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Hamilton wins as F1 puts on a show America cannot ignore

NEWS STORY
18/11/2012

Shortly after the end of the 1999 season, in a TV documentary, Eddie Irvine, who, following teammate Michael Schumacher's accident at Silverstone, was a serious contender for the title, revealed that a fan had offered to shoot at the tyres on Mike Hakkinen's car in order to help the Ulsterman win a race and the title.

It was a preposterous idea, and as Irvine himself admitted, showed the lengths to which some 'fans' will go to for their favourites.

Whether Fernando Alonso has received a similar offer today we do not know, but as we look ahead to the first Grand Prix on American soil for five years the Spaniard surely needs all the help he can get.

However, if you think taking out the opposition with a sniper's rifle is a bit extreme, perhaps some of the other measures being considered before the race are more down to earth.

Around four hours before the start of the race, there is talk of Ferrari changing the gearbox on Felipe Massa's car. Not that there's anything wrong with it, just that such a move would demote the Brazilian but promote his teammate back to the clean side of the grid. However, there is talk that should the Italian team pull such a stroke, Red Bull would look at changing Mark Webber's gearbox. In other words, this could all get a bit silly.

Two hours before the race, Ferrari reveals that Massa will indeed take a five-place hit after the team broke a seal on his gearbox.

Justifying the move, the team's communications manager, Luca Colajanni said: "This decision was taken to maximise the potential at the start for Fernando, which is normal in a way, because it was seen yesterday that starting from the dirty side of the grid is very poor. Fernando is fighting for the championship and we need to do all the best we can to help him in this fight.

"We made this decision in complete transparency, knowing that at Ferrari the team comes before everything else, including the drivers."

The fact that this is a brand new track means that for once when Capt No Grip complains of, well, no grip, he is stating a fact.

"The left hand side of the grid will be a joke," said Mark Webber on Friday. "You want to be on the right hand side if you can."

"This morning I did a start on the left and I was slower than in the wet," lamented Massa after qualifying. "I think it will be the biggest difference you ever saw in our starts."

Indeed, there is speculation that drivers on the dirty side of the grid could lose two or three positions at the start. Throw in the climb up to Turn 1, the tight off-camber turn to the left, the names Maldonado and Grosjean, and you have a recipe for complete and utter disaster.

Of course, should Alonso get caught up in an incident after switching to the clean side, some might say it was rough justice.

While Sebastian Vettel has been supreme here all weekend, the first man to top the timesheets in every single session (including qualifying), all his hard work could come to an end at Turn 1, much like Alonso at Spa.

Other than being on the dirty side of the road, Hamilton has to be considered as a serious prospect for victory here, though the Woking team's reliability of late has been questionable. Having been the victor last time America hosted F1, there would be a nice kind of symmetry should the McLaren driver stand atop this afternoon. After all, Vettel doesn't have to win the race to today to take the title.

If Hamilton could do with lucky break, so too could Webber while, talking of fairytales, how good would it be to see Michael Schumacher sign off with a podium finish.

While attention will focus on the title fight, the race leaders, the midfield battle - in terms of constructors' points - and those drivers keen to impress prospective employers, or merely their current employers, it will be interesting to watch what happens as the back as Caterham battle to re-take twelfth in the title standings from Marussia.

Tyre options today are hard and medium, a conservative choice from Pirelli which is sure to change when the sport returns here next year. There is also just one DRS zone, on the long back straight.

In an interesting twist, the race takes place later in the day than qualifying leading to question marks in terms of how the tyres will react to the higher temperatures. Nonetheless, based on the evidence thus far, Pirelli believes most teams will opt for a one-stop strategy.

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