In the first part of an F1 back-to-back, from Austin to Mexico, hear from drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne as they look ahead to this weekend at the Circuit of the Americas.
“After a couple of frustrating races where we haven’t been able to show the improving pace we know we have in our package, I’m excited to head back to the United States. I had a great time over summer there this year with everything going on around the Indy 500, and I know the fans are incredibly passionate and enthusiastic, so I’m expecting a really good atmosphere around Austin.
“The COTA track is a really fun track to race on – every sector is different and achieving the perfect compromise with set-up to suit the constantly-changing characteristics of the lap is what makes the challenge there so unique. COTA is also wider than a lot of the circuits we’ve been to recently so there are usually some good chances to overtake, which hopefully we can make the most of on Sunday.
“I really enjoy spending time in the States and I have lots of happy memories there. I hope in Austin we can build on the momentum we know we’ve been gathering behind the scenes, despite not being able to show the results on the final timesheets, and I think there’s the potential to score points if we can pull everything together. There are a lot of factors to take into account and anything can happen at this race – we’ve seen quite a lot of drama both on-track and off it over the last few years – but I’m optimistic we can have a positive weekend if we can maximise every opportunity.”
“I’m really looking forward to this double-header in the USA and Mexico and discovering two new tracks that I’ve never experienced before. I’ve heard a lot of good things about COTA and it’s a circuit a lot of drivers love racing on as it has a bit of everything. Austin is a really cool place to visit too – I’ve been going there with the team for a couple of years now in my former role as reserve driver – and it’s always nice to make the most of our downtown location and sample the local restaurants.
“Going to a new track doesn’t make me any more nervous than going to a circuit I’ve raced on before – the opposite, actually. We prepare for each grand prix with our engineers in the same way for every race weekend, and although I’ve never driven on this track in the real world, I’ve done many laps in the virtual world in our simulator, so I’m keen to get going with set-up work straight away on Friday and get the car dialled-in to the track as soon as possible.
“After a couple of positive races for me, Japan was trickier for us and we struggled to make up any ground on Sunday after an unfortunate start. Austin should be a bit better for us in terms of power sensitivity, although there’s a wide range of corners which each give us a different challenge, so the key will be to balance the set-up all the way around the lap. There should be more overtaking opportunities there too and I’m hopeful we can have a more positive weekend.”
Circuit name: 2017 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix
First race: 2012
The United States Grand Prix has a long and varied history. The race has been staged at 10 different venues since it was first included on the World Championship calendar in 1959, but the Circuit of The Americas (COTA) is the first purpose-built track for Formula 1. McLaren’s founder, Bruce McLaren, won the country’s inaugural race in ’59, since when popularity of the sport in the US has been boosted by its two American world champions, Phil Hill in 1961 and Mario Andretti in 1978.
What makes the race special?
It’s the only race in the USA and it’s staged at a fast and flowing racetrack around which F1 cars can stretch their legs. The organisers lay on a good show for the fans, with concerts by Justin Timberlake and Stevie Wonder taking place on Saturday and Sunday evenings.
The racing is usually eventful at COTA because there are several overtaking points around the lap. However, the craziest moment in the race’s short history came on a Saturday in 2015, when monsoon-like conditions led to qualifying being abandoned.
What we love
The eclectic mix of corners. COTA has more fast corners than Spa-Francorchamps and more slow corners than the Hungaroring, making car set-up an interesting compromise for the engineers.
2012, the most recent of the team’s 12 victories at the US Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton qualified second for the inaugural race at COTA and dropped to third place at the start after being overtaken by Mark Webber. But he passed both Red Bulls to win the race, Vettel coming home in second place.
With every year that passes, F1 gains a stronger foothold in the USA. Crowd numbers were up last year and there’s talk of a second race in the USA in the near future. But IndyCar, the country’s domestic championship, remains popular and McLaren renewed its links with the series earlier this year when the company contested the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport and Fernando Alonso.
Did you know?
Formula 1 isn’t new to Texas. There was a one-off Dallas Grand Prix in 1984.
COTA is one of five anti-clockwise tracks on the 2017 calendar. The others are Baku, Singapore, Interlagos and Abu Dhabi.