The Formula 1 grid has its final run of back-to-back races kicking off this weekend, with the field hitting Texas for the United States Grand Prix before heading south to the samba drums of Brazil’s classic Interlagos circuit.
While the preceding race in Russia hardly set hearts aflutter, the Circuit of the Americas has a proven reputation for great racing and we certainly expect another dose of Formula 1 excitement.
|2014 FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX
|Date||31 Oct – 2 Nov 2014|
|Free Practice Session 1||Fri 10:00-11:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 14:00-15:30|
|Free Practice Session 3||Sat 10:00-11:00|
|Race (56 laps)||Sun 14:00-16:00|
|Lap Record||1:39.347 (2012)|
|2013 Winner||Sebastian Vettel|
* All session times are quoted in Central Daylight Time (UTC -05:00 hrs)
The Circuit of the Americas is set to play host to its third running of a Formula 1 Grand Prix this weekend.
As it the case with all of the newer circuits to have graced the calendar, it’s another Hermann Tilke design: five-point-something kilometres long, twenty-odd corners, fifty-ish laps.
You could be thinking that this is simply a carbon copy of other ‘Tilkedrome’ designs, and in many instances you’d be right. There are a mix of high- and low-speed corners, a mega long straight, and the pit and spectator facilities are second-to-none.
But to leave your description at these basic points would probably do the venue a great disservice.
It’s quickly become a fan favourite, producing a serious challenge for all of the drivers.
Some wicked elevation changes aside, the circuit has three distinct parts. The opening sector features some high-speed, flowing corners that are Tilke’s interpretation of the Maggotts/Becketts sweeps at Silverstone, and the Esses at Suzuka. This combination of corners will severely test a car’s high-speed handling, and the cars which showed well at either circuit earlier this year should be the strongest through here.
The second sector is very much a ‘Tilkedrome’: a wide expanse featuring a long straight, which funnels into a sequence of slow corners to make it the most pronounced overtaking point on the lap.
The final sector quickens again, with the highlight being the long multi-apex Turns 16-18 sweep, which has been likened to the daunting Turn 8 combination at the disused Istanbul circuit.
Rewind to 2013
The second running of the United States Grand Prix at COTA saw Sebastian Vettel on the crest of an utterly dominant wave, having already secured the Drivers’ Championship title. The German duly extended his run of victories to eight on the trot.
With he and Red Bull Racing teammate Mark Webber having locked out the front row, the Australian made one of his customary poor starts, allowing Romain Grosjean and Lewis Hamilton to slip ahead.
Webber was able to clear Hamilton just before his first tyre stop, but the impressive Grosjean – who was on a hot run of form at this stage of the season – had everything in hand to keep the soon-to-retire veteran at bay for second place.
Further behind, Hamilton was also involved in a terrific scrap with Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari, while Valtteri Bottas showed the potential everyone knew he had with an outstanding drive to eighth in the lamentable Williams.
The Form Guide
The biggest news this weekend are that the grid’s two tailender outfits, Caterham and Marussia, have both succumbed to the sport’s cost pressures and been put into administration. Unless either team can secure a buyer – and quickly – it’s likely that we won’t see either outfit again.
The whys and wherefores will be debated in due course, but for now, we must focus on what will be the third-last instalment of what has been a scintillating 2014 season.
The battle for the Drivers’ Championship title is nicely positioned with Mercedes pairing Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg – having helped the team secure the Constructors’ Championship title last time out in Russia – set to resume hostilities once again.
The duo are separated by just 17 points in the standings with a maximum of 100 points across the final three races (including the double points finale in Abu Dhabi) to go.
Momentum lies firmly with Hamilton – the inaugural winner here in 2012 – and with four victories on the trot, the Englishman will be the favourite to make it five in a row. One shouldn’t discount Rosberg, however – the German was rash on his opening lap in Russia, but charged through from the back of the field to finish second. Had he not have fluffed his opening lap, could the outcome at Sochi have been different?
Third-placed Daniel Ricciardo lies 92 points Hamilton and will need a miracle to remain in championship contention after this weekend’s race. The Red Bull Racing team once again led the charge of the Renault-powered runners, but might struggle to challenge for a step on the podium if the circus’ last visit to Sochi is any indication. Ferrari-bound reigning champion Sebastian Vettel will compete with a fresh engine and a ten-place grid penalty to boot, having exceeded his six power unit allocations for the season.
The greatest frontrunner threats once again look to be Williams, who have showed podium-winning pace in recent rounds. De-facto team leader Valtteri Bottas took his first points finish here last year, and he’d be certain to deliver another strong showing in 2014.
The midfield scrap will be a tight affair. Expect Red Bull to be battling with Ferrari and McLaren all race long, with Force India potentially in the mix as well.
Images via McLaren and XPB Images