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F1 Race Director Gives Austin Track Site The Once-Over

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, June 14 2012

Formula 1 paid a visit to the Circuit of the Americas construction site recently.

With his formal, pre-race inspection still three months away, FIA Formula One™ Race Director Charlie Whiting has given Circuit of The America’s 3.4-mile road-course a preliminary passing grade as preparations continue for the inaugural United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.

Whiting heads F1’s Technical Department and manages the logistics of each grand prix. His responsibilities include inspecting F1 host sites and cars to ensure compliance with FIA rules, monitoring and enforcing safety issues and serving as official starter of each race.

Whiting’s visit to COTA, the sports and entertainment complex under construction in southeast Travis County, followed Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, the first of two stops F1 will make in North America this year. McLaren/Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 World Driving Champion, posted his first win of 2012 and in the process extended the streak of different winners to seven in as many events. F1 is scheduled to compete in Austin from Nov. 16-18.

“It is clear that the significant resources Circuit of The Americas has committed to completing this facility on-time and to FIA specifications is making a difference,” Whiting said in a statement. “The more than 500 construction workers on-site daily are making great progress, and I plan to return to Austin at the end of August for an update.

“My formal pre-race inspection is set for Sept. 25, which is 60 days before the scheduled start of the United States Grand Prix. From the world-class motorsports facilities and fan areas to the race course itself, which promises to be one of the most challenging new additions to our season, I believe Circuit of The Americas has the ability to put on a great show and spectacular grand prix in its inaugural year. I look forward to my next visit in August.”

Meanwhile, newly appointed COTA ambassador Mario Andretti began his official duties last week by running a few laps on the course in a Cadillac Escalade. “From a handling standpoint he started out slow. We have asphalt down from Turn 1 to Turn 9, and he got the lay of the track,” said Bruce Knox, COTA’s executive vice president. “His fourth and fifth laps around the track he set a new speed record, but I think the tire pressure on the Escalade should have been checked before he went out there. Definitely a great circuit.”

Knox also accompanied Andretti, the 1978 F1 World Driving Champion, to Montreal to meet with FIA officials, team personnel and fans on behalf of COTA. ”We picked the right guy to be our ambassador,” Knox said. “You look at seven rounds/seven winners, so Austin is going to be a pivotal race. I think there’s a lot of passion, a lot of excitement around it.”

The event in Austin will mark the return of F1 to the United States for the first time in five years. Three-day reserved seats and general admission tickets are available online at www.cotausgp.com or by calling the Ticketmaster hotline at 800.745.3000.

Two-time/reigning F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel got a humorous reality check as he passed through U.S. Customs Monday exiting Canada en route to the Metro New York/New Jersey area for a promotional visit and segment on “Late Night With David Letterman.”

Vettel drove a preview lap of the proposed 3.2-mile course for the Grand Prix of America at Port Imperial, scheduled to join the FIA championship schedule in 2013. Vettel – unshaven and dressed in flannel shirt and jeans – later visited the set of Letterman’s show in New York City. Vettel answered a series of technical questions from the host, a racing fan and part-owner of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

Formula One Grand Prix of America plans its inaugural race for June 2013 as part of a 10-year agreement with the sanctioning FIA. But Vettel’s encounter with a U.S. Customs agent showed that the education of Americans in the Metro New York/New Jersey area about F1 remains a work in progress. Vettel said he was asked the typical questions during his brief interview, including the purpose of his visit to Canada. Vettel said he was there for the F1 race, and the agent asked, “Did you have a good seat?”

Vettel replied, “Yes, I was driving,” much to the surprise and embarrassment of the agent.

A 24-year-old native of Germany, Vettel conducted a media conference with race promoter Leo Hindery, Infiniti representatives and mayors Richard Turner of Weehawken, N.J., and Felix Roque of and West New York.

Vettel drove the 3.2-mile street circuit in an Infiniti IPL road car and was joined by former F1 regular David Coulthard of Great Britain in completing a number of passenger rides on a course laid out against the Manhattan skyline.

“Sebastian got a very small taste of what racing around the Port Imperial course will be like, but there’s no substitute for when he’ll be driving at just over 200 miles an hour,” Hindery said. “We can’t wait to host him and the world’s other elite drivers with the world’s greatest city in the background. We’re one year out from 100,000 fans streaming to the race via NJ Transit, PATH and the combined NY Waterway Ferry and Bus Network.”

Vettel, of Red Bull Racing, finished fourth in Sunday’s grand prix after starting on-pole. “It’s been fantastic to be the first to drive the new circuit,” Vettel said. “I was able to get some good speed up in the Infiniti and it’s clear that it’s going to be a big challenge in a Formula One car. With such a great setting too, I can’t wait to get back here and race in 2013.”

Construction of garages and other permanent facilities are well under way. The course will be run on existing streets in Port Imperial, Weehawken and West New York, along the Hudson River and at the top of the Palisades, with the New York City skyline as backdrop. More information is available at www.gpamerica.com.

Canadian Grand Prix winner Lewis Hamilton parlayed his first victory of the 2012 season for McLaren/Mercedes into the point lead in the World Championship standings, two ahead of Fernando Alonso and three up on Sebastian Vettel.

The seventh different winner in as many races, Hamilton won via a two-pit stop strategy over 70 laps on a day when Alonso, of Scuderia Ferrari, and pole-sitter Vettel of Red Bull Racing, opted for one-stops on the 2.710-mile Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Romain Grosjean of Lotus/Renault and Sauber/Ferrari’s Sergio Perez passed the struggling Alonso and Vettel during the closing laps to finish second and third, respectively.

“What a great feeling. This is where I won my first grand prix,” said Hamilton, who recorded his 18th career victory. “It was five years since I won my first grand prix, but it feels just as good. To finally be here on the top step is great, something which can never be taken for granted, and for me this feels like one of the best races I’ve had for a very, very long time.

“The satisfaction is huge. I was thinking at the start that to finish at the front, as I did here with my first win in 2007, would be very, very special. So I couldn’t believe it when I crossed the line, the feeling inside was like an explosion, just incredible. That’s what I love about racing.”

After fulfilling his media obligations, Hamilton punctuated his win with a backward dive into a pool of water.

“I knew it would be a tough, tough race but I loved every single minute of it,” Hamilton said. “I had a couple of problems pulling away (after both pit stops), maybe it was my fault, I don’t know. But otherwise the pit stops were great. Finally we got some good pit stops. To be honest, I wasn’t able to one-stop. I don’t think I could have done it. I think I would have fallen back, as they (Alonso and Vettel) did, perhaps even further. So I think a two-stop was just right. In the end, I got absolutely everything out of the car.”

Final FIA Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix results with car number in parentheses, driver, country, chassis/engine and time/laps differential:

1.(4) Lewis Hamilton, Great Britain, Vodafone McLaren/Mercedes, 1:32:29.586-seconds

2. (10) Romain Grosjean, France, Lotus/Renault, plus 2.5-seconds

3. (15) Sergio Perez, Mexico, Sauber/Ferrari, plus 5.2-seconds

4. (1) Sebastian Vettel, Germany, Red Bull Racing/Renault, plus 7.2-seconds

5. (5) Fernando Alonso, Spain, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, plus 13.4-seconds

6. (8) Nico Rosberg, Germany, Mercedes AMG, plus 13.8-seconds

7. (2) Mark Webber, Australia, Red Bull Racing/Renault, plus 15.0-seconds

8. (9) Kimi Raikkonen, Finland, Lotus/Renault, plus 15.5-seconds

9. (14) Kamui Kobayashi, Japan, Sauber/Ferrari, plus 24.4-seconds

10. (6) Felipe Massa, Brazil, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, plus 25.2-seconds

11. (11) Paul di Resta, Great Britain, Force India/Mercedes, plus 37.6-seconds

12. (12) Nico Hulkenberg, Germany, Force India/Mercedes, plus 46.2-seconds

13. (18) Pastor Maldonado, Venezuela, Williams/Renault, plus 47.0-seconds

14. (16) Daniel Ricciardo, Australia, Scuderia Toro Rosso/Ferrari, 64.4-seconds

15. (17) Jean-Eric Vergne, France, Scuderia Toro Rosso/Ferrari, plus 1 lap

16. (3) Jenson Button, Great Britain, Vodafone McLaren/Mercedes, plus 1 lap

17. (19) Bruno Senna, Brazil, Williams/Renault, plus 1 lap

18. (20) Heikki Kovalainen, Finland, Caterham/Renault, plus 1 lap

19. (21) Vitaly Petrov, Russia, Caterham/Renault, plus 1 lap

20. (25) Charles Pic, France, Marussia/Cosworth, plus 3 laps

21. (24) Timo Glock, Germany, Marussia/Cosworth, (DNF) brakes

22. (7) Michael Schumacher, Germany, Mercedes AMG, (DNF) rear wing

23. (22) Pedro de la Rosa, Spain, HRT/Cosworth, (DNF) brakes

24. (23) Narain Karthikeyan, India, HRT/Cosworth, (DNF) brakes

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, June 14 2012
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