Eight turned out to be the lucky number for Sebastian Vettel/Red Bull Racing at Circuit of the Americas where he won his eighth straight 2013 F1 race at the United States Grand Prix. Vettel won from the pole position, his eighth this season. He did doughnuts for the third race in a row and FIA is no longer fining him for not bringing the car directly back to Parc Ferme.

For good measure, Vettel then he did a little dance across the podium to the top step. Joining him on the podium in second and third place were Roman Grosjean/Lotus and Mark Webber/Red Bull Racing.

Red Bull has won the Constructor's trophy so many times it seems as though everyone on the team has had a chance to accept the trophy. I've heard the German national anthem so many times this year I know it better than Advance Australia Fair. I'm even recognizing the Austrian anthem.

Rick Perry, Texas Governor, presented Vettel's trophy. The Constructors trophy was presented by Red McCombs, COTA Co-Founder. Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbott gave the runner-up trophy to Grosjean. ACCUS President, Nick Craw, did the honors for Webber.

Mario Andretti did the podium interviews. Vettel gave a great big shout out to Texas, congratulated his team, and told Mario he was a legend. Mario told Grosjean to keep up the good work and then with Webber, Mario talked about this being the Australian's last race in America. Webber said starting position had been crucial, said it had been a good job for the team, gave well wishes to the American fans for the last time, and then slipped away stage left even before all the pomp and circumstance were quite finished.

Meanwhile down below, the first annual Track Invasion had begun. The Sunday attendance figure was 113,162 which coupled with the Friday count of 58,276 and Saturday's 78,886 meant a total of 250,324. Last year's Sunday attendance was 117,429 and a three-day total of 265,499.

Away from the podium, last year's winner Lewis Hamilton/Mercedes had to settle for fourth after holding off Fernando Alonso/Ferrari, who clinched second place in the drivers championship by crossing the line in fifth. The top driver points are: Vettel-372; Alonso-227; Hamilton-187; Kimi Raikkonen-183; and Webber-181.

Nico Hulkenberg/Sauber, who had run fifth much of the race, was finally passed by Alonso, who had started and run seventh for a long portion of the race. Seventh, behind Hulkenberg were Sergio Perez/McLaren, Valtteri Bottas/Williams, Nico Rosberg/Sauber, and Jenson Button/McLaren.

Music to race by

What did Lotus know that we didn't prior to the race? An hour before green flag, Lotus handed out music DVD's to listen to "in case the race got boring."

There wasn't a lot of passing up front, and especially the top five stayed in position for a long while. After pit stops there was some recycling of positions. But, there was no concern that Vettel wouldn't win the race. And for a while, Webber thought he'd at least finish runner-up, until he had bobble and passing issues.

All cars finished except for Adrian Sutil/Sahara Force India, who spun off into a barrier on the first lap, tearing up his car and spewing debris all over the course. Sutil was not hurt. It caused the only Safety Car situation of the day and the first seen at COTA (the race ran caution-free in 2012) which was cleared up quickly.

Sutil's wreck wasn't the only on-track incident, however. On the final lap of the day, Jean-Eric Vergne/Toro Rosso hit Esteban Gutierrez/Sauber, causing the young Mexican Rookie to spin. After the fact, the Race Stewards applied a 20-second penalty to Vergne in lieu of a drive-through penalty. This dropped Vergne from twelfth to sixteenth, and moved Gutierrez up to thirteenth while Felipe Massa/Ferrari moved up to P12, and Heikki Kovalainen/Lotus picked up P14. Vergne didn't agree with the penalty, saying it was the fault of Gutierrez.

If your car number was 20,21,22 or 23, it would seem you got an automatic blue flag. Poor Max Chilton/Marussia, he got more blue flags than everyone put together, or so it would seem - Race Control seemed to be monitoring their times carefully in case the 107 percent rule had to be invoked.

Pit Stops were quick, and none more so than Webber, who had a 2.3 for his first stop. On the other hand, returning driver Heikki Kovalainen had a very slow pit stop for tyres - more than thirty-seconds. Doesn't sound like much in the context of things, but compare that to Webber's stop and you can see how much distance could be made between two cars with that bit of luck. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kovalainen finished fifteenth partly as a result of the hold-up.

The fastest laps just kept peeling off, one by one. Most were set by Red Bull Racing - almost equally by Vettel and Webber. Vettel had the ultimate fastest race lap of the way with 1:39.856/123.500 mph/198.754 kph set on Lap 54 of the 56-lap race. Hulkenberg also put in a strong time.

Away from the racing itself, the TV feed in the United States had some technical issues. The picture was OK, but the sound was a high-pitched buzz, so there were a lot of commercial breaks until it was resolved. There is an encore TV broadcast airing even as we speak.

There was also news from overseas confirming that Raikkonen had undergone successful back surgery Thursday. While he watched the race, the Lotus team reports he fell asleep half way through; the team handed out more music.

by Lynne Huntting

 

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