
See you there and enjoy the race.