Preview: United States Grand Prix, Round 19 at Circuit of the Americas
15 November, 2012
Nov.14 (FIA) Five long years it has been since Formula One last raced in the USA, but for the 19th and penultimate round of the 2012 season the series returns to America this weekend for the US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.
The new Circuit of the Americas is a purpose-built 5.516km (3.4 mile), 20-turn, F1 standard facility located 15 miles outside of downtown Austin and promises to provide teams with some interesting challenges, and spectators with some thrilling racing.
Chief among the challenges is, of course, the fact that no team has yet turned a wheel in anger here. Former F1 driver David Coulthard drove a Red Bull Racing showcar here when circuit construction had just begun and more recently Lotus test driver Jérôme D’Ambrosio piloted a 2010 Renault R30 on opening day at the track, but beyond those very different laps teams will only have simulator data upon which to base their weekend preparations.
That should make Friday’s free practice sessions labour-intensive for the teams, and will present a challenge as the new track will undoubtedly be largely devoid of grip in the early stages of the weekend.
It means that the unknown of Austin represents the perfect wildcard for a championship that has become increasingly hard to call in recent weeks. After a dramatic race in Abu Dhabi, defending champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing leads Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso by just 10 points, with a maximum of 50 on the table over the final two rounds.
Kimi Raikkonen’s win in the UAE was a spectacular feat in his comeback year but even with that victory the Finn is now out of the title fight.
So it comes down to a head-to-head battle between the famous red of Ferrari and the blue of Red Bull Racing. And after recent events in the US, locals will know just how intense red versus blue showdowns can be!
Circuit of the Americas Data
- Length of lap: 5.516km
- Lap record: None as yet
- Start line/finish line offset: Not yet available
- Total number of race laps: 56
- Total race distance: 305.355km
- Pitlane speed limits: 60km/h during practice and qualifying, 100km/h during the race
- The Circuit of the Americas will feature a single DRS Zone, on the back straight, between Turns 11 and 12. The activation zone is likely to be approximately 650m before Turn 12.
United States GP Fast Facts
- Made up of 11 left and nine right turns, the Circuit of the Americas is 5.516km (3.4 miles) long. It is one of just five current F1 circuits to run anti-clockwise, the others being Singapore, Korea, Abu Dhabi and Brazil. Curiously, all five circuits feature in the final seven-race stretch of the 2012 season.
- COTA’s track surface took four months to lay and the third and final layer was completed in late September. The final layer is made up of aggregate from all over Texas. All told, over 640,000 cubic metres of material have been used to construct the track.
- Race organisers are billing Turn One as the track’s signature corner. From the start/finish line the track rises 41m (133 feet) before heading into a tight and blind first-gear left-hand turn.
- Turns 2 and 3 pay tribute to the Senna ‘S’ at Brazil’s Interlagos, while turns 4-6 have been designed as an homage to the Maggots, Becketts, Chapel complex at Silverstone. Other recognisable elements include a section, from Turns 12-14, reminiscent of Hockenheim’s stadium section and the triple apex stretch through turns 16-18 has been modelled after Istanbul Park’s Turn 8.
- The first lap of the finished circuit was completed by legendary US racer Mario Andretti. In his 131-grand prix F1 career, Andretti raced in 11 US Grands Prix, seven races billed as the US GP West and both of the races held in Las Vegas, but recorded just one win on home soil. That was at the the USA West race at Long Beach in 1977 where, driving for Lotus, he finished ahead of Ferrari’s Niki Lauda and Wolf’s Jody Scheckter.
- Nine US circuits have previously hosted grands prix: Sebring, Riverside, Watkins Glen, Phoenix, Dallas, Detroit, Las Vegas, Long Beach and most recently Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
- The last winner of a US Grand Prix was Lewis Hamilton in 2007. Racing for McLaren in his rookie season, Hamilton scored pole position at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the following day took his second career win. His first victory had come a week earlier at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.
- That 2007 US GP at Indianapolis was also notable in that, as well as seeing a future world champion’s first win in the Hamilton victory, it was also the race debut of another future title winner, Sebastian Vettel. The German replaced the injured Robert Kubica at the wheel of a BMW Sauber. Aged just 19 at the time, Vettel qualified in seventh position and finished eighth, for which he earned one point. In so doing, he became F1’s youngest ever points scorer, a record he still holds.
- In recent times Michael Schumacher, due to retire for a second time after next week’s Brazilian GP, has been the most successful driver at the US GP. In the period from 2000-2007, when the race was staged at Indianapolis, Schumacher won five of the eight events (2000 and ’03-’06).
United States GP Race Stewards
- Emerson Fittipaldi, winner of 14 F1 grands prix and two FIA World Drivers’ Titles, is this weekend’s driver representative on the FIA stewards’ panel. Now 65, Fittipaldi, racing for Team Lotus, became F1’s youngest ever champion in 1972 at the age of 25 years and 273 days (a record since beaten by Fernando Alonso in 2005, Lewis Hamilton in 2008 and Sebastian Vettel in 2010). In a decade-long F1 career from 1970-1980, Fittipaldi scored 281 points, took six pole positions and scored six fastest laps. He won a second drivers’ championship in 1974 with McLaren. Fittipaldi later went on to a distinguished career in single seater racing here in the US, where he recorded two Indy 500 victories (in 1989 and 1993) and also a Champ Car title win, in 1989.
- José Abed, an FIA Vice President since 2006, began competing in motor sport in 1961. In 1985, as a motor sport official, Abed founded the Mexican Organisation of International Motor Sport (OMDAI) which represents Mexico in the FIA. He sat as its Vice- President from 1985 to 1999, becoming President in 2003. In 1986, Abed began promoting truck racing events in Mexico and from 1986 to 1992, he was President of the Mexican Grand Prix organising committee. In 1990 and 1991, he was President of the organising committee for the International Championship of Prototype Cars and from 1990 to 1995, Abed was designated Steward for various international grand prix events. Since 1990, Abed has been involved in manufacturing prototype chassis, electric cars, rally cars and kart chassis.
- Garry Connelly has been involved in motor sport since the late 1960s. A long time rally competitor, Connelly was instrumental in bringing the World Rally Championship to Australia in 1988 and served as Chairman of the Organising Committee, Board member and Clerk of the Course of Rally Australia until December 2002. He has been an FIA Steward and FIA Observer since 1989, covering the FIA’s World Rally Championship, World Touring Car Championship and Formula One Championship. He is a director of the Australian Institute of Motor Sport Safety, a member of the FIA World Motor Sport Council and in December 2011 was elected Deputy President of the FIA Institute.
Subbed by AJN.