The F1 fraternity travels to Austin this weekend for the 17th race of the season, the US Grand Prix. The three way break since the last race brought sad news in form of Marussia and Caterham going into administrations with their buyers unwilling or unable to pay debts that have accumulated over the years. Neither of the teams will take part in this race, with their participation in subsequent races also dependent on whether they can find a new buyer.
Three more races this season and 100 points left. The advantage that Lewis Hamilton has now over his teammate is 17 points; 291 vs. Rosberg’s 274. Third, but still with a mathematical chance is Red Bull's, Daniel Ricciardo with 199 points. Valtteri Bottas, who is doing a great season so far, is fifth with 145 points; two ahead of Vettel, with 143, and four ahead of Fernando Alonso, 141. After a tight battle for fifth place, the sixth is fifty points behind. Button claims it, having 94 points, followed by Nico Hülkenberg, 76, and Felipe Massa, 71. The rookie Kevin Magnussen closes the top 10 with 49 points, but his position is threatened by Sergio Perez and Kimi Räikkönen, both with 47 points each.
A little bit of history
The track, located in Austin, Texas, has hosted the American Grand Prix since 2012. It was the first Grand Prix in North America since the United Stated Grand Prix held in Indianapolis in 2007. History of F1 in North America is long: the first Grand Prix was held in 1959, in Florida. Next year the location changed to California. These two circuits were not used anymore in F1; New York was the headquarters for the next 15 seasons, being the last Grand Prix in 1975. There was no race in the States until 1984, in Dallas. In 1985, the race was moved to Detroit and stayed there until 1988. Then, it was Phoenix, the city which welcomed the F1 for 3 more years. There was a 9 years break again before the F1 arrived to Indianapolis.
As all the other modern racing circuits, the Circuit of the Americas is designed by Hermann Tilke and the layout mixes other circuit’s sections, like Maggotts-Becketts-Chapel sequence in Silverstone, Hockenheim’s arena bends, and also a replica of Istanbul’s Turn Eight. The United States circuit it’s one of the few circuits in the calendar which is raced counter-clockwise so it will be more challenging for the drivers who are not so used to these lateral G-forces. They will have to do 56 laps to the circuit completing a total distance 308.405 km.
The starting straight, uphill, ends in a very closed hairpin to the left, in which drivers will decrease speed from 300 to 99 km/h. The turn number 1 gives beginning to a more soft and open turn number 2 to the right where 250 km/h will be reached and where a short straight begins. At the end of the straight, a curve sequence sometimes compared to the Suzuka “S” starts or Maggotts-Becketts part in Silverstone; there are three very fast soft corners, numbers 3, 4 and 5, followed by a very long corner to the right with two different radius, which will make that understeer appears in the cars. This section is done almost at full power. Drivers get to turn number 7 and brake until 120 km/h since it is a 90 degrees corner to the left, where sector number 2 starts. This is the fastest part of the track. They find a fast corner to the right followed by a straight divided in 3 parts: one short part ending in a high speed open corner to the left, short second part which ends in yet another very open corner to the left and the last straight part, a long one, in where it is situated the first DRS detection point, before getting to the hairpin number 11, a good overtaking point. Drivers have to brake from 260 to 100 km/h before taking the longest straight of the circuit, where they will reach the maximum speed, 310 km/h. There is a very closed corner to the left at the end of the straight, passed through at 110 km/h and, right after it, sector number 3 starts. This is the most difficult part of the circuit. It starts with a tight corner to the right followed by an “S” soft turn to right and then left respectively and then a heavy braking point before getting to the corner number 15, which is a more than 90 degrees one to the left. Drivers will accelerate again in a short straight and a fast 3 radius parabolic corner which ends in another short straight that contains the second DRS detection point. Then, a 90 degrees corner to the left and a few seconds to accelerate again just before ending the lap in a very closed corner passed through at 99 km/h and getting again to the first straight, with the second DRS activation point.
Technical requirements and tyre choice
Pirelli brings to Austin the soft and medium compounds. The Italian brand expects a better grip than in the first two years, and they believe that the best strategy is two pit stops, although in 2012 and 2013 the winners did just one tire change. The variation in temperature over the weekend will be key to the performance of the tires.
The needed downforce is medium-high, as well as the brakes requirement. Balancing the temperatures in the brakes will be very important. Drivers will do 61% of the lap at full power and that may be the reason why Red Bull choose to change Sebastian Vettel’s power unit finally here in Austin. This will allow him to go for an overtaking friendly set up outside of parc ferme.
Sebastian Vettel has always claimed the pole position in Austin, but only won in 2013, having finished second in the inaugural edition of the race/ in 2012. He also holds the lap record, with a 1:39.347. Lewis Hamilton was the champion in 2012, having started from second position. The British has a great opportunity to win here again this weekend and extend a little bit more his advantage over Nico Rosberg.
Race local times
FP1 Friday 31 10.00h
FP2 Friday 31 14.00h
FP3 Saturday 1 10.00h
Qualifying Saturday 1 13.00h
Race Sunday 2 14.00h