Brought to you by TheJudge13 ‘Track Profile Specialist’ Alistair Hunter
This weekend, arguably the most important racing series in the world finds itself in one of the most important countries in the world. The series is – obviously – F1, and its destination is the United States of America.
The race will be the 64th Formula One race to be held in the United States, in addition to being the 36th edition of the United States Grand Prix and the third to be held at the Circuit of the Americas.
Formula 1 has had a long history with the United States, starting from the very first season in 1950. 42 years after the very first United States Grand Prix was hosted by the Savannah Automobile Club in 1908, the 1950 Indianapolis 500 counted as the third round of the World Championship, and continued to be on the calendar until after the 1960 season. Alberto Ascari, Juan Manuel Fangio and Rodger Ward were the only drivers to compete in the Indy 500 as well as other championship events in the same season in 1952 and 1959 respectively (the latter most notably entering a midget car into the 1959 United States Grand Prix).
Speaking of the 1959 US Grand Prix in Sebring, that was when the first World Championship race took place to Formula One rules, and it was won by Bruce McLaren in a Cooper TF1. The following year F1 visited California, before attempting to make itself at home at Watkins Glen (fairly successfully), Long Beach, Las Vegas, Detroit, Dallas, Pheonix, and the road course at Indianapolis.
Formula One was lured to Texas through Tavo Hellmund and Red McCombs’ negotiations with Bernie Ecclestone, and the satisfaction of officials in Travis County. At a track which has many corners loosely inspired by legendary circuits across the globe and designed by Hermann Tilke, the inaugural event was deemed to be a success, with the track providing good racing and overtaking opportunities.
Like Sebastian Vettel last year, Lewis Hamilton has stepped up his game and hit form at the right time. Even though it would take some serious bad luck for Nico Rosberg not to be in contention for the championship in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton’s streak of four consecutive victories for the second time this year have meant that he has accelerated away from his nearest rival.
Mercedes are fairly dominant constructor-wise, with Red Bull the only other team to record a victory this year. Odds are that this situation won’t change at any point in the near future, but hey, there’s always 2015. (
Unless you’re Caterham or Marussia… Nah, too soon. Here’s hoping they stay).
tj13TV presents – A lap of COTA with Lewis Hamilton
Circuit of The Americas with Pirelli
The Circuit of the Americas in Texas is one of the newest venues on the Formula One calendar, having been inaugurated only in 2012. The medium and soft compounds are nominated here for the first time (with the hard and medium chosen for the last two years). This versatile selection of compounds for 2014 is designed to cope with the varying demands of the track, which takes in three long straights, but also a number of more technical corners.
These include the long Turn 1 – a constant radius hairpin that puts plenty of energy through the tyres – as well as other fast direction changes, reminiscent of Silverstone or Suzuka. With 20 corners and impressive differences in elevation, Austin is a very busy lap with some unique challenges, such as an uphill braking area after the start that makes it difficult to find the correct braking point. In combination, this all makes for an exciting track that both drivers and spectators enjoy immensely.
The United States Grand Prix also marks the start of the final sequence of back-to-back races of the year, with the teams then heading straight to Interlagos in Brazil, where the same medium and soft tyre nomination has been made.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “As is the case for every automotive manufacturer, America is a key market for Pirelli. So we are very pleased to be heading back to Austin, which is a great city to spend time in as well as a fantastic place to race. With the track surface now three years old, it has become more mature and should theoretically offer better grip than previous years.
The medium and soft tyres are expected to put us on track for a two-stop race, although we will have to confirm our projected data after free practice. A lot will depend on the weather. Even though the race takes place in November, warm but variable conditions are still likely, so thermal degradation will be an important factor. How much that influences wear and overall degradation with the new generation of cars this year – and therefore the race strategy – is something we will only find out when we get there.
On both previous occasions, the winning strategy has always been a one-stopper: also because the race comes relatively late in the season, by which time most teams have developed a good understanding about how to get the most out of the tyres.”
Jean Alesi, Pirelli consultant: “Austin is above all a really exciting circuit for drivers. There are good possibilities to attack and to overtake under braking for Turn 1, and also through the esses, where a number of different lines are possible. Plenty of overtaking opportunities normally ensure a good grand prix; this track is far from boring.
The variation in temperatures is another important factor: last 2 years it was definitely cold in the morning, but hot when it came to qualifying. That makes getting the tyre into the right operating window an additional challenge for the drivers and teams in America.”
The circuit from a tyre point of view
The three long straights tend to cool down the tyres, making the braking areas critical, as tyre temperature will have dropped slightly. This also then affects the turn-in into fast corners, as the compound has to get back up to temperature very quickly.
The medium tyre is a low working range compound, capable of achieving optimal performance even at a wide range of low temperatures. The soft tyre by contrast is a high working range compound, suitable for higher temperatures. There was an extremely variable range of track temperatures throughout the US Grand Prix weekend last year, from 18 to 37 degrees centigrade.
The mixture of straights and corners require a compromise in terms of downforce, placing a strong emphasis on mechanical grip from the tyres. As well as the long Turn 1 and fast changes of direction in the early part of the lap, Turn 11 also places heavy demands on the tyres. The driver starts braking as the car is turning into the corner, creating an uneven distribution of forces on the rubber.
The winning strategy last year was a one-stopper. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel started on the medium compound and then pitted for the hard tyre on lap 27. The top 12 finishers all stopped just once.
tj13TV presents – COTA with Pirelli
COTA and Brembo
The Austin track can be considered to have a medium demand on the braking system with the drivers using the brakes for about 14% of the time on each lap, but it is characterised by two very sudden braking sections. The T12 turn is worth a mention. It is one of the most demanding of the season in terms of dissipated energy (about 2673 kW) and one of the most sudden for the driver with a G force of -5.5 Gs.
1959 – Stirling Moss led away but retired after five laps, and Bruce McLaren took the lead on the final lap to become the youngest man at the time to win a Grand Prix; the previous leader Jack Brabham ran out of fuel and managed to push his car over the line for fourth place and a World Drivers Championship.
2002 – Notable for having the closest finish in a F1 race since timing to a thousandth of a second was introduced, with Ferrari drivers Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello attempting to set up a dead heat, but only succeeding in lifting the Brazilian driver to the top step of the podium by 0.011 seconds (interestingly, I think that record for the closest finish at Indianapolis was beaten by the fantastic finish to the Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100 this year, go and check that out).
2005 – One of the wonderful races that comes into the category ‘notable for what happened away from the track’. Due to tyre failures, only six drivers started the race due to safety issues. Needless to say, the crowd were not pleased. Schumacher won, with Barrichello second, Tiago Monteiro in third to become the most successful Portuguese driver by points scored, Narain Karthikeyan finished fourth to achieve his only points finish and the only one for an Indian driver, while Christijan Albers and Patrick Friesacher scored their only career points finishes in fifth and sixth.
2012 – After qualifying on pole position, Sebastian Vettel looked on course to win, before having his progress interrupted by HRT driver Narain Karthikeyan, who was unable to move out of the way of the German driver for a short period, which allowed Lewis Hamilton to come up and complete a DRS-assisted overtake later in the lap, in what would be the race-winning overtake.
In the 2014 Ferrari Challenge North America, Ricardo Perez leads the standings by 38 points from Ryan Ockey, with two rounds to go. At the last round in Watkins Glen, Ockey had two third place finishes, while Perez could only finish on the podium once. After this round in Austin, the series will conclude with a round in Abu Dhabi.
Despite having one less win than his nearest challenger, Earl Bamber is leading the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup by five points from Kuba Giermaziak, the only other driver in mathematical contention for the title. This weekend will be the final round of the series, and the only double header on the calendar.
|2013||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|