5 Reasons We Love... The United States Grand Prix
Three rounds to go and a world champion could be crowned this weekend at the United States Grand Prix. Here's why we love going racing at Circuit of The Americas…
1. Turn 1
Iconic corners are often referenced in this feature, but the majority are on historic venues and have earned that status over time. So it’s an impressive achievement for a new circuit to produce one specific corner that stands out.
At COTA, you could identify the track instantly from one look at Turn 1. The steep incline up to the highest point of the circuit overlooks the majority of the track, and also has a view of downtown Austin in the distance.
But more than looking good, Turn 1 is a real challenge for the drivers. The angle means they can brake really late, while the wide corner entry allows a variety of different lines. Don’t think it’s a simple corner because of that, though, because the angle drops off at the apex, meaning drivers are essentially turning in blind and can often lost time.
2. It’s an awesome track
Once Turn 1 is out of the way, the next test comes immediately, with a high-speed sector that was inspired by the Maggotts and Becketts complex at Silverstone and the first sector at Suzuka. Rapid changes of direction really display an F1 car’s performance potential, and puts a smile on the faces of all the drivers.
Although it can be tough to follow through the first sector, the cars then come together through a tight hairpin before a long, undulating straight that leads into the heavy braking zone at Turn 12. Aside from Turn 1, this is the best overtaking spot on the circuit and often sees incidents, especially on the first lap.
But then a low-speed section allows more side-by-side action, with some epic moves being pulled off through turns 16-18 - the multi-apex right-hander - in the past. Plenty for both the drivers and fans to get excited about.
3. The fans
And speaking of the fans, they flock to Austin in their thousands for a race that has really found a home in America. With only three races in North America, passionate fans travel huge distances for the race weekend, and bring loud support for the whole grid.
While the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull are always well-represented, Haas even has its own hill designated for fans of the team at its home race. And these fans really make themselves heard.
And this year, there will be more fans than at any other race at COTA since its inaugural event. Extra grandstands have been added to cater for the increased demand, while traditional American entertainment really gives the race its identity.
4. A perfect fit of a city
For a sport looking to grow its profile in the United States, Austin remains an ideal location to have a race. The fastest-growing major metropolitan area in the country, Austin has seen population growth of over 25% since 2010, with F1 first being held here in 2012.
It’s not hard to see why. The atmosphere in Austin is always lively for the race weekend, in a city that prides itself on its live music and BBQ, but also has a strong sporting interest courtesy of the Texas Longhorns and the numerous motorsport events held at COTA.
From the converted bungalows of Rainey Street to the eclectic East Austin, the trendy South Congress or lively East 6th Street, the motto of ‘Keep Austin Weird’ perfectly sums up a city that likes to have fun and do things a little differently, making for a firm favourite stop on the calendar among the F1 paddock and fans alike.
5. Crazy weather
We’re going to be a little bit controversial with this last one, but Austin’s weather is another reason we love this race, even if it isn’t always easy to deal with. From scorching temperatures to heavy rain, it’s a venue that can often see massive swings in conditions and with them provide a major challenge for the teams.
This year, Austin has greeted F1 with freezing temperatures - actually hitting zero degrees centigrade on Thursday morning at the track - and morning lows are going to be tough to deal with. Thick coats, gloves and beanie hats are usually only needed during pre-season testing, but the whole paddock was wrapped up on arrival this year.
But anything that makes life a little bit harder for the teams and drivers in order to get the most out of their cars tends to lead to exciting racing. Even if temperatures are expected to climb a little over the rest of the weekend, it’s still going to be tough to get the tyres working and the car operating at its best, which should make things even more unpredictable than usual.