The script said it had to be so. Having topped all three practice sessions and cementing his tag as the man to beat this weekend, it came as no surprise that championship leader Sebastian Vettel claimed his sixth pole position of the season at the all-new Circuit of the Americas, while his title rival Fernando Alonso languishes down the order and with a lot of work to do.
Back in 2007 when Lewis Hamilton was getting the edge in equal machinery in an equally difficult world championship battle, Alonso was so enraged after qualifying in Shanghai that he bust the door of his dressing room door off its hinges. One can only wonder how the Spaniard is feeling right now. It must be said that he has driven superbly well all season, and if he ultimately comes up short then it would be a tremendously difficult pill to swallow.
As things stand, if the two title protagonists finish the race in their starting positions tomorrow, the music will be louder than ever at Red Bull. The hopes of many who want to see the battle go to the wire will rest with Lewis Hamilton getting a good start off the line and Kimi Raikkonen propelling himself into the mix. You have another 22 hours or so to ponder the permutations, before the chaos begins.
As for the weather, well that is unlikely to help Alonso much either. Earlier this week, there was a thought from both the local meteorologists and some respected international voices, that there could be some light showers around from an advancing area of low pressure out to the west, but the maps didn’t look right to me. As it turns out, any rain is expected to be confined to western counties of Texas tomorrow afternoon, leaving Austin dry and reasonably warm, but with a little more cloud around than over the last few days.
Race day will dawn dry with some early sunshine, but it will again be cool, as temperatures slowly rise from an overnight minimum of 10 degrees. Cloud will begin to spill in from the south-west throughout the latter stages of the morning and by race time there may only be a few sunny intervals.
But the 56-lap race should at least remain dry. The drivers will have trouble enough as they barrel into Turn 1 and then the resultant grip problems through the first few laps. A light breeze will continue from the south-east (same as today), while air temperature is again tipped to reach 21 degrees Celsius.
Before I go, there is an important early ping towards a potential deluge at Interlagos next Saturday. An intense cold front is set to move north-eastwards from Argentina and we could be set for a repeat of the astounding conditions on the same day back in 2009, when there were no less than five separate thunderstorms that affected final practice and qualifying.
But that is for next week and I will talk a lot more about this on Monday. Until then, enjoy the race everyone and let’s see if we can get this thing to go down to the wire…