- Only Vettel not 'bored' as 2013 nears end
- Hulkenberg still in frame at Lotus, Force India, Sauber
- Brazil expects big finale crowd, despite Vettel
- Sutil: Maldonado on another planet
- Lotus prefers Hulkenberg over Maldonado for 2014 New
Only Vettel not 'bored' as 2013 nears end
(GMM) Even Sebastian Vettel's post-race 'donuts' are becoming predictable, after the quadruple world champion on Sunday smashed an old Michael Schumacher record in Texas.
Not even in Schumacher's ultra-dominant Ferrari era last decade did the great German win eight races on the trot in a single season, but Red Bull's Vettel put the lid on that achievement at the checkered flag of the US grand prix.
"I'm not getting bored!" he grinned afterwards.
However – with the possible exception of those who wear dark blue uniforms in the paddock – Vettel may not find many who agree with him, one week ahead of Brazil's season finale.
"Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes badly need to raise their game," said Telegraph correspondent Tom Cary, "because there are no prizes for guessing who is going to win in Brazil."
Even Bernie Ecclestone apparently got bored in Austin, as he left the Circuit of the Americas with his police escort on lap 43, according to Bild newspaper.
Perhaps that was because even the battles behind Vettel on Sunday were few and far between.
Pirelli took an ultra-conservative approach with hard compounds for the US grand prix weekend, raising concerns that one-stop strategies remove too much excitement from the races.
Speed Week reports that at the next meeting of F1's new strategy group, a proposal from Pirelli to mandate two-stop strategies in 2014 will be considered.
A minor point of note from Sunday's race was that it guaranteed Fernando Alonso will keep second place in the drivers' championship, ahead of Lewis Hamilton and the now-absent Kimi Raikkonen.
"It's a small reward for me," the Spaniard said, "the same as being first of the 'mortals' behind Red Bull."
But F1 legend Mario Andretti said in Austin that Alonso can still be proud, even though Vettel's dominance at present is absolute.
"It's hard to say which one of them is better," he told the Spanish sports daily AS.
"But the fact that after four consecutive titles for Vettel we are still discussing it, shows that Alonso is still an amazing driver, and that both of them are probably among the best ever," Andretti added.
Hulkenberg still in frame at Lotus, Force India, Sauber
(GMM) Nico Hulkenberg is still the big player at the tail-end of the 2014 driver 'silly season'.
Actually, as recently as Sunday in the Austin paddock, most insiders now expected that Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado's PDVSA millions had resulted in a done deal for the most competitive race seat still vacant on next year's grid.
That might be why Maldonado suddenly toned down his astonishing attack on Williams, including suspicions of sabotage, on Sunday — perhaps he was told behavior like that is not welcome at Lotus, even despite his PDVSA power.
"In the good times we were together, and also the bad times," he said, referring to Williams as his "family".
Maldonado also had a bad race to go with his bad qualifying in Texas, as he clashed on the first lap with Force India's angry Adrian Sutil.
"We've had many incidents with this driver," said the German, "so maybe he needs an emergency area around him to avoid these kinds of things."
Lotus may be holding out hope that the albeit very delayed investment by the 'Quantum' group eventually hits its bank account.
Quantum chief Mansoor Ijaz has made clear he wants the highly talented, but mainly unsponsored, Nico Hulkenberg at the wheel in 2014.
Asked about Hulkenberg on Sunday, Ijaz told Britain's Sky: "We're going to make that part of it happen in terms of making sure he (team boss Eric Boullier) gets enough money.
"We're very close now — I'm pretty sure we'll get it done this week," he added.
Hulkenberg, then, can still hope. And many believe he is also still in the running for Paul di Resta's Force India seat.
Indeed, Hulkenberg's manager Werner Heinz was seen in the Force India hospitality area, speaking with deputy boss Bob Fernley, after the US grand prix, according to French television Canal Plus.
And Britain's Sky claimed on Sunday that Monisha Kaltenborn wants the German to stay at Sauber in 2014.
"That's good news, isn't it?" Hulkenberg smiled after hearing about his options on Sunday, after finishing the US grand prix in a strong sixth place.
"All I can do is keep delivering on the track."
Brazil expects big finale crowd, despite Vettel
(GMM) Interlagos is still expecting a big crowd, despite Sebastian Vettel's utter dominance and with the 2013 title already decided.
Brazil has hosted some thrilling title deciders in recent history, but the main point of interest this weekend will be the battle for second place behind Red Bull in the constructors' standings.
Vettel, meanwhile, will try to extend his new record of wins on the trot from eight to nine, after beating Michael Schumacher's record in Austin.
"We'll try," Vettel – who could in Brazil also match legend Alberto Ascari's decades-old run of nine victories spread over two seasons, and Schumacher's 13 wins in a season – smiled on the podium on Sunday.
But even though success for Vettel is almost guaranteed this weekend, and all thoughts about the title now relate to the 2014 battle, Brazilian grand prix promoter Tamas Rohonyi is still expecting a big crowd at Interlagos.
"We have seen the title decided here many times," he told O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, "but the effect on the fans at the racetrack is very small."
Race spokesman Castilho de Andrade agrees: "The (race day) crowd numbers differ slightly from 60,000 to 70,000, regardless of the (championship) situation."
Sutil: Maldonado on another planet
Adrian Sutil quipped that Pastor Maldonado "is on another planet" after the Force India driver clashed with his Williams rival on the first lap of the United States Grand Prix.
Sutil, who was sent crashing into the barriers when Maldonado tagged his left-rear wheel along the back straight, reckons the heavy impact, which ruined the front-end of his car, could have been easily avoided if the Venezuelan had given him more space.
"I made a good start, gained a few positions and was racing ahead of Maldonado on the back straight," Sutil explained after his early exit. "For some reason he hit my left rear wheel and I immediately lost control of the car and crashed into the barriers.
"I don't really understand why he was so close to me because the track is so wide there. I stayed on my line and there was a lot of space to the right and the left."
Sutil added that he has no plans to run through the incident with Maldonado, making reference his clash with the Venezuelan and team-mate Paul di Resta in Belgium.
"I don't see a big point in talking," he said. "I've tried before, but he's on a different planet. At Spa, he went into Paul and said it was our fault. For me, it's done and over."
Maldonado, unsurprisingly, held the viewpoint that it was more of a racing incident.
"It was quite strange," he said. "I didn't expect that contact. We were side by side and I was losing a little bit on the straight because he was moving past. He either didn't see me or was thinking he was fully ahead. My front wing was there and we touched.
"I have nothing against him and it is very difficult to see when the cars are side by side. Sometimes it has happened to me in the past, it's nothing really important."
Lotus prefers Hulkenberg over Maldonado for 2014
(GMM) Lotus is keeping a seat open for Nico Hulkenberg, in the hope the German can wait a little longer for the 'Quantum' investment deal to be completed.
In Austin at the weekend, Pastor Maldonado's feisty mood with Williams tied in with paddock rumors the Venezuelan has now agreed to move to Lotus for 2014.
The Enstone based team has been open about its talks with Maldonado, but also clear is that his candidature – involving about EUR 40 million a year in PDVSA sponsorship – would be a fallback option in the event the Quantum deal collapses.
Many in the paddock believe the money will indeed never arrive at Lotus.
"He (Mansoor Ijaz) told me the same as he told everybody else," said Hulkenberg.
The German has always been Lotus' first choice to replace the Ferrari-bound Kimi Raikkonen, but as he is not substantially sponsored, he will only secure the seat if the Quantum millions do arrive.
Hulkenberg admitted to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport that, like many in the paddock, he is now "skeptical".
That is why there are still reports doing the rounds that Hulkenberg's manager Werner Heinz is working hard on a couple of fallback options; Force India and Sauber.
Lotus boss Eric Boullier, however, admits he would rather sign Hulkenberg than Maldonado.
"I think he would like to come to us," said the Frenchman. "And we would also like him.
"Grosjean and Hulkenberg would be one of the best driver lineups in formula one, and also very attractive for the financial side."
But Boullier said he would understand if Hulkenberg gives up the long wait.
"Yes," he acknowledged. "He has had a bad experience at Williams and doesn't want to be in the same situation again.
"So you couldn't blame him if he signs somewhere else. It would just mean the timing was not right for him or for us," said Boullier.