2016 United States Grand Prix – preview
THE DRIVERS ON: THE CIRCUIT
"The Circuit of The Americas is a big challenge for every car – each sector offers something completely different. The first section requires a lot of precision, as it’s a big climb up to the first corner, which you go into blind.
The elevation changes put a lot of pressure on the car and it’s important to get good traction out of each corner. It’s a really exhilarating circuit to drive and you need to work hard at every braking point to keep good momentum around the circuit, as the rhythm is constantly changing along with the elevation as you go around the lap."
"COTA is one of the few anti-clockwise circuits on the calendar, and has a bit of everything: fast corners, slow corners and heavy braking zones, so you need a car with good balance, which tends to be one of the strengths of our car.
There’s lots of fast, sweeping corners in the first sector, the long straight in the second sector, and then the infield section in the final sector which is tight and twisty with long apexes and high g-forces. You really need to prepare the car for everything! For a driver it’s great fun and I hope we enjoy a better result there than in Suzuka."
|2015 winner||Lewis Hamilton, 56 laps, 1:50:52.703s|
|2015 pole position||Nico Rosberg, 1m56.824s|
|2015 fastest lap||Nico Rosberg, 1m40.666s (lap 49)|
|Name||Circuit of The Americas|
|Circuit length||5.515km /3.427 miles|
|Distance to Turn One||280m/0.174 miles|
|Longest straight||1.09km/0.677 miles, on the approach to the Turn 12|
|Top speed||330km/h/205mph, on the approach to Turn 12|
|Pitlane length||385m/0.239 miles, estimated time loss 22s|
|Full throttle||63 per cent|
|DRS zones||Two, on the approach to Turns One and 12|
|Key corner||Turn One. The apex of this left-hander is the highest point on the lap and the steep uphill approach allows the drivers to brake very late. The corner is blind, requiring precision and commitment from the drivers, and a good exit is vital because a high-speed section follows
|Fastest corner||260km/h (162mph), Turn 18|
|Slowest corner||80km/h (50mph), Turn 15|
|Major changes for 2016||None, except for maintenance work on kerbs and Astroturf|
|Fuel consumption||1.89kg per lap, which is average|
|ERS demands||ERS is deployed for around 35 percent of the lap, which is average. There are several heavy braking areas in which to replenish the battery|
|Brake wear||Medium. There are 10 braking zones, but only four of them are heavy. Just 14 per cent of the lap is spent on the brakes|
|Gear changes||54 per lap/3,024 per race|
COTA is the 10th grand prix venue in the United States, but the first purpose-built F1 facility. It staged its first grand prix in 2012, since when it has been a regular fixture on the calendar. Last year’s race was memorable for the monsoon-like weather conditions, which led to qualifying being abandoned.
What makes the track unique:
Its eclectic mix of corners. COTA has more fast corners than Spa-Francorchamps and more slow corners than the Hungaroring – a combination that makes this track a huge challenge for both engineers and drivers.
Medium. When F1 first visited COTA four years ago, the asphalt was new and slippery. Grip levels have improved as the surface has aged and the surface of the asphalt has opened up.
Good. The track is one of Hermann Tilke’s latest creations and it has ample run-off – as befits a modern grand prix circuit.
Watch out for…:
The temperature. In October it gets quite cold at night, yet the midday sun pushes the temperature into the high-20s. This means the temperature swing is extreme, at least in a Formula 1 sense, and that makes it hard to balance the car from one on-track session to the next.
|Start time||14:00hrs local/20:00hrs BST|
|Race distance||56 laps (full world championship points will be awarded after 75 per cent distance/42 laps)|
|Safety Car likelihood||Medium. There were only two Safety Car periods in the opening three races at COTA, but a chaotic grand prix last year saw two Safety Car deployments and two Virtual Safety Car periods|
|When to press record||The start. It’s only a short run to Turn One, but the 40-metre climb to the apex invites drivers to brake very late. It’s possible to run side-by-side through the corner, so there’s usually plenty of excitement|
|Don’t put the kettle
|Despite the mixed weather conditions and the high number of incidents last year, the race was won using a two-stop strategy. Lewis Hamilton started the race on Intermediates, then completed two stints on the Soft tyre. Sebastian Vettel, in third, was the highest-placed three-stopper|
|Weather conditions now||29 degrees|
|Race forecast||30 degrees|
|Tyre choices||Supersoft/Soft/Medium. This is the 10th occasion that this combination has been used this year|
First United States Grand Prix:
There’s no official slogan, but the international appeal of the event is summed up in the name: Circuit of The Americas.
United States' F1 heritage:
The Indianapolis 500 featured in the early seasons of the world championship, but it was only in ’59 that a US GP was introduced – a race won by McLaren founder Bruce McLaren. There have been two American world champions, Phil Hill and Mario Andretti, and several US teams, including the current Haas F1 Team.
Smallest winning margin:
0.011s, in 2002. Ferrari dominated all weekend: they locked out the front row of the grid, Michael Schumacher ahead of Rubens Barrichello, and their cars had a private battle for the lead throughout the 73-lap race at Indianapolis. In sight of the chequered flag, Schumacher pulled aside to let Barrichello take the win by a very small margin.
F1’s popularity is growing in the USA, but it faces stiff opposition from other sports. The IndyCar Championship attracts a lot of domestic attention, as do other national sports such as the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball.
Did you know?
McLaren has won the United States Grand Prix 12 times and it has taken seven pole positions.
COTA is one of only five tracks on this year’s calendar that runs in an anti-clockwise direction. The others? Azerbaijan, Singapore, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
Jeff, aged 27, from New York, asks: Of the three sectors at COTA, which is the most important?”
McLaren’s answer: “It’s rare that you find three such diverse sectors on the same racetrack. Sector One is fast and flowing; Sector Two has a long straight, along which top end speed is important; Sector Three has several slow corners, through which mechanical grip is at a premium. Which of these is the most important? Well, they’re all important!”
THE DRIVERS ON: THE EVENT
“It’s great to go back to North America – Austin is a really cool place and I’m pleased we’re returning there after a bit of uncertainty following last year’s event. It’s a grand prix in which you never really know what to expect, and I would say that last year I had one of my favourite races, despite having a puncture on lap two, we were able to push and make progress through the field despite having a puncture on lap two, which was hugely satisfying from behind the wheel.
The weather can always give us a few surprises and the track temperature often changes a lot from session to session, so I hope we can find a good set-up early on and improve our pace as the weekend progresses.”
"I’m looking forward to heading back to Austin. I’ve been spending more and more time in the States recently and Austin is a city with passionate fans that really love their racing.
The atmosphere downtown is really relaxed and we usually take the opportunity to sample the famous Texan cuisine in one or two of the restaurants over the course of the weekend. I’ve always liked racing at this circuit and we managed to put up a good fight last year despite not having the best outright pace, so I’m hoping for more of the same and a bit of a boost after the disappointment of our result in Japan.”
HEAR FROM THE MANAGEMENT
McLaren-Honda Racing Director
“It’s no secret that we didn’t achieve the results we were looking for at Suzuka, and since returning from Japan we’ve been working hard to find the appropriate solutions to avoid a continuation of this in Austin. The Circuit of The Americas is a very different challenge in its configuration, so we hope we’ll be able to see improved performance there. However, we mustn’t be complacent, and instead keep fighting hard as we have been all year to get the best out of our package and its strengths as we head into the final back-to-back races of the season.
“Achieving a delicate compromise to suit the varying demands of this track – fast corners, slow corners, and a long straight – will be the key to maximising our performance, and we’ll be working hard to find the right balance and set-up as soon as we hit the track on Friday. The first few sessions are always unpredictable as we dial in the car to the ever-changing temperatures at different times of the day, and the autumn weather often gives us the opportunity to throw any dry-weather run plan out of the window!
“Everyone at McLaren-Honda is very pleased to be returning to Austin for the United States Grand Prix. It’s fast becoming a classic racetrack, there’s a great atmosphere and the fans’ love of racing is palpable throughout the weekend. We always receive a very warm welcome from the Austinites and the US is a very important market for us to bring our show to every season. I hope we can provide more great racing for the crowd again this year and give our fans something to be proud of.”
Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
“After an intense Asian round of races, we now head off to the Circuit of The Americas where the racing is tight and we see good overtaking on track, making for interesting racing. There is plenty of variation on track with great hard braking corners, an undulating ‘S’ curve and slow twisting turns, so it will be important to us to refine and tune the power unit properly for each of these sectors.
“McLaren-Honda had good race here last year, and we hope we can do the same to target finishing in the points.”