Now is F1’s time to shine in America

2012 United States Grand Prix preview

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F1 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 length5.516km (3.427 miles)
Distance56 laps (308.9km/191.9 miles)
Qualifying lap time1’37.0 (estimate)
Race lap time1’42.0 (estimate)
TyresMedium 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

Barring 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.


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.


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.


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.


Boosted 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.”


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.


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’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.”


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 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 avgR avgR bestR worstClassifiedForm guide
Sebastian Vettel5.334.4712217/18Form guide
Mark Webber6.176.2912017/18Form guide
Jenson Button6.397.3811816/18Form guide
Lewis Hamilton4.615.6411914/18Form guide
Fernando Alonso63.381916/18Form guide
Felipe Massa10.068.5321617/18Form guide
Michael Schumacher9.729.7332211/18Form guide
Nico Rosberg98.0711515/18Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen7.615.1711418/18Form guide
Romain Grosjean7.127.6421911/17Form guide
Paul di Resta11.449.6541417/18Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg12.0610.1942116/18Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi11.229.5731814/18Form guide
Sergio Perez12.068.6921513/18Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo14.51291717/18Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne16.7812.5381615/18Form guide
Pastor Maldonado10.6711.7111914/18Form guide
Bruno Senna14.6712.2462217/18Form guide
Heikki Kovalainen18.2216.53132317/18Form guide
Vitaly Petrov18.8916.53131915/18Form guide
Pedro de la Rosa21.7119.15172213/17Form guide
Narain Karthikeyan23.1220.2152310/17Form guide
Timo Glock20.4717.13122216/17Form guide
Charles Pic21.4418.08152013/18Form guide
Jerome D’Ambrosio151313131/1Form guide

Are you going to the United States Grand Prix?

If you’re heading to the Circuit of the Americas for this weekend’s race, we want to hear from you.

We’ve got a dedicated group and forum for people going to the race.

You can embed your pictures from the race via Flickr and videos via YouTube and other major video-sharing accounts. Join in here:

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

    Author information

    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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

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

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

      2. 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.

        1. Thanks for sharing! That is pretty far out but I guess they can judge the venue just fine.

          I actually believe this one will be good!

    2. 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. 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.


    4. 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 !

      1. PC is better but it might be too expensive for them.

        1. davidnotcoulthard
          15th November 2012, 2:26

          Yeah, they might not be using Windows anyway……and they’ve probably got no GPUs.

    5. 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.

      1. 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

        1. Alonso was driving behind Massa? That didn’t disturb you?

        2. I just had to laugh at Massa sliding off the side of the mountain! Lol!

          But in all seriousness, I have a feeling that this weekend is gonna be far from the straight forward racing we’ve been having prior to Abu Dhabi. Possibly a prelude to the most unpredictable of them all – Interlagos.

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

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

      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.

      1. @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.

      2. Ok, these are my predictions:

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

        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. 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. 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”.)


    11. 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.

      1. 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?

        1. @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. 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.

      1. Button on the 1st row?!? I seriously doubt he will be within half a second of his teammate.

    13. 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 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. 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.

      1. @verstappen

        The illustration? Thanks :)

        There’s no 3D in the illustration, it’s all flat and vector (with texture added later).

    15. So my uncle works for, what would be under general terms, a white lining company – and they tend to travel to various F1 circuits (particularly the new ones) and work on them in preparation for Grands Prix. Which is pretty cool.

      Lately, he’s obviously been at Austin, and there’s been a lot of effort to make everything look really good. Apparently there’s been all sorts to make it look pretty, like stars and stripes in the gravel, and plenty of attention to colour and presentation around the circuit. Things like run-offs, for example.

      I was talking to my auntie earlier and she’d been Skyping him. He had a few tales to tell, as you can imagine – seeing the part of the McLaren crew at a local bar, for example!

      But he was a bit cheesed off as apparently, after spending an awful amount of time helping the place look amazing, Mr. Ecclestone is making them dull down – and in some cases, completely remove certain bits they’d done – as he feared the various sponsors and adverts were having the attention took away! So there’s a bit of a rush trying to get that sorted, apparently. Not sure if this has appeared in any news, but they certainly aren’t happy…

    16. looking at some pictures on the COTA facebook page it’s interesting to see that McLaren have Verizon on the sides of their car instead of Vodafone. It will be interesting to see if other teams use this big marketing opportunity now that they’re in America. Does anyone know if Vodafone operate in the states? this might explain why.

    17. It’s too bad (from a spectator’s point of view) that Vettel and Hamilton are the only two that can qualify exceptionally well and so much higher than anyone else. If Vettel for example could only manage say 4th or 5th with Alonso close-by or even a position ahead on Saturday, then race day would be so much more interesting. Would really like to see good qualifying performances from Webber, Rosberg, Grosjean, Maldonado all of which are -sometimes- fast in qually with Alonso, Vettel starting 4th / 5th respectively or something similar.

      1. @gibo One can hope for Ferrari’s upgrades to finally work for excitement to be back.

        1. @atticus-2 Agree, the best ending to this season would be to see Vettel and Alonso racing each other out on equal terms, no alternator problems for Vettel, no qualifying problems for Alonso, etc. If Ferrari and Red Bull cars can be equally good for the next two races, I could ask nothing more.

    18. Odds are stacking against Kimi to have his first DNF!!! But I’m sure he will win this one, cause yes, yes, yes, he knows what to do! :D

    19. Apparently Sergio is in the tickets for Friday and is it Hamilton for Sunday?

    20. “However team principal Luiz Perez-Sala said the team have had access to a simulator to prepare for this new circuit.”
      Very kind of someone to donate an XBox to HRT, might give them a few extra tenths this weekend.

    21. I noticed on the first pics that the pit lane will have actually three lanes with the usual fast lane splitted in two.

      Once again, I can only come up with a NASCAR comparison, where there is a rule that you have to carefully drift towards the outside lane of the fast lane once done with the pit stop – and of course you have to enter the pit in the outside lane as well. This is not a strictly-monitored rule however, so there are no specifics where to rejoin the outside lane, etc. Just to drift out there. Also, drivers tend to ignore or loosely follow this if they are alone in the boxes. The point of the rule is to alleviate crowding in the pit lane – and it works well, despite often a dozen or two cars pitting on the same lap, contact is relatively rare.

      Judging by the unusually wide lanes, I think we’re up for something like this in Austin in the case of the F1 as well – not on the level of rules though AFAIK, so I wonder how this will pan out here.

    22. I AM SO EXCITED FOR THIS RACE!!! Since I do live in the United States I’m super pumped to see a race back here. I think it should be interesting since none of the racers will have any experience racing on this track and it is so close to the end of the season. I just wish I could be there to see it! I will for sure be glued to the TV when the race is on!

    23. I’d love to see Sauber overhaul Mercedes…it might provide the kick up the behind Mercedes need for next year. Plus, I’m assuming it would help Sauber financially. Just hoping Perez can keep a lid on it and his little talking to will work.

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