Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, Circuit of the Americas, 2019

COTA’s bumps are “too much” for some F1 drivers, “pretty cool” for others

2019 F1 season

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Some Formula 1 drivers have criticised the severity of the bumps at the Circuit of the Americas following the first day of practice for the United States Grand Prix.

But others believe the increasingly bumpy surface adds to the challenge of the Austin track.

The bumps at the track appear to have worsened since last year and some drivers said they were in pain following the session. “It’s really tricky,” said Pierre Gasly. “Especially the first lap compared to last year, it’s a lot worse.

“Just coming out of the pit lane it’s almost like you have two front wheels in the air coming [over] that big bump. And also out of turn nine, really big, and also in turn 12. Just massively bumpy and it just got worse compared to last year.

“We saw also cars spinning due to these bumps through the first high-speed section. So it makes it quite hard for the cars but also I feel my back a lot more than usual after today so that also makes it a bit harder for us.”

Gasly was one of several drivers who said the bumps are too severe for an F1 track. “I’d rather make it challenging because of corners or gravel,” he said.

Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso, Circuit of the Americas, 2019
Gasly says the bumps have become “too much”
“I just think it’s too much and hopefully they can do something. Because the track layout is already one of the best of the season. That first sector is so fast, it’s really challenging for us drivers to be right at the limit of the car at such speeds. So I don’t think these bumps are needed.”

Lewis Hamilton, who has previously said other circuits shouldn’t be smoothed out, also believes COTA has become too bumpy.

“After the first session I was not feeling good,” he said. “It was the bumpiest track by far that I’ve ever been on. I had such a headache.

“For people to understand when we talk about bumpy tracks, bumps are not such a bad thing in some places because it just adds character to a circuit. So I’m not a fan of completely smooth circuits.

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“But this one is like massive, massive bumps. And the problem for me is for us we don’t have really much suspension. So it’s usually your butt on the floor and your spine takes a lot of compression. So I was feeling horrible, I had a massive headache after [first practice] and had to [lie] down. I was not feeling great.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit of the Americas, 2019
Hamilton also says the track is too bumpy
His team mate Valtteri Bottas, who had to miss the 2015 Australian Grand Prix after hurting his back during qualifying, said he’s “never experienced the track this bumpy.”

“It’s not that many places,” he added, “but in a few places they’re pretty harsh and you can definitely feel it a bit. I just hope the cars will manage it as well.”

However Romain Grosjean, who crashed during second practice, said he think the bumps mostly add to the challenge of the circuit.

“I think the bumps are pretty cool,” said the Haas driver. “Except turn one, braking is a bit harsh and slightly painful on the lower back. But the rest I think it gives some character to the circuit and is pretty cool.”

Daniel Ricciardo sided with Grosjean and expects COTA’s bumps to be a talking point in the drivers’ meeting with FIA race director Michael Masi.

“There’s a few jumps but you know what? I actually prefer this than something that’s perfect. Then it feels like a video game.

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Romain Grosjean, Haas, Circuit of the Americas, 2019
But Grosjean said the bumps are “cool”
“Yes, some corners are uncomfortable, but it actually adds a bit of character and feeling to the circuit. It keeps you awake for sure.

“I’m curious to hear what the drivers say now in the drivers’ briefing. I think if a lot of complaining, I might tell them not to complain, but we’ll see. We’ll see. It’s certainly challenging, but there you go, it’s a challenge. It’s not like any other circuit.”

Robert Kubica is racing at the track for the first time but says he had been told to expect a bumpy ride.

“I knew before coming here, I had a friend who is working here and he told me in the last four or five months it got much worse,” said the Williams driver. “Actually we are lucky that those bumps are not in the places where, apart from turn one, they are really disturbing driving.

“It’s strange bumps because it’s like the Tarmac, they’re big drops of height in the Tarmac. It’s not a bump that you hit it on the chassis. It’s more that you lose the contact with your rear axle on the Tarmac.”

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Josh Holland
USA-based Josh joined the RaceFans team in 2018. Josh helps produce our Formula 1 race weekend coverage, assists with our social media activities and...

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13 comments on “COTA’s bumps are “too much” for some F1 drivers, “pretty cool” for others”

  1. Ricciardo just loves this track and place too much to complain in any way

    1. Yeah, If possible he seems to get more excited when he gets to Texas.
      He’s got a house in Beverly Hills,so who knows,perhaps he is looking for a chance to stick an Indy car in it’s garage.

  2. I was watching fp and paying attention to some onboards, we know some cars look stiffer than others, merc and mclaren on one end of the scale and Ferrari and Haas on the other end but I noticed something.
    On s1 sidewall deflection is very visible, the merc isn’t just stiff on suspension, laterally the tyre doesn’t move, the haas though, the opposite, perhaps the same occurs under braking and acceleration but it isn’t as visible

  3. I’m reminded of the Teesside Autodrome, one of the bumpiest and punishing go-kart tracks in the UK. In my view, the bumps add character and challenge to the circuit, whereas one of my friends who took part in his first BUKC 24 hour race said that the circuit desperately needed resurfacing.

  4. Anyone have an idea how a low profile tyre, ground effect car would cote with bumps this?

      1. I would guess a fairly rapid deflation as the tyre is pinched against the rim on hitting the bumps. To counteract this the pressure would need to be raised! The opposite of the natural desire. However by then cars will have to include proper suspension again.

  5. I agree with Ricciardo on this, it’s another aspect to the driving challenge. In a world where we sanitise run offs with concrete and look to the long straight for that DRS overtake, a bumpy and challenging surface just adds another factor for the drivers skill to shine.

    I’m hoping that the bumps unsettle a lot of drivers and allow for some daring overtakes.

  6. Poor babies! The track has developed some bumps and is not smooth as a pool table. It should make things interesting.

    Watch an IndyCar race on one of their street courses. The combination of lower downforce and bumps make the cars a handful and move and slide constantly. The drivers really need to work! Quite exciting.

    Just what F1 needs more of.

    1. If Hamilton is getting a headache from these bumps then that’s not good. You wouldn’t let a player in a contact sport continue playing if they’d got a headache during a game, so how come no one’s raised this as a Health and Safety issue? Don’t these cars have G-force gauges on them? What are those measurements saying? That bump just after the Pitlane exit should have been sorted out well before the cars turned up. I think they’re going to have to extend the Pitlane exit point until after that bump.

      1. Too be honest Mercedes could soften the suspension but the bump in turn 1 just when you leave the pits could be flatten a bit. But the Red Bulls are flying over the bumps.

  7. This part of Texas up through Dallas has a notorious soil character full of clay. It creates expansive soils that do terrible things to home foundations not built to deal with it. Driving on highways you feel them as well. Big mounds and dips get created. In open fields you can see the big “heaves” especially after a big rain. They dug down to try to remove this before they poured the track surface but didn’t go down far enough apparently.

  8. COTA is a new circuit, so why is it so bumpy? Was it built without proper foundations? Were the wrong grades of materials specified? (or supplied) were the build processes incorrectly carried out? Were cost savings necessary after negotiating with Bernie?

    Living in a flat county of the UK which is characterised by its long straight roads based upon original Roam roads; teaches one about the hazards of roads without proper foundations. The original Roman roads were about 1.5m (4ft) narrower then the current, consequently we have sections on either side which subside every year, tipping your vehicle toward the dykes on either side. (some of which can easily accomodate a car or truck leaving almost no trace visible from the road level. Thus “Hang on to the wheel” is the order of the day.
    I know that bumps on racetracks can cause severe problems for the drivers firstly in vision and then in back injury and general fatigue. Thus one could anticipate some protest or legal action against the FIA or the venue owners.

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