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Race Review: Korean Grand Prix

Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel at the driver's press conference following the Korean GP (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

// Korea

The writing is on the wall. The 2012 WDC is now down to a two-horse race after the Korean Grand Prix. Vettel and Alonso are now the frontrunners and will battle it out in the final four races for the title. Raikkonen, Hamilton, Webber and Button are now trailing far behind in terms of points, wondering what could have been and knowing what will never be.

Mid-August Target for COTA

Circuit officials are meeting with Bernie Ecclestone this week in London to discuss progress at the facility.  According to Jonathan Noble of Autosport, several members of the executive team including President Steve Sexton, Executive VP Bruce Knox, Director of Racing Operations Chuck Aksland, and Chief Marketing and Sales Officer Geoff Moore.

Geoff Moore was quoted by Noble:

"The race is on. Construction is happening six days a week. The paddock buildings are being topped off, work on the main grandstand has started and we are looking at mid-August for completion."

Details about other discussions with Ecclestone have not been released, though the most promising news in this story is the mid-August target completion date.

The mid-August date gives a three month buffer before the scheduled Nov 18 USGP and an opportunity to hold other events at the circuit.  In presentations from COTA, they have spoken about programming at the circuit to include bike or foot races, smaller racing series, large scale conferences and live entertainment.  Details about such events have been relatively vague since the April 2011 press conference but are more likely to emerge over the coming months with this new target date. Without a doubt, there will be the need to hold an event of some kind before the first Formula 1 race.  I don't think anyone would expect the F1 race to be the first thing held at COTA so we'll have to wait to see what this event will be.

Mid-August is roughly 7 months from today, and though that might seem unattainable, with a 6-day crew going two or three shifts, it is possible.  Over the past month, the paddock building has completely transformed from a foundation into a three story building and the main grandstand foundation is going in as we speak.  Let's hope, for construction's sake, for another dry spring and summer.

Korean Grand Prix Recap

Upon wrapping up their second consecutive world championship title with three races remaining in the season, most drivers probably wouldn’t be racing the rest of the field so hard that they look like they’re still competing for the title.  One would also think that such a driver starting second on the grid Sunday will surely drive a bit more conservatively this weekend, trying to avoid the mayhem that inevitably ensues on the first lap while the drivers try to find their place.  But then, most drivers aren’t Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Renault.

About midway through the first lap, Vettel had already attempted two passing maneuvers on pole sitter McLaren-Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton - the second which paid off – and then opened a full 1-second gap at the start of lap 2.  By the end of the race he finished 12 seconds clear of 2nd place Hamilton, who struggled most of the race to keep at bay Vettel’s teammate, a quicker Mark Webber.  This battle for 2nd place was probably the most interesting one on the Sebastian Vettel took his rightful spot at the front of the pack mid-way through lap 1. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)track and resulted in Hamilton finished a mere 0.4 seconds in front of 3rd place Webber, who could not make a couple of passes on track stick.  The gutsy wheel-to-wheel driving didn’t stop there however, as McLaren-Mercedes’ other driver Jenson Button spent most of his race clawing his way back up to a 4th place finish, equaling his starting position on the grid.  He also spent much of the last half of the race fending off Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who finished 1 second behind.  Alonso’s teammate Felipe Massa finished 6th.  Red Bull’s 1st and 3rd place finishes were also enough this weekend to secure their second consecutive constructors championship.

Bring Your Wife, Bring Your Husbands, 'Cause We're Partying For F1 Up In Here!

Fans enjoy the Singapore Grand Prix at SIX Lounge in Austin, TXAlmost two weeks ago, the first downtown watch party at SIX Lounge was the initial kick-off to a central location party where fans could get together and watch the race, make new friends, and enjoy an afternoon cocktail and some food.

Not only was the race an exciting one, the party was a big hit with those who attended.  We were  pleased to see so many new faces who came to check out the event and learn more about F1.  SIX Lounge is a great place to get together so it's no surprise that we expect this weekend's event to be even bigger. Robert DeGroff will have his iRacing simulator running the Suzuka track, so come test your driving abilities on this awesome machine!

Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your 380 Days!

In just 380 days the construction site behind me will host the 2012 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix.

2012 Calendar Announcement from The Austin Grand Prix on Vimeo.

This news comes from the FIA World Motorsport Council, who met today in Barcelona, Spain and confirmed the 2012 Formula 1 Calendar. The F1USGP is officially set for June 17th, 2012; just 380 days from today.  Though there are many construction and logistical hurdles to be cleared, and the viability of the track depends on a pre-race inspection, it looks like work at the track will continue to progress full-speed ahead in order to meet the FIA's deadline.

In addition to setting the 2012 calendar, the WMSC voted unanimously to hold the Bahrain GP on Oct 30th this year, following an on site visit with government officials and the FIA Vice President. If you recall, this year's Bahrain GP was set for March 13, but canceled on February 21 due to political unrest in the country. According to the FIA statement, the intention of reinstating this year's race in Bahrain is to use the GP to unite the people of Bahrain, but there are still large challenges to overcome due to the political and humanitarian state there. With this announcement, there has been loud outcry from teams, drivers and F1 fans worldwide who do not agree with this decision.

The Statesman also shared that next Tuesday the Austin City Council will meet with the COTA team to discuss enrolling the City as the "local sponsoring entity" in order to support the Major Events Trust Fund.  Despite rumors and speculation by naysayers, the METF is designed to be a self-sustaining fund that is fueled by increased tax revenues from food, drink, travel and hotel sources in conjunction with major events. Thus, the Austin City Council would play a passive role in this sponsor scenario, and according to Richard Suttle, COTA's lawyer, the city will not be out of pocket for the "rolling loan" needed to kick-start the METF. You can read more at The Statesman.

Well it's no surprise that we're extremely excited about this announcement. We set up a Facebook Event: Formula One Grand Prix of the United States, so be sure to join the event and socialize with us and other fans. We'll be posting information on tickets (the #1 question today!) as soon as it is available, because we want you to join us in Austin in 2012!

You can also sign up for our newsletter for ticket information and to stay up to date on the latest news from Austin!

More detailed investigations into the effect of the Bahrain schedule addition and the City Council/METF meeting next Tuesday will follow.

View from Turn 1 - Circuit of the Americas - Picture taken April 14, 2011 - All Rights Reserved by Austin Grand Prix