Circuit of the Americas

2017 United States Grand Prix track preview

2017 United States Grand Prix

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Formula One has visited more venues in the USA than any other country. But in the Circuit of the Americas, a purpose-built venue created five years ago, it seems to have finaly found a true home.

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)1’34.999 (Lewis Hamilton, 2016, qualifying three)
Tyre compoundsSee drivers’ choices
2016 Rate the Race6.04 out of 10
2016 Driver of the WeekendFernando Alonso

Circuit of the Americas track data in full

Lying just outside the lively Texan capital Austin, COTA is a cut above other modern F1 venues. The track designers had the sense to use the local terrain to their advantage in creating a course which offers a true driving challenge despite its vast expanses of run-off.

The surface badly lacked grip when it was first used five years ago. That has changed as the circuit has bedded in. Nonetheless Pirelli has felt able to nominate its softest tyres available for this weekend’s race.

The ultra-softs in particular will take some punishment through the very fast and chellenging turns which open the lap, plus the fast, triple-apex right-hander towards the end.

The track is maturing nicely, gaining new undulations in its surface to catch out the unwary. “With each passing year, the track has become more of a challenge when it comes to ride,” says Force India’s chief race engineer Tom McCullough, “so it will be interesting to see how bumpy the track surface is going to be this year.”

The increased performance of this year’s cars should make parts of this track even more spectacular. Drivers should be able to carry enormous speeds into the Esses at the beginning of the lap – could turns three, four and five all be flat out?

During his pole position lap last year Lewis Hamilton tackled the three-part turns 16, 17 and 18 with a slight lift. This too could be pedal-to-the-floor now for the best cars in qualifying trim.

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A lap of the Circuit of the Americas

From the start/finish line the track sweeps steeply uphill, the drivers pointing at the sky as they brake late and deep for the turn one hairpin. The track is very wide here, built to entice drivers to dive for the inside line.

“You then have tricky traction going downhill through sector one,” explains Romain Grosjean. “It’s very high speed – very similar to Silverstone. Here you try to carry some good speed.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit of the Americas, 2016
Will turns 16-18 be taken flat in qualifying?
After the straightforward acceleration zone of turn two the drivers tackle seven consecutive corners which flow one into the next. Precision – and a chassis which copes well with high-speed changes of direction – is crucial.

The final pair of corners, turns eight and nine, were originally supposed to be quicker, but were tightened when the final design of the track was agreed. It’s not uncommon to see drivers getting greedy with the exit kerb at turn nine and compromising their run towards the next hairpin.

“Again you want good traction here,” Grosjean explains. It sets up the longest acceleration zone and best overtaking opportunity on the circuit into turn 12. “There’s very big braking at the end.”

This leads into a pedestrian series of corners which can encourage the kind of do-or-die passing moves which only come off if the driver ahead is paying attention and feeling generous. The last of these leads into the spectacular triple-right at turns 16, 17 and 18.

Turn 19 is another bend which has caught drivers out time and again. The quick flick left requires only a brief stab on the brakes before the drivers press on to the final, moderately quick bend, and the start of another lap.

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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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23 comments on “2017 United States Grand Prix track preview”

  1. Your graphic has 3 turn 18’s.

      1. @jarvf150 Fixed it, thanks!

  2. The best circuit of the most recent additions to the F1 race calendar.

    1. @jerejj Totally disagree. One of the worst tracks in entire calendar. Turn 1 with its uphill is the only interesting thing in entire circuit. Other than that it’s just silly copy-pasteing from other tracks with big run-offs tempting drivers to break track limits. Last year there were many cases of track limit violations, but sadly none were investigated.

      F1 needs a race in US, but this isn’t the place. A return to Indianapolis or Long Beach would be massive steps to right direction.

      1. @huhhii I just don’t understand the hate towards this circuit. Most of you complain about the newer circuits because their layouts don’t have enough variety in corners, elevation, etc., and then when a circuit like this that is much closer to the so-called classics like Silverstone, Suzuka for example than to most of the modern ones comes to F1 some of you still keep complaining. I guess some people are just hard to please no matter what you do. First, you ask for one thing, and even though you got what you more or less wished for you still keep complaining. I thoroughly disagree with your claim ”One of the worst tracks in entire calendar.” COTA is far from the worst circuits currently in F1.

      2. @huhhii I’d happily take Indianapolis back as I liked that circuit as well. Both are enjoyable to drive, but the COTA layout is definitely more enjoyable to drive than the Indianapolis one.

        1. @jerejj Don’t know about others, but I’ve never asked new tracks to be “classic”-like. Tracks need to be original and have their own special attributes. Not just blindly copy other tracks. Sepang, India’s track, Bahrain, Istanbul Park etc. are modern tracks with their own character. Even Baku is great because it’s original. COTA lacks the character and originality completely. Racing has been good at COTA, but it’s downplayed by humongous run-off areas letting drivers blatantly to cut corners.

          Indianapolis’ road course has changed since F1 raced there last time. It could be great spectacle if F1 one day could re-visit it.

          1. This is America. We take things and ignore rules here. The track is built so we can take extra space and ignore the rules. It’s hard to find objections to the Kubica/Massa Fuji battle. Rules were ignored there.

          2. @huhhii For me, it’s more or less entirely irrelevant whether it has original characteristics or not. I like circuits that have a good flow nevertheless.

      3. Haha, Indianapolis…

        Not saying COTA is the best, but comparing it to those two makes your entire statement laughable.

        1. @julianwins What’s not to like in Indianapolis? Twisty sections combined with very, very lengthy flat-out section, last corner being totally unique in entire calendar. It was a real challenge for drivers to set-up a car there, as you need both straight-line speed and traction. Oh, and Indianapolis had walls and grass next to the track, so it punished for driver’s mistakes unlike COTA.
          Indianapolis beats COTA 100-0.

          1. Indy was as flat as a pancake. No elevation changes.

          2. Mercedes would also win 100 out of 100 on Indianapolis

      4. Long Beach signed a long term deal with IndyCar, so it won’t be there. Pretty sure Indy has no interest in losing millions anymore either.

  3. I expect the lap time improvement on last season to be similar to what it was in both Sepang and Suzuka (something from 2.7 to 3.3 seconds as COTA to some extent shares similar characteristics to the two above mentioned.)

  4. Good though this circuit is, the crowd is brilliant, flat our corners are a bore. I just hope the bumps are as advertised. The hidden problem with most of todays races is they are so smooth. You want to see Monaco, Senna style? STOP RELAYING THE GOLD DARNED TRACK!!

    1. Go home English, your’re drunk…

      1. You go home Yellow belly

  5. This circuit tends to get a lot of love from many F1 Fanatics… but I can take it or leave it. Just another Tilke track. OK from the start/finish straight up to the far hairpin it’s nice and flowing, but that journey all the way back to finish the lap just drags on in my humble opinion. Too many corners overall.

    Track is too wide, hate the extra-wide entrances to the hairpins which makes the cars look like they are in car parks, then there is the 2 metre wide red-painted tarmac that runs on both sides of the track which does nothing to punish drivers who run wide. Sterile.

    1. Everything is bigger in Texas, including runoffs.

    2. How should drivers be punished for getting a corner wrong? Just major injuries? Or actual death??

      Up until recently the FIA has had legal cases with the family’s of two deceased drivers… those run off areas are there for safety of the drivers.

      1. You can put 1,5 or 2m of grass near the track, and next, 200m of tarmac runoff. That will provide fun, and no injuries. If you are not punished for getting a corner wrong, you are not racing. I think when you race you want to race against losing the car, not against trespassing a white line. The drivers want safety, but they want fun too.

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