(Powered by McLaren) Since 1959, nine circuits have had the privilege of hosting the United States Grand Prix – from the former airfield at Sebring through the evocative sweeps of Watkins Glen, the stop-start street layouts of Dallas, Long Beach and Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, to the combined oval and road course of historic Indianapolis. In 2012 we welcome the tenth and probably the most spectacular yet, built from a clean-sheet design in a little more than 18 months.
The Circuit of the Americas was created by Tilke GmbH with input from motorcycling legend Kevin Schwantz, as well ex-F1 driver Alex Wurz – who tested it on the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes simulator – and combines an assortment of elements recognisable from other tracks with a signature feature of its own. Boasting an elevation change totalling 40 metres, the track begins like any good rollercoaster with a sharp incline. At the top it switches back on itself, forcing drivers to brake and commit to the line before they catch sight of the apex.
If Turn 1 is a test of driver steel, the following sequence brings the car’s virtues to the fore. The plunge back downhill, modelled on the Senna ‘S’ at Interlagos, leads into a high-speed left-right-left-right inspired by the Maggots, Becketts and Chapel complex at Silverstone, a classic test of steering precision, downforce, balance and mechanical agility.
Approaching its half-way point the track curves left immediately after a high-speed crest, almost a mirror image of the back straight at Istanbul, but this section ends with a hard turn – shedding over 120mph – onto the main straight. This section looks arrow-straight on the map but it rises and falls along its 1.2km length and will provide an important overtaking opportunity into Turn 12, which is redolent of the entrance to the stadium section of the majestic old Hockenheim layout.
For the next three corners average speeds decrease as the radii tighten, then it opens out dramatically into a multi-apex corner – we’re back in Turkey again, this time with a corner that aims to capture the mystique of Istanbul’s Turn 8. It’s this section which will put substantial energy loads through the tyres, particularly the left-front, which is why Pirelli has specified the hard and medium-compound P Zero tyres for this race. Will anyone dare to try to take it flat out?
Turns 19 and 20 bring the drivers left and left again, around the paddock boundary and back on to the front straight for the beginning of another lap.
As with all new circuits, car set-up will be challenging – and not just because teams only have simulator data to work from. Lap times will naturally improve throughout the weekend as rubber is laid down on the track surface, which makes it difficult to gauge precisely the effect of any set-up changes between runs. We see this at Monaco every year, as well as at recently built or rarely used circuits.
Fittingly, the Circuit of the Americas was officially opened in October by the 1978 Formula 1 World Champion, Mario Andretti. Who better to cut the ribbon on such a diverse and exciting circuit than a driver who mastered every racing discipline he turned his hand to – sportscars, Indycars, and Formula 1?
|United States Grand Prix :: Technical Specifications|
|Pit straight length:||700m|
|Race length:||56 laps/308km|
|Number of corners:||20|
|Longest section at full throttle:||1000m|
|Full throttle:||70% of lap|
|Gearchanges per lap:||72|
|Average ambient temperature:||23°C|
|Average track temperature:||N/A|
|Circuit type:||Permanent grand prix facility|
|Landscape:||Open countryside, Texas|