Points and Stars at the Austin Grand Prix

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If jetlag, that most persistent of travel companions, doesn’t wake you, your alarm clock will. The mechanics suffer worst of all: they leave their hotels at 0500 to prepare their cars for the 0900 starts to practice on Friday and Saturday, and the park-and-ride nature of transporting 100,000 spectators into the Circuit of the Americas means the fans don’t start much later. But no-one minds a bit of sleep deprivation because the vibe is good; Formula One feels at home in Austin. More at home, you could argue, that at any of the sport’s nine previous venues in the United States.

The Circuit of the Americas is an absolute belter too. It has every type of corner, lots of undulations and great facilities, and on the evidence of this year’s 56-lap race only the best drivers succeed. Sebastian Vettel dominated the race from pole position to take his eighth consecutive win – a new record for a single season – and with Mark Webber coming home third Red Bull Racing have 205 points more than any other team in the constructors’ championship. Incredible.

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Sebastian Vettel attends the drivers parade before the start of the FIA Formula One World Championship 2013 at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, United States on November 17th, 2013 // Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

But there was a mini victory further back as well. Valtteri Bottas, who was confirmed only last Monday as a Williams driver for 2014, came home eighth in his FW35 to score his first world championship points in F1. It was a performance that was as surprising as it was brilliant. In Abu Dhabi last time out the Flying Finn started and finished 15th; in America he started ninth and finished eighth.

“I’m so happy,” he said after the race. “We’ve made a lot of changes to the car in recent weeks and it just seemed to work here, irrespective of the track temperature. It’s just a great team performance; I want to thank everyone at the track and back at the factory for their hard work.”

Valtteri is now within two points of Esteban Gutierrez, his main challenger for top rookie honours this year, and next weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix promises to be a thrilling battle between them. But the stars weren’t confined to the racetrack in Austin; everywhere you looked there were famous faces.

Racing royalty was present in the form of Mario Andretti and son Michael; there were actors galore – Matt Le Blanc, Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith, Gerard Butler and Val Kilmer – and TV chef Gordon Ramsay was cooking up a storm. However, quote of the day undoubtedly goes to some wag in the Ferrari Paddock Club who, when he bumped into legendary singer Sting, came out with the immortal line:

“Don’t stand so close to me”.


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