Texas! Everything is bigger. Except the field for this race, with the financial woes at Caterham and Marussia meaning that these two teams are absent from the paddock. So 18 runners, rather than 22, will take to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin on Sunday.
First and Second practice showed that the Mercedes cars, which have already sewn up the Constructors’ championship, look to be a good second ahead of the best of the rest. Alonso as ever got the most out of his underpreforming Ferrari, and both Williams cars looked good on long-distance running. The fact they are generally easier on their tyres may be significant in terms of race strategy, as Pirelli have brought a softer range of tyres – the Italians have brought their white-marked medium and yellow-marked soft compounds, whereas they used the medium and hard in 2012. This reflects to some extent the maturation of the track surface, but it could also signal more two or three-stop strategies.
Sebastian Vettel has had to replace his entire powertrain, gearbox, electronic units – the works, so he will start from the pit lane. He focused on heavy fuel load running in FP2, thus his relatively lowly position relative to the rest of the grid.
Show me the money
The post-FP2 FIA press conference was lively, with the press asking questions almost exclusively about how F1 was funded, how the money was divided among the teams, and the elusive question of cost capping.
The seating arrangement with the ‘lesser’ teams at the back, and Mercedes and McLaren at the front, summed up the situation for more than one of the journalists.
Gerard Lopez of Lotus was concisely outspoken:
“Number one: the distribution model of revenues is completely wrong. Whether the size of what is distributed or not is right or wrong is debatable and Vijay (Vijay Mallay, Force India) has mentioned one side of the thing. But then, you know, when you’ve got teams showing up to the championship that get more money just for showing up than teams spending a whole season then something is entirely wrong with the whole system and so that cannot be allowed to happen, number one. And now is the time to not be talking about it but the time to be acting about it, so we will see what’s going to happen in the next couple of weeks.
The second thing is the cost cap. We always find excuses not to have a cost cap. There are reasons why certain areas should not be capped but there are also reasons why certain areas should be. And, again, now is the time to be acting rather than talking about it.
And finally, this is an odd sport. We say things and then we tend to do the opposite. I’ll just give one example. The birth of the new engines happened when we started talking about cutting costs and so forth. The fact is that the new engine, which from a technology perspective is a great thing, the costs were passed on to all the teams. In our case this year, between the engine and development we probably spent something like US$50-60 million. That’s not cost cutting in our books, that’s essentially throwing money out the window. So we tend to also do completely the wrong things in terms of… if we unfreeze the engines now, which is the next topic that is coming up.”
Boom! The full transcript of the press conference makes fascinating reading, and is available here at Formula1.com
Qualifying this evening will see 4 cars, and then a further 4 cars eliminated in Q1 and Q3, with the normal 10 runners battling it out for pole in Q3.