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Formula One returns to America for the first time in six years this weekend, but at a brand-new venue in Austin, Texas that’s never been raced on before.
The virgin track, called the Circuit of the Americas, will be unknown territory for all drivers but the pointy end of the field is likely to be a familiar one with the two-way championship fight between Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso taking centre stage.
Sunday’s American Grand Prix will also be Vettel’s 100th career race, and while the Red Bull driver could mathematically seal the championship deal at his centenary, it’ll only happen if Ferrari’s plucky Spaniard suffers an uncharacteristically bad result.
DOWN TO THE WIRE
There are just ten points separating the two runaway leaders, which given their consistency, means the title fight could go down to the wire at the last race in Brazil the following weekend. Any number of possible results at this penultimate round could affect the tables, and with a slew of other drivers capable of stirring the pot, the points could be spread in a multitude of ways.
Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen became the eighth different race winner this year two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, and in the process inched closer to finalising third place in the driver’s championship. Behind him, Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber and both McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jensen Button are still in the podium hunt - although Button would need to win the remaining races to make up the deficit.
Austin’s unknown and green surface itself could have a say in things as well, with grip levels expected to be minimal on the freshly laid tar. The 5.5km Circuit of the Americas runs in an anti-clockwise direction and features 20 turns that have been compared to those at Hockenheim, Spa and Silverstone. The Texas track seems to have it all: steep climbs, slow technical complexes, a long and fast back section, and an air of unpredictability that should keep things interesting going into the season’s end phase. -Star Motoring