Latest F1 news in brief - Sunday UPDATE Updates shown in red below.
Vettel likely to wrap up third title on Sunday
|Will Vettel win 3rd straight title Sunday?|
- Hamilton, Vettel, told to modify helmets in Austin
- Wurz helped Tilke design Austin layout
- F1 members admitted to hospital in Austin
- Oil, not dust to blame for slippery Austin
- Senna sounds downbeat on 2013 future
- Grand Prix forecast: 68 degrees, mostly cloudy
- Horner defends Vettel after Villeneuve criticism New
- Alonso still believes he'll finish ahead of Sebastian Vettel New
- FanVision devices going fast New
- Andretti: timing of NASCAR, Grand Prix a boon New
Vettel likely to wrap up third title on Sunday
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel is on the cusp of wrapping up his historic third consecutive drivers' title, after totally dominating the weekend so far in Austin.
If the pole-sitting German can steer his Red Bull to victory on Sunday, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso will have to move up from eighth on the grid to fourth at the finish to keep the championship mathematically alive for next weekend's Brazil finale.
Ferrari's Stefano Domenicali admitted a bad qualifying has put Alonso in "a very difficult position" for the title.
But Alonso, who has defied logic with his 'glass completely full' attitude in the face of Vettel's recent dominance, insisted late on Saturday he has a "feeling" Sunday in the USA will go his way.
"Think of the goal," said the Samurai-quoting Spaniard on Twitter once he returned to his hotel after qualifying, "not how difficult it is to reach."
Vettel, however, moved to deflect the significance of his championship 'match point' on the eve of his 100th grand prix by insisting he and Mark Webber will on Sunday focus only on wrapping up the teams' title for Red Bull.
And his boss Christian Horner warned that Ferrari, while weak in qualifying, poses a "dangerous" threat for the race.
"It's easy to talk," Domenicali is quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport, "when you're that far ahead.
"We'll try to regain a bit of enthusiasm and recover for the grand prix."
Hamilton, Vettel, told to modify helmets in Austin
(GMM) Two of F1's biggest names had to pull out the gaffer-tape in Austin to fix up their offending helmet liveries.
The always-controversial Lewis Hamilton's US-themed helmet attracted the most attention for its H.A.M. slogan, which according to street slang means 'Hard as a motherf***er'.
"In light of the FIA's recent reminder to all drivers not to swear, stenciling the letters on the back of his helmet was a particularly provocative act on Hamilton's part and one which no doubt irritated his team," journalist Tom Cary wrote in the Telegraph.
A McLaren spokesman said the decision to cover up the logo was taken "by mutual consent".
"We just stuck some red tape over it," confirmed helmet manufacturer Arai's Peter Burger to Auto Motor und Sport.
Pole sitter Sebastian Vettel also had to modify his special US-themed 'wooden' helmet livery in Austin, to remove the words 'Gives you wings' from the top.
Bernie Ecclestone forbids drivers or teams from advertising on the very top of the helmets, so as not to spoil the onboard camera view.
As a quick fix, Arai's Burger covered the energy drink company's slogan with black tape, but soon sourced some tape with a wood-style finish for qualifying and the race.
Wurz helped Tilke design Austin layout
(GMM) Alex Wurz had a hand in the layout of the new Circuit of the Americas, which has lauded by formula one drivers this weekend.
Wurz, now 38 and a sports car driver, contested 69 grands prix between 1997 and 2007, finishing on the podium three times.
The Austrian now works as a 'driver coach' at Williams, serving alongside his friend and countryman Toto Wolff, the British team's new shareholder and director.
But Wurz also heads up his own company Firma Test and Technik International, a company he founded in 2006 with his father Franz, a former RallyCross driver.
Wurz's company reportedly worked alongside regular F1 circuit designer Hermann Tilke on the Austin layout, which features sections copied from famous F1 circuits including Silverstone, Suzuka, Hockenheim and Istanbul.
Kleine Zeitung newspaper said Wurz advised on Tilke's layout in the state-of-the-art McLaren simulator.
"There were a multitude of little things that were decided jointly," he said. "First you have a layout, then you feed all the data into the simulator.
"In the McLaren simulator I've seen what needs to be changed, working with Hermann to make it more F1-compatible," Wurz explained. "So that overtaking is possible.
F1 members admitted to hospital in Austin
(GMM) Members of F1's travelling circus have been admitted to hospital in Austin, the Swiss newspaper Blick reports.
The report said three members of the press from Portugal, Denmark and England respectively, and "some members" of the Red Bull team, are in hospital.
Rumors suggest the Briton involved is the well-known photographer Keith Sutton, while the other two press-men are journalists Peter Nygaard and Luis Vasconcelos.
The newspaper claimed they have contracted infectious diseases after being bitten by mosquitoes in India late last month.
During the Indian grand prix weekend 20 days ago, we reported that the swarms of mosquitoes in the Delhi area could be carrying the infectious and potentially life-threatening dengue fever.
Blick also mentioned malaria.
Oil, not dust to blame for slippery Austin
(GMM) The particularly slippery conditions suffered by drivers at the new Circuit of the Americas this weekend is caused by oil, not dust.
That is the claim of the authoritative German publication Auto Motor und Sport, which said Texas' colder-than-expected temperatures and too-hard Pirelli tires are also contributing to the problem.
But the biggest factor: "The brand new asphalt is sweating oil," said the report.
"(Circuit designer) Hermann Tilke told Charlie Whiting that it is the same type of asphalt as in India and Korea," added journalist Michael Schmidt.
Pedro de la Rosa does not agree: "The asphalt here is different," said the HRT driver.
Fernando Alonso claims the Austin track - "very smooth and not at all porous" - reminds him of Portimao in Portugal.
Schmidt said the Spaniard is right.
De la Rosa confirmed: "You can see the oil shimmering when you look at the track in the morning."
Senna sounds downbeat on 2013 future
(GMM) Bruno Senna's bad mood in Austin may have given away the game when he was asked about his plans for 2013.
It is believed Williams plans to oust Brazilian Senna so that the British team's young protege Valtteri Bottas can debut alongside Pastor Maldonado next year.
Reports had suggested Senna's sponsors were looking for an alternative team.
Brazil's Totalrace, however, wondered if Senna's prospects are looking particularly grim after he gave 'monosyllabic' answers 'or just repeated the question' when asked about 2013 in the Austin paddock.
"Any news on the future?" one reporter asked him.
"No," Senna answered.
"Nothing has changed?" the journalist tried again. "Nothing has changed," Senna repeated.
Totalrace explained: "All the other questions were answered in the same way."
Grand Prix forecast: 68 degrees, mostly cloudy
Austin F1 race fans and race teams couldn’t ask for anything more: 68 degrees, with mostly cloudy skies.
That’s the forecast for 1 p.m. Sunday, the start of Austin’s first Grand Prix. Earlier, Sunday’s forecast had called for a slight chance of sprinkles. Those rain chances have shifted to Sunday night.
The highs Sunday will reach the low 70s, with lows in the low- to mid-50s. At race time, winds are expected to be from the southeast at 5 to 10 mph.
Sunday night, rain chances are 20 percent, according to Pat McDonald, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Horner defends Vettel after Villeneuve criticism
(GMM) Christian Horner has defended Sebastian Vettel, after Jacques Villeneuve slammed the reigning world champion for often behaving "like a child".
When comparing Vettel with his 2012 title rival Fernando Alonso, 1997 world champion Villeneuve last week admitted he was rooting for the Spaniard because he is cooler under fire.
When asked about the outspoken Villeneuve's likening of Vettel to "a child" when under pressure, Red Bull team boss Horner responded: "Honestly, I don't understand why Jacques said that."
The interviewer for Die Welt newspaper explained to Horner that Villeneuve was probably referring to Vettel calling Narain Karthikeyan an "idiot" this year, or when he threw his gloves after a car failure.
"Sebastian is an emotional person," Horner insisted, "and he wears his heart on his sleeve.
"It's normal that in such stressful situations, your feelings can sometimes win through.
"He wouldn't be human if he didn't."
Vettel's critics, however, say his meteoric success has said more about the German's equipment over the past years, often driving away with a clear road after dominating qualifying.
Indeed, Villeneuve said Vettel's mistakes as he climbed through the field from the back of the field in Abu Dhabi recently proved the point.
Horner countered: "I think he proved to the doubters (in Abu Dhabi) that he is a great racer. Sebastian did one of the best races I've ever seen."
And he warned that Vettel, on the cusp of his third consecutive title, 100th grand prix and aged just 25, is only getting better.
"Fernando is 31 years old and has probably reached his peak as an athlete. Sebastian, however, is far from it.
"He is still trying to develop as a driver and as a person," said Horner.
Alonso still believes he'll finish ahead of Sebastian Vettel
Fernando Alonso still remains confident he will out-score World Champion rival Sebastian Vettel in Sunday's U.S. GP - despite lining up seven places behind the pole-sitting Red Bull.
Alonso's defiance has become a regular event on a Saturday night this season in the wake of his now-familiar qualifying struggles. But the Spaniard surely surpassed the highest hopes any of his many admirers could have held at the close of qualifying at the Circuit of The Americas when he told Sky Sports F1 that he still expected to finish ahead of Vettel's pole-starting Red Bull.
"I still believe that tomorrow we will score more points than Sebastian," Alonso assured Sky F1's Natalie Pinkham.
Whereas Alonso's F2012 - which was even out-qualified by Felipe Massa on a torrid day of struggle for the Spaniard - has consistently lacked grip this weekend around the Austin circuit, Vettel has topped the timesheets in every session.
When Lewis Hamilton, who will start Sunday's grand prix on the front-row alongside Vettel, exclaimed to the third-placed Mark Webber after qualifying that "you boys are quick", the Aussie simply answered "no, he's the quick one" as he gestured towards his team-mate.
Yet Alonso still remains confident he will prove faster than Vettel - who will be crowned champion again were to win the race and the Ferrari finishes fifth or lower - in Sunday's grand prix.
"In the last race we were in position seven and here we are eighth so it is more or less the same. We will try to recover good places on Sunday - which is normally our strong point. We need to stay confident and optimistic because our race pace tends to improve a lot," he added with characteristic optimism.
To compound Alonso's predicament, however, he will have to line-up on the dirty side of the grid, following a gearbox penalty for the Lotus of Romain Grosjean, on a circuit which has offered little grip throughout.
"I think it will be the biggest difference you ever saw in your starts," said Massa, who lines up sixth on the grid directly ahead of Alonso. "I think it will be massive. This morning, I did starts on the left and I was slower than in the wet." Sky Sports
FanVision devices going fast
The makers of FanVision, a handheld device that streams live Formula One video feeds, race data and more, say they have rented out most of the devices at Circuit of the Americas this weekend.
About 9,000 have been rented or sold at this weekend’s race, the most of any race this season, spokeswoman Jade de Vere-Drummond said. About 7,000 were rented at the British Grand Prix; other grands prix averaged about 4,000 rentals, she said.
About an inch wider and two inches longer than an iPhone, the devices rent for $69 Sunday and allow fans to track up to three drivers through multiple camera angles and see replays and race and timing data.
Andretti: timing of NASCAR, Grand Prix a boon
The first Formula One race in the U.S. in five years is being held on the same weekend as NASCAR’s season-finale, which legendary American driver Mario Andretti said would be better for both series if that wasn’t the case.
“You do have a crossover of fans,” Andretti said Friday at Circuit of the Americas. “I know, personally, some people who are down there and would’ve been here. And maybe even vise versa.”
Andretti won 12 Formula One races, along with the 1978 world championship, and also spent time in NASCAR, including a victory at the 1967 Daytona 500.
“In America, NASCAR has taken over in the last 10 or 12 years to some degree, but I think all of that is correcting and leveling off,” he said. Formula One has had eight drivers win races this season, which Andretti said will help boost the sport in the U.S.
“American fans, because of the ovals, they like to see a lot of overtaking (with DRS, which IndyCar needs but small minded self-serving agendas prevent even bodykits), you know, and now we see more action than we’ve seen in many years (in Formula One). It’s catering to a lot of those wants and needs.”