Austin – The 2014 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix weekend is in its second day, with Qualifying taking centre stage at Circuit of the Americas, which is located south of Downtown Austin a few miles further down the road from the local airport.
In general, qualifying was as expected considering the buildup to Sunday’s race: Vettel didn’t make it past Q1, as per plan, due to his starting from the pit lane on Sunday after having changed his engine unit. Likewise, with the reduced grid, the Lotuses of Grosjean, the Sauber of Gutierrez, and the Toro Rosso of Vergne failed to make it past Q1.
Q2 once again only saw 4 drivers eliminated, due to the absence of the Marussias and Caterhams from the field. Maldonado’s remaining Lotus qualified 11th, followed by the Force Indias of Sergio Pérez and Nico Hülkenberg, and the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat.
Q3 saw one big, and well deserved surprise, namely the 10th place that Sauber’s Adrian Sutil earned today. It is the Swiss team’s first Q3 appearance in 2014, and Sutil’s first since the 2012 British Grand Prix. Qualifying was headlined by the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, followed by the Williams of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa. Red Bull’s smiling Aussie, Daniel Ricciardo qualified 5th, with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso coming in 6th. McLaren’s Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen qualified in 7th and 8th, though Button will face a penalty. Kimi Räikkönen’s Ferrari came in 9th.
In other major F1 news, following the financial troubles of Marussia and Caterham, other mid-level teams such as Sauber and Force India are likewise feeling the economic strain. A report released by The Independent this past week said that it costs 94.4 million EUR to run an Formula 1 team, according to Monisha Kaltenborn. The Sauber chief urged the FIA to undertake drastic changes within the sport to allow for smaller teams, such as Sauber, to receive equal amounts of money “that allows every team to at least live decently,” the BBC reported on Friday.
In a move that has further intensified the monetary situation here in Austin, Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley said on Saturday that the team may boycott Sunday’s grand prix in protest of what the team refers to as a financial crisis within the sport. This of course would leave the multitude of Mexican fans without one of their two countrymen, Sergio Pérez, to watch on Sunday. Despite the statements from Force India, Alan Permane, Lotus trackside operations director, said in an interview to the BBC, “It’s not real for us. It’s not even been thought about or discussed.”
Force India’s team principal Vijay Mallya countered Fernley’s statements, saying that no such boycott would take place and that all 18 cars would run in Austin on Sunday. Later on Saturday, Bernie Ecclestone said that he takes the blame for the financial troubles faced by the smaller teams in Formula 1, and even Max Mosley, former President of the FIA, argued in favour of finding some way of levelling out the playin gfield in regards to team finances.
Williams has also caused a bit of a stir this weekend in Austin, with the absence of Sir Frank and his daughter, Claire Williams. Sir Frank was admitted to hospital in the UK to treat a pressure sore on his back. Despite the absence of their team principal, the Williams team still qualified 3rd and 4th.
Sunday’s Formula 1 United States Grand Prix will be broadcasted live in the United States on NBC starting at 13.30 Austin (14.30 New York, 11.30 Los Angeles). The race will be televised in the UK on Sky Sports from 18.30, with the race starting at 20.00. It will also be broadcasted by BBC Radio 5 Live.
I will be tweeting any major developments live from Circuit of the Americas through my Twitter handle @sthosdkane.