2016 United States Grand Prix track preview

2016 United States Grand Prix

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Track data: Circuit of the Americas

Lap length5.513km (3.426 miles)
Grand prix distance308.728km (191.835 miles)
Lap record (race)1’39.347 (Sebastian Vettel, 2012)
Fastest lap (any session)1’35.657 (Sebastian Vettel, 2012, qualifying three)
Tyre compoundsSee drivers’ choices
2015 Rate the Race9.1 out of 10
2015 Driver of the WeekendMax Verstappen

Circuit of the Americas track data in full

The Circuit of the Americas is as good as it gets in terms of modern track layouts.

As well as incorporating all the facilities and safety features required of a 21st century racing track the track owners impressed on architect Hermann Tilke the need for a challenging layout. The switchback sequence of bends in the opening sector, reminiscent of Suzuka and Silverstone in places, certainly provides that.

The new surface was lacking in grip when F1 first raced at the track in 2012. It has improved considerably since then, though the effect was hard to appreciate last year, when the event was almost a complete wash-out.

The track has also become bumpier in places too. This proved especially challenging for Williams, who suffered damper failures after struggling to cope with a bump at turn 11.

A lap of the Circuit of the Americas

One of the many distinctive features of the track is the steep climb to turn one. From the start/finish line drivers climb 40 metres before braking for the sharp left-hander, their eyes pointing to the skies as they aim for the apex. In race conditions the wide, steep entry to the corner invites late-braking lunges.

The sinuous opening sector is a challenge
The sweeping, right-handed turn two brings the drivers into a rapid sequence of corners through which the track rises and falls. Turns three to six can be taken flat out, but drivers have to nail the double right-hand part of the sequence to ensure they get the car turned in for the following left-hander, who apex is in a dip and tricky to spot.

“You enter with a lot of speed and you have to slow down as you go through the corners without losing the line,” explains Esteban Gutierrez. The long right and sharp left which form turns eight and nine have a similar effect, and after that the track becomes more stop-start.

Through the easy kink of turn ten, drivers head downhill into the critical braking zone for turn 11, as a long straight follows this hairpin. After more than a kilometre and 20 seconds on the throttle drivers get on the brakes again for turn 12, the best overtaking opportunity on the lap.

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“Use as much of the curb as possible and as much apex speed as possible,” notes Gutierrez. A ponderous sequence of corners follows immediately afterwards.” Very important to change the brake balance as this combination of corners makes it very challenging for the brakes,” Gutierrez explains. “You have a lot of lateral load when you are braking in the car.”

Turns 16, 17 and 18 form a formidable corner
After dawdling through these two hairpins the drivers get to take on a real corner again. The four-part turn which follows looks like Tilke borrowed the best corner from his old Istanbul Park layout.

During the damp phase of the race last year Daniel Ricciardo found sufficient traction from his Red Bull to overtake Lewis Hamilton for the lead at the exit of this corner – one of few times a healthy Mercedes has been passed by one of its rivals in the past three years.

The next corner looks innocuous enough but has a habit of catching drivers out. “You enter with a lot of speed and it’s very easy to miss the apex,” says Gutierrez. “It’s a very precise corner.”

The left-hander which leads the cars back onto the start/finish straight is more functional than fearsome, offering a little gradient to assist the driver.

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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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31 comments on “2016 United States Grand Prix track preview”

  1. Turn 1 + Hamilton + Rosberg – Let’s see what 2016 brings :-)

    1. I doubt there will be much drama. Lewis’ body language indicates he’s switched off and is waiting for next year. He will probably chill out and do a slow start like the last race. What’s the point, after all – it’s obvious he can’t win the title this year.

      1. @rantingmrp You really have no idea of these drivers’ psyches, do you.

        1. Well, he seems pretty resigned to it, like I said. What are you, the official pit-lane shrink?

    2. If there’s a 1st lap 1st corner whereby you can’t deceitfully throw your opponent off track, it’s Texas. Honestly if you run someone wide there, a penalty is beckoning, it’s not like other tracks where the 1st lap excuse is debatable. In Texas the corner is far too wide and the right line is right on the middle of the corner, there’s no way you’ll get away with running someone off the track.

      On the track, I don’t like the landscape, I don’t like the infrastructure, I don’t like the promoters. At least the weather is variable. I don’t fancy the layout, the mimicking and the tendency to cramp all types of corners in one track is what ends up in characterless unraceable layouts. This track though has been blessed with exhilarating GP’s, not the motogp’s but the proper grand prix, the f1 races, they’ve been lucky on that. Two compliments on this layout though is that the start of sector 3 is very good for racing and T1 is great for racing, the rest is not that great but no awful for racing.

      1. 2015?

      2. I’m guessing you haven’t watched F1 at this venue– My memory says that someone usually gets pushed wide at turn one. On the other hand, going wide, as long as you stay pointing in the right direction, you can recover fairly easily.

  2. Evil Homer (@)
    19th October 2016, 12:19

    Its a cracking track and always look forward to this one!
    This year I am expecting a close hit out for the top 6 and anyone can win this weekend…………………………………………. ok I am kidding myself, but here’s hoping :)

  3. The best of the most recent additions to the race calendar.

    1. Agreed – a Tilke circuit that is actually appealing – never thought I’d say that.

      1. That’s because the parts that are good, are not original and the parts that are original are not good :p

        1. @franton – touché 😊

          1. No worries. Not often I get the chance to paraphrase Dr. Samuel Johnson ;)

        2. Agree with you… COTA has alwayas bored me… I hope no gust of wind for Rosberg this time.

        3. +1. I agree with you. COTA is not one of my favorites, to say it mildly

      2. Tilke didn’t design the track, he only finished construction.

  4. Though a thoroughly acceptable circuit for me its joint second best Tilkedrome with Malaysia. The top spot belongs to Istanbul. As for the GP it always leaves me with a bittersweet taste, the racing has been mostly very good but Ferrari has never been in contention for victory, let alone win it outright!

    1. For me it’s Istanbul first too, but Malaysia second.

      1. @xtwl @philby I guess there’s an overwhelming level of acceptance of both COTA and Istanbul. I conclude that’s the impact of a few good races rather than a reflection of a truly mesmerizing layout.

        1. @peartree When I talk about tracks it has nothing to do with the races that have taken place on it. I really like the flow of Istanbul and Malaysia. Apart from S1 in Austin I even think it’s a rather boring track.

      2. Same here. Pity Istanbul is no longer on the Calendar.

  5. I’ve posted this here before, but COTA is not really a Tilkedrome, and it’s not right to describe Tilke as the “architect”.

    The basic layout of the track was sketched by Tavo Hellmund and Kevin Schwantz.

    Tilke engineer Johannes Hogrebe was then given the task of undertaking the detailed engineering to ensure the layout met FIA standards etc.


    1. I have done the same, here and everywhere, it’s a shame that credit keeps going to Tilke. The funny thing is that this didn’t happen the first year, even in the presentation of the GP they were very careful not to say that Tilke designed the track, then from the second year media has been just repeating the same mistake.

      1. @tdog If you read what I wrote, you’ll see that’s what I was alluding to.

  6. Can you just picture what an awesome track this would be had T12 and T19 been connected by a slight bend that still is easy flat out.

    1. We would achieve the equivalent of the removal of “bridge” corner from the Silverstone layout, in other words ruin Silverstone. Honestly you want to take away the signature of the track and the trickiest corners.

  7. While I do like the track, I feel like this is one of those cases where less might be more. Although the stadium section has provided us with surprising amount of entertainment and overtakes, I still would prefer if T12 would be connected to T17 (by extending the back straight or by making T13 a 90 degree corner instead of a hairpin).

    1. @kaiie Oh my oh my another one with that idea, you do get that’s where the racing happens but you guys can’t stop with the ideas, it’s obvious that in doing so, texas would have zero overtakes all race long.

  8. I like the track, but not the time zone.

    Just like all the European contributors don’t like Melbourne for the same reason. The double header just wrecks my sleeping patterns :)

    Seriously, the thing that leaves me wanting a bit for this circuit is the surrounds – just plain barren. Doesn’t really inspire me to take a trip to watch the race.

    1. The track itself is in an undeveloped area past the outskirts of what is really Austin; don’t let the track’s immediate surroundings put you off, as you’re a shuttle bus away from one of the more compelling towns on the F1 calendar and post-track activities abound each day back in Austin.

  9. The new surface was lacking in grip when F1 first raced at the track in 2012.

    Just looking at pictures from 2012 and you can see the surface was very shiny, whereas the years since it has visibly changed and become a lot more grippy.

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