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Valentino Rossi's Take on Qualifying

Valentino Rossi, #46 with Yamaha Factory Racing

Valentino Rossi is one of only two riders that has competed at all thirteen previous MotoGP races held in the USA (along with Texan Colin Edwards). This weekend’s Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas will be the 35th different circuit that Rossi has raced at since he started his MotoGP career in 2002. The 34 year old Italian, affectionately called “The Doctor,” is a worldwide fan favorite who is known for his animated expressions, playful antics and fun-loving attitude. Rossi will line up eighth on the grid for tomorrow’s race after qualifying with a best lap time of 2’05.380. Following the session, we listened in on the following interview.

VR: We expect to go better but we have to be able to fix the problem in braking and especially the first part; I lose too much. But anyway, we have tomorrow...we know that this weekend, this track can be more difficult. We have to make a good race, to try to achieve some position and take some point.

Media: Which would be the best combination of tyres for tomorrow?

VR: Eh, I don’t know but I think hard or soft. I think, more or less, everybody. So I have some question mark but I think (hard).

Media: So it seems as if the Hondas are in a different league. Can you catch them or is it a case of catching the rest?

VR: Yeah, the Honda is very fast, yeah. And…bigger. They have a big advantage, I think. I think would be difficult.

Media: Best of the rest? 

VR: Eh, ha ha, difficult. But easy if we are able to prove the setting we can; the target is try to stay with Crutchlow, try to stay with Bradl, and after, we’ll see.

Needless to say, Valentino seems honest about the performance of the Yamaha leading into tomorrow's race. Knowing that they do not have the pace of the Hondas and are struggling with grip on track, Rossi will push hard to continue to develop the bike.

Despite a challenging weekend so far, "The Doctor" has consistently had swarms of fans waiting outside of the Yamaha Factory Team pit boxes and throughout the paddock to snap a photo, snag an autograph or simply wish him "Buona fortuna!" His fans are unscathed; their enthusiasm is only rivaled by his charisma and it's easy to see why he is one of the most beloved riders and ambassadors in the MotoGP paddock.

You can follow Valentino Rossi on his Facebook page, his Twitter feed, on Instagram or check out his dedicated website.

Pirelli's Strategy at COTA

Paul Hembery at the 2012 German Grand Prix (© Foto Ercole Colombo)

There have been two changes for the 2012 Formula 1 season which have made it one of the best in many years. Arguably, the most important feature which has given F1 eight different winners and many thrilling races so far this season is the change in tire performance.

Today we sat down with Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery to learn more about how tires would play a part in the outcome of this weekend’s race.

Earlier this year, molds of Circuit of The Americas were taken and laser scanned by Pirelli engineers.  Once translated into a 3D model, engineers combined energy simulations supplied by teams to produce a performance model to allow testing of tire compounds. Using this data, Pirelli chose the P Zero Silver hard and P Zero White medium compound tires for the USGP; this combination is the same as what was used at Monza and Spa this year.

However nothing beats real world experience, and with feedback from practice and qualifying sessions now in the hands of Pirelli, there have been unexpected obstacles to overcome. The surface of COTA, explained Hembery, is smoother than simulations showed. When compared to circuits like Monza and Spa, both fast and harsh on tires, COTA is less abrasive, making harder tires more difficult to wear-in and reach the target performance zone.

In addition to the texture of the track, the cool fall temperature is also affecting performance, making it more difficult to get heat into the hard and medium compound tires and give them more grip. Each of these factors, Hembery explained, means that Pirelli could have opted for softer tires, making their choice a bit “conservative” for the USGP.

To some extent, this means the hard and medium tires could last the entire race themselves even though both must be used for at least one lap. The grip fall-off, which has played a critical role in effecting the strategy and delivered many exciting races this year, will not be a factor tomorrow and should be very predictable now that both compounds have been tested on track.

The fan favorite feature of COTA, Turn 1, might put significant vertical load on the tires, but Hembery assured that the tire structure is significantly over-engineered, and there is no risk of failures from the high loads going up into Turn 1.

The 2012 season has been incredibly exciting and Pirelli has played a key part in delivering the on-track race action. Now that the season is winding down, the development of the 2013 tire is underway. Pirelli's approach to the significant challenge of delivering a tire that improves race action has proven to be wildly successful. For 2013, Hembery explained, expect more.  The tires will be more aggressive and the variations between compounds will ensure race action is even more dynamic.

Qualifying Concludes at Circuit of The Americas

Sebastian Vettel takes pole position at the 2012 USGP

// Qualifying Concludes at Circuit of The Americas

A great qualifying session today at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.  Hamilton and Vettel fought to the end as the Red Bull car edged out the McLaren with just over one tenth of a second between the two.

A strong penultimate qualifying lap from Vettel appeared to be enough to secure him the position. Shortly after Vettel’s fast lap, Hamilton completed his with just seconds to go in the final session.  Managing only P3, Hamilton stayed out for another attempt to take pole position.

Shooting the USGP - Thursday

Fernando Alonso at the 2012 USGP in Austin

Some kids grow up wanting to be astronauts, pilots, doctors, firemen. When I was old enough to start caring about F1, I just knew I had to be involved with it. Somehow, someway. Then photography fell into my lap and I knew that was it. 

So bright and early this morning, with a big smile on my face, I held up my F1 media credential to the infamous F1 turn style computer and listened to it chime "ding don ding." And for the first time in my career, I walked into paddock in Austin for a Formula One race. Kind of hard to put those emotions into words. 

The History of the Grid Girl

COTA Girls pose for a photoshoot following the USGP kick-off event, The Starting Grid

// The History of the Gird Girl

Known as the Race Queen in Japan, Pit Babe in Britain, Pretties in Thailand, Racing Model in Korea, there are many naming conventions for what the majority of us refer to as Grid Girls.

According to racing lore and legend, Rosa Ogawa was the first ever grid girl. Rosa first appeared in the late 1960s motor races in Japan to represent race winners, and as such cemented the grid girl as an icon at the race tracks. Officially, F1 grid girls hold up the grid number for their racer on the grid before races. They also welcome and cheer the three F1 racers who top the podium at each race.

With A Song In My Heart: Austin Grand Prix

The climb up to Turn 1 at Circuit of The Americas (© The Austin Grand Prix)

It is a time to celebrate. To roll out the barrels. To fly the banners. To wave the flags. To welcome the world to the inaugural Austin Grand Prix. However, with Austin’s reputation as ‘The Live Music Capital of the World’, you can guarantee that Travis County will be a rockin’ and a rollin’ and struttin’ its stuff like there is no tomorrow and Iain Robertson declares that nobody could be more delighted.