The Circuit of the Americas is a relatively new venue but is rapidly becoming a firm favourite on the calendar. There is no doubt that this year’s race will be seen as a classic, but how have previous races at COTA stood up to you, the jury?
2013 – TJ13 reader score – 4.20
Sebastian Vettel continued his dominant form in the latter half of 2013 and strolled to his eighth win in a row. Kimi Raikkonen skipped the final races of the season. The official reason was to have an operation on his back, but many suspect he was partially motivated by his Lotus team struggling to pay his salary. He was replaced by Heikki Kovalainen who could not match team regular Grosjean who finished second, ahead of Mark Webber.
2014 – TJ13 reader score – 6.75
The battle between Lewis and Nico had another crucial turning point at COTA in 2014. Nico dominated practice and secured his ninth pole position of the year ahead of his team mate, who had struggled with a braking issue in Q3. The race set off in a similar fashion as Nico lead comfortably through the first stint. Following the first stops Lewis seemed more at home on his new tyres and started to reduce the gap. When he got into the DRS zone he wasted no time and made a move stick. Nico had no response and Lewis went on to take the victory. It was his fifth in a row and his 32nd win in total, passing the British record previously set by Nigel Mansell.
2015 – TJ13 reader score – 8.87
The world championship was decided in stunning fashion this weekend with one of the best races of the season, only beaten by the Hungarian Grand Prix that scored 8.92.
The race started on intermediate tyres in damp conditions. Lewis signalled his intention at the first corner by taking the inside line and forcing Nico wide on the exit, just like he did in Japan. Rosberg had fallen to fifth position behind the two Red Bulls and Sergio Perez. The drying track was treacherous and really tested their abilities.
After a brief VSC period to clear debris, a battle for the lead ensued between the Bulls and the Arrows. Rosberg jumped Ricciardo at the restart, much to the surprise of the Australian. Kvyat made some ambitious overtaking dives, only to skate wide on the slippery surface and lose out again. Hamilton’s tyres started to wear more quickly than those following and both Ricciardo and Rosberg sailed past. Nico gave Lewis good racing room, when he was more than within his rights to run Hamilton wide in revenge for turn one.
Lewis had to pit for new tyres to stand any chance of keeping up and bolted a pair of softs on. This move was soon to be followed by the rest of the field. This change signalled the end of the challenge from Red Bull, as their pace started to fall away once the track dried up.
The safety car period triggered by Marcus Ericsson’s stricken Sauber brought about another shift in the dynamic of the race, with the four leaders pitting for another set of soft tyres. Vettel in fifth took on a set of medium tyres in a bold move to try to make the end of the race. As the safety car pulled in, the Ferrari managed to pass both Red Bulls and keep the two Mercedes in sight.
His strategy might well have paid off, but for Nico Hulkenberg’s accident with Daniel Ricciardo, that took the Force India out on the spot and brought out the virtual safety car, under which Nico Rosberg pitted for the final time. Lewis made a tactical error and stayed out a lap too long – the VSC period ended before he could take on his own new set of boots.
Vettel might still have been able to beat Hamilton and keep the title challenge alive, if it wasn’t for another safety car period, this time triggered by Kvyat skidding on the wet kerbs and smacking the barriers with his nose. This time Hamilton was able to change tyres and emerge in second behind Nico, just ahead of Sebastian.
Nico needed to finish ahead of Lewis to keep his title hopes alive, but he made a rare unforced error at the most critical time. His chances slipped away as he lit up the rear tyres on the exit of turn 15, skidding wide and allowing Hamilton to regain the lead.
What a fantastic way for this year’s title to be decided and for Hamilton to take his third title, the only Briton to successfully defend his world championship crown.
Driver of the Weekend – Max Verstappen 69.7%
Away from the battle at the front, it was Max Verstappen who once again stole the show with an incredible fourth place finish. He started in eighth position and started to work his way forward with an aggressive move on Kimi Raikkonen. He then battled the two Red Bulls as they started to slip down the order and showed impressive pace and excellent tyre management for a rookie driver in the tricky conditions. He made very few mistakes in a race strewn with seasoned veterans falling by the wayside.