Now is F1’s time to shine in America

2012 United States Grand Prix preview

2012 United States Grand Prix, Circuit of the AmericasF1 finally returns to America this week following a five-year absence.

Despite the inevitable doubts over whether the Circuit of the Americas would be completed in time, the Austin track is ready to bring the United States Grand Prix back to the state of Texas for the first time since 1984.

It will be the tenth American venue to hold a round of the world championship. But it’s the first time an entirely new purpose-built circuit has been created specifically to host America’s round of the world championship.

That plus a closely-fought championship contest means there is no reason why F1 should not provide a spectacle worthy of one of the great motor racing nations this weekend.

The circuit’s raw figures are much the same as other recent additions to the calendar: five-and-a-bit kilometres, 20-ish corners, 50-odd laps.

But first impressions of the track in images, the footage of Jerome D’Ambrosio driving around it and the impression gleaned from the official F1 game suggest it might add up to more than the sum of its parts.

The flowing corners of its opening sector have drawn immediate comparisons with Silverstone’s Maggots/Becketts and Suzuka’s Esses. Although it seems not to be a straight copy of either, it will severely tax the cars’ capacity for high-speed changes of direction. A look at the sector times from qualifying at Suzuka indicate Red Bull should be particularly strong here.

While much has been made of the circuit’s gradient, particularly the steep climb to turn one, most of it is confined to the straights. The corners themselves are largely flat and free of camber, unlike what would be found at other American road courses like Sonoma, Mid-Ohio or Laguna Seca.

Circuit of the Americas information

Lap length 5.516km (3.427 miles)
Distance 56 laps (308.9km/191.9 miles)
Qualifying lap time 1’37.0 (estimate)
Race lap time 1’42.0 (estimate)
Tyres Medium and Hard

Circuit of the Americas track data in full

Further around the lap the track becomes a more typical example of modern F1 circuit design: a hairpin leads to a long straight, followed by a succession of slow corners.

However the acceleration zone throughout the long, multi-apex right-hander at turn 16/17/18 looks promising. It’s been likened immediately to turn eight at Istanbul but the entry speed is likely to be lower.

With the drivers’ championship at a crucial stage, now is a tricky time for drivers to be taking on a new circuit. Of course they will have had endless opportunities to prepare in their simulators, but there’s no substitute for real-world experience. The opportunity to do more laps on Friday thanks to Pirelli supplying an extra set of tyres will be especially welcome.

This being a new venue and one which features quite a lot of quick corners, Pirelli have brought the hardest tyres from their range this weekend. That should prove a wise move – no one wants to see a repeat of the 2005 farce at Indianapolis.

United States Grand Prix team-by-team preview

Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2012Barring some freak occurrence, Red Bull should win the constructors’ championship this weekend.

Sebastian Vettel has a chance to clinch the drivers’ championship as well, but his scare in Abu Dhabi rammed home the message how easily these things can slip away.

The good news for him is the up-tempo opening sector at the Circuit of the Americas should play to his car’s strengths more than Alonso’s.

McLaren

The late stages of the season are becoming something of an embarrassment for McLaren, who have passed up few opportunities to squander points through unreliability. Hamilton’s retuirement while leading at Yas Marina followed his earlier loss of a likely victory in Singapore and the team’s failure to score a one-two at Monza due to a failure on Button’s car.

The top priority this weekend is claiming second in the constructors’ championship back from Ferrari, but that will not happen if the cars fail to go the distance again.

Ferrari

Vettel may not know how it feels to have a championship slip through his fingers at the 11th hour. Alonso does, and if he’s going down, it won’t be without a fight.

But his destiny may already be out of his hands – there was no sign in Abu Dhabi that Ferrari have given him a car that can qualify on the second row, let alone the first. They tested some new parts at Idiada recently and there’s a lot riding on them getting this upgrade working first time.

Mercedes

Following their fourth no-score in a row in the last race, Mercedes admitted they have not seen the performance gains they were expecting from their Coanda exhaust, and their Double DRS device has also underperformed.

As things stand, they are coming under pressure from Sauber for fifth in the constructors’ championship. With just 12 points between them, Mercedes need to start adding to their points total again.

Lotus

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, Yas Marina, 2012Boosted by their overdue triumph in the last race, don’t rule out Lotus doing it again in America. The first sector should suit the E20 nicely, though you suspect they would prefer a more challenging tyre selection.

Force India

Force India were quick to extinguish any lingering bad feeling between their drivers following their first corner collision in the last race, which Hulkenberg had more reason to feel aggrieved about.

This team is haunted by memories of 2010, when Williams passed them in the championship at the final round. Vijay Mallya noted the blue cars’ performance in Abu Dhabi, and will keep his drivers focused on the task at hand.

“The opening lap was frustrating, but we all recognise that these things can happen in racing,” said Mallya. “The important thing is to look forward and make sure it doesn?t happen again.”

Sauber

Perez, like Mercedes, is suffering from a conspicuous lack of success since his big deal for 2013 was announced. He was on course to score well in Abu Dhabi until a clumsy incident with Grosjean ruined his race.

At least Perez knows where he’s going next year – Kobayashi is racing for his career. Beating his team mate in the points, which he’s getting closer to doing, might help. Lifting Sauber ahead of Mercedes surely would.

Toro Rosso

With points in five of the last seven races, and an unlucky near-miss at Monza, Daniel Ricciardo is ending the season strongly and has closed within two points of his team mate in the championship.

Williams

The front runners would be wise not to overlook Maldonado’s performance in the last race. He qualified on row two on merit, and you have to wonder whether Alonso would have been able to pass the Williams had its KERS not failed.

Caterham

Alexander Rossi, Caterham, Yas Marina, 2012Caterham’s Californian test driver Alexander Rossi will not get a run in first practice as the team are doing all they can to take back tenth in the constructors’ championship from Marussia.

Having come agonisingly close to doing so in Abu Dhabi it’s starting to look like a forlorn hope for them.

“I know that the main thing is that Austin is a new circuit and the race drivers need as much time as they can on track to prepare for qualifying and the race,” said Rossi. “As a race driver I?d want exactly the same in their position.”

HRT

The announcement that HRT is up for sale is further evidence that the team is not in great shape. Persistent technical problems have dogged them lately, with Karthikeyan’s hydraulic failure in Abu Dhabi leading to a huge crash.

However team principal Luiz Perez-Sala said the team have had access to a simulator to prepare for this new circuit.

Marussia

Marussia have been close to Caterham on pace in recent races and should run them close on pace again this weekend. Charles Pic was especially impressive in Abu Dhabi and has come on strong this year.

2012 driver form

Q avg R avg R best R worst Classified Form guide
Sebastian Vettel 5.33 4.47 1 22 17/18 Form guide
Mark Webber 6.17 6.29 1 20 17/18 Form guide
Jenson Button 6.39 7.38 1 18 16/18 Form guide
Lewis Hamilton 4.61 5.64 1 19 14/18 Form guide
Fernando Alonso 6 3.38 1 9 16/18 Form guide
Felipe Massa 10.06 8.53 2 16 17/18 Form guide
Michael Schumacher 9.72 9.73 3 22 11/18 Form guide
Nico Rosberg 9 8.07 1 15 15/18 Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen 7.61 5.17 1 14 18/18 Form guide
Romain Grosjean 7.12 7.64 2 19 11/17 Form guide
Paul di Resta 11.44 9.65 4 14 17/18 Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg 12.06 10.19 4 21 16/18 Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi 11.22 9.57 3 18 14/18 Form guide
Sergio Perez 12.06 8.69 2 15 13/18 Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo 14.5 12 9 17 17/18 Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne 16.78 12.53 8 16 15/18 Form guide
Pastor Maldonado 10.67 11.71 1 19 14/18 Form guide
Bruno Senna 14.67 12.24 6 22 17/18 Form guide
Heikki Kovalainen 18.22 16.53 13 23 17/18 Form guide
Vitaly Petrov 18.89 16.53 13 19 15/18 Form guide
Pedro de la Rosa 21.71 19.15 17 22 13/17 Form guide
Narain Karthikeyan 23.12 20.2 15 23 10/17 Form guide
Timo Glock 20.47 17.13 12 22 16/17 Form guide
Charles Pic 21.44 18.08 15 20 13/18 Form guide
Jerome D’Ambrosio 15 13 13 13 1/1 Form guide

Are you going to the United States Grand Prix?

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Over to you

Who do you think will be the team to beat in the United States Grand Prix? Have your say below.

And don’t forget to enter your predictions for this weekend’s race. You can edit your predictions until the start of qualifying:

2012 United States Grand Prix

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Images ?? PJ Tierney, Red Bull/Getty images, Yas Marina/LAT, Caterham/LAT

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44 comments on Now is F1’s time to shine in America

  1. Osvaldas31 (@osvaldas31) said on 14th November 2012, 14:25

    Though the track looks amazing and promosing, I doubt about the prospects of good race. But it shouldn’t be the worst.

    • sorin (@) said on 14th November 2012, 14:37

      Anyway, I think I’ll look at all 3 practices.

    • thejudge13 (@thejudge13) said on 14th November 2012, 17:41

      COTA won an internationally acclaimed award last night at the ‘Professional Motorsport World Expo 2012′ which was held in Cologne, Germany. Cota along with Bhai Tech Advanced Vehicle Science Centre, Dallara LLC – Indianapolis and the Moscow Raceway were nominated for the global Motorsport facility of the year. Here’s what the judges said,

      “November’s race in Austin will be a highlight of the 2012 F1 calendar. Whether it’s in the challenging topography of the circuit layout, extensive spectator viewing banks or the top-of-the-line safety infrastructure, Circuit of the Americas has worked hard to ensure F1’s return to the USA is a happy one”.

      “The importance of the Circuit of Americas is not the design of the track, but the role it must play if the USA is to be a viable market for Formula 1,” said jury member and noted racetrack designer, Alan Wilson. “Success will herald a boom for F1; failure, the end of the game. It is that important”.

      I suppose its slightly amusing that somewhere – that has not yet held an event – can win a global award for being the best facility for that kind of event.

  2. BasCB (@bascb) said on 14th November 2012, 14:45

    I really hope we see something good. Hamilton getting it on pole again would be a nice start of that, to prevent Vettel from racing away in the first sector and have a 1,7 second gap by turn 11.

    Lets wait and see, I would not want to predict before we even see the cars turning a wheel though.

  3. John H (@john-h) said on 14th November 2012, 14:57

    However [HRT] team principal Luiz Perez-Sala said the team have had access to a simulator to prepare for this new circuit.

    I hope they bought their copy of F12012 via your Amazon links Keith.

    (sorry).

  4. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 14th November 2012, 15:26

    However team principal Luiz Perez-Sala said the team have had access to a simulator to prepare for this new circuit.

    So, they got an Xbox. Good !

  5. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 14th November 2012, 15:29

    I don’t like the concept of “copying” other sectors of very well known tracks, but at least they were thinking about “pushing the car and drivers to the limit” rather than “overtaking possibilities” (i.e. harpin, straight, harpin, straight and that’s about it).

    The latter solution has never ever worked. So good for them that they went the other way, that’s what makes a classic circuit (which this one might not be, but still).

  6. I had a dream on the weekend where they were racing at what appeared to be COTA…but it was very mystic (drizzling with a lot of mist around along with greenery…felt like Bathurst mixed with Spa). It looked like many frontrunners were out or at the back. Schumacher was leading and only Alonso could beat him….but then just after Schumi pitted, Alonso tripped over a backmarker and lost his front wing. There were 99 laps still left. Who won in my dream….we’ll never know.

    • Its crazy but I also had a dream, very much like yours.

      In mine, they were zig-zagging up a steep mountain when Massa screwed up and slid down the side. Alonso had to dive out of the way and off the track, retiring in the process. I was so depressed.

      When I woke up I was so grateful it was only a dream lol

  7. carbon_fibre (@carbon_fibre) said on 14th November 2012, 15:51

    My prediction for the last two races
    (or at least what I want to happen in the last two races)

    Austin:
    Hamilton wins easily.Vettel somehow won’t finish the race.Alonso salvages 2nd and gets the championship lead by 8 points.

    Interlagos:
    Vettel completely dominates the weekend.Alonso fights teeth and nails for 2nd place and he earns it.
    With all this Alonso becomes champion by 1 point.

    • Jay Menon (@jaymenon10) said on 15th November 2012, 0:32

      @carbon_fibre

      Love your optimism mate. If that happens it will be nothing short of a miracle.

      It goes to show how close F1 really is.

    • Ok, these are my predictions:

      Austin:
      Vettel and Alonso crash in the first corner and Kimi takes the lead and second victory.

      Interlagos:
      Vettel dominates but gets disqualified from the championship for using the wrong finger. Kimi is promoted to first and wins the championship by one point as Alonso struggles with his own ego and only takes two points.

  8. topdowntoedown (@topdowntoedown) said on 14th November 2012, 15:52

    However team principal Luiz Perez-Sala said the team have had access to a simulator to prepare for this new circuit.

    Reports that Karthikeyan and De La Rosa have been given PS3s with F1 2012 as presents were described as “absolutely spot-on”.

  9. Eggry (@eggry) said on 14th November 2012, 16:12

    They tested some new parts at Idiada recently and there’s a lot riding on them getting this upgrade working first time.

    So Idiada test was true. I heard the story but I wasn’t sure. Hopefully this time it would work well.

  10. Shouldn’t the second lap time estimate in the information box read “Race lap time”? (It now reads “Qualifying lap time”.)

    Cheers!

  11. KaIIe (@kaiie) said on 14th November 2012, 16:53

    I understand the Caterham decision of not running Rossi, but I think they missed a big PR opportunity here. Surely Heikki and Petrov are good enough drivers to learn a track in a one less session, plus the track will probably be quite dirty in FP1, so there wouldn’t be that much setup work going on anyway (maybe just checking gear ratios), all the fine tuning should take place later.

    • Bullfrog (@bullfrog) said on 14th November 2012, 17:12

      I agree – a bit like they missed a trick last year not letting Karun Chandhok race in India. But I guess (like Chandhok) they’re no longer considering Rossi for next year, as he’s been testing GP2 while Giedo van der Garde’s done most of the F1 sessions.

      Wonder if Bottas will drive in practice, or any other test drivers, like Bianchi?

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 14th November 2012, 17:19

        @bullfrog

        they missed a trick last year not letting Karun Chandhok race in India

        Given how poor he was at the Nurburgring, I don’t think they did.

        Giving test drivers a regular run on Fridays is fine by me, that’s trying to give young talent a break. But giving a driver a one-off shot because it’s their home event strikes me as being more of a cynical marketing stunt.

  12. JamieFranklinF1 (@jamiefranklinf1) said on 14th November 2012, 16:58

    Looks like Suzuka is probably the best indication for how cars will perform here, though the track surface and the tyres will differ somewhat. It’s quite obvious that the Red Bull will be very strong through the first sector, which I think makes it even more important that someone other than a Red Bull snatches pole, otherwise it’s going to be a very boring race in terms of fighting for the victory. Ferrari will probably be able to regain some in the second sector, with the long straight, but they are going to need to really push development to be able to get Alonso up with Vettel. The last thing we need to see is for the Championship to fizzle out towards the end just because the Red Bull is the stronger car.

    I think the only way we’re going to see a proper fight between Vettel and Alonso on track is if McLaren can get pole again. With the strong race pace of Ferrari, they need the Red Bull to be behind and fighting amidst others to give them a chance, and it would be fantastic to see.

    Maybe a grid like this:

    1. Hamilton
    2. Button (I’d love to see him on pole, but it’s obviously not his strong suit)
    3. Vettel
    4. Webber
    5. Alonso (It’d be better if Alonso were in front of Webber, but the Ferrari clearly doesn’t have the pace in quali, and with Ferrari’s fast starts and Webber’s poor starts, he would most likely get in front anyway)

    I’m probably just dreaming, but I think this season deserves a spectacular finish fought out by two great drivers.

  13. Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 14th November 2012, 20:47

    Well, though most of the elevation changes are do confined to the straights, that does not mean they do not add to the challenge in some corners by providing blind entries – which is one of the main elements of a challenge an elevation can provide, besides blind corner exits (Raidillion), or drop in elevation mid-turn (dunno, maybe Turn 2 in Sepang or Turn 3 in Sonoma in different ways).

    So they do provide blind entries. Obviously for T1 – a lot of people spoke about that – but I think T3, T8 could also be blind a bit. (T10 as well, but that’s only a kink, taken flat-out likely.)

    Also, the Istanbul Park T8-esque T16-18 section not only has a slightly lower entry speed, but I wonder if it will be taken flat-out all the way, in contrast to T8 in Istanbul. It certainly is ‘only’ a 160-170° corner, in contrast to the 190° or more T8 and opens out more, as I see. A pro argument for being flat-out is the quite high downforce the cars will likely run – a story on Formula1.com projects a top speed of 314kph, which is even lower than the average used at the also downforce-hungry Buddh circuit in India.

    I can’t wait for FPs to begin and discover the track.

  14. verstappen (@verstappen) said on 14th November 2012, 21:36

    I like the graphic very much! You can’t look at it as a whole, it keeps on dancing for your eyes, which is always stunning when done without apparent 3D effects.

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