It gets serious in Formula 1. With only six races left, none of the contenders in the championship can afford to go terribly wrong. Max Verstappen travels to Austin by just six points, which will mark the start of the big season in the World Cup Finals next weekend (October 24).
The two-way driver standings has changed hands several times since the end of the summer holidays. Lewis Hamilton’s chances of another counterattack at the Circuit of the Americas are not bad. Of the eight races on the track, which opened in 2012, the Briton won five. Here, Hamilton always excels well.
Last year’s US Grand Prix was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The guest appearance at the MotoGP World Championships at the beginning of October has already shown that the track has changed drastically since the last visit to the first category in 2019. Several sections have been resurfaced. Where the old subway still lurks, there are sometimes bad pits waiting for the pilots. In the past few days, organizers have brought in heavy equipment to smooth out the biggest “bumps”.
In addition to the demanding road, the weather has repeatedly provided additional flavor in recent years. After weekends in a wet or very cold race, F1 Circus can expect sweltering heat this year. Meteorologists expect temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius for the three days. A few rains may cool off during the race.
Die Stecke: Circuit of the Americas
The Circuit of the Americas is a fairly average track in terms of numbers. One roll has a length of 5.513 km and consists of 20 bends – 11 of them on the left and 9 on the right. It is pushed counterclockwise. The average speed on a qualifying lap is around 215 km/h. Top speed can go up to 340 km/h with the DRS and home, as with Sergio Perez in the 2018 race. But the numbers only tell half the story.
The Texas Roller Coaster designed by Hermann Tilke is a particular challenge for drivers with its many fast angles. Above all, the slalom in Sector One, reminiscent of Suzuka or Silverstone, has it all. Austin also has slow lanes to offer – especially at the back of the track. There are less than 100 km/h curves here than in Hungary. In addition, a long straight – at the same time the DRS – 1 km in length with an ideal opportunity to overtake at the end. Again, drivers can use the DRS at the start and end directly.
The extreme differences in speed between individual sections of the road are just a challenge. The Circuit of the Americas will be particularly remembered for its distinctive elevation differences. According to the slogan “sabot instead of a dot,” several mounds were piled up in the flat desert. Especially the #1 transformation approach is amazing. Here there is a “wall” up to 41 meters high. It’s not easy to find the braking and turning points on many blind bends.
Fast facts on GP USA:
- Route length: 5.513 km
- Number of turns: 56
- Race distance: 308.4 km
- Number of bends: 20 (11 l / 9 r)
- DRS Zones: 2 (T11-T12 / T20-T1)
- Distance from the starting point to the first braking zone 1: 240 meters
- Pit Corridor Length: 414m
- Vehicle Safety Likelihood: 20% (2015-2019)
- Tire compounds: C2, C3, C4
The combination of long straight lines and ultra-fast and slow corners makes it difficult for engineers to find the right compromise for the setup. Because lap time is done in corners rather than straight, the wings are designed more towards downforce – Abu Dhabi-style. The front wings in particular are set steeper to avoid swerving on slow lanes.
The relatively flat fenders allow a lower vehicle height, which generates aerodynamic stability, especially in fast cornering. However, the dampers should not be installed firmly. From slow corners at the end of the lap traction is required, which requires more suspension travel on the rear axle. Then there are the bumps that need to be smoothed out.
When it comes to tires, Pirelli has all three of the Medium-Roughness in its baggage, as it did in its last Austin guest appearance in 2019. Typically, Austin fans see no more than a stop for each driver. But in the last appearance in 2019, two drivers with a stop strategy landed on the podium. We’re curious to see how much extreme temperatures will increase rubber wear this year.
When it comes to new parts, we can only repeat ourselves. Although the championship’s latest surge promises more excitement than it has in a long time, no upgrades are expected for the remaining six races. With massive development efforts for all-new cars for 2022, even the top teams can’t afford to shift resources to discontinued models.
The only interesting question is which drivers have used the new powertrains in the last few races. In Sochi, Verstappen received a penalty, in Istanbul Hamilton was forced to forcibly return to the starting grid. Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo have also recently met this fate. Given the limited number of overtaking opportunities, Austin isn’t an ideal track to catch from the back rows. Anyone who has to change the engine again is likely to do so in Mexico or Brazil.
In terms of design, the Austin offers a little bit of everything — alternating fast and slow corners. There is also a long straight. Comprehensive attributes are required here. A few weeks ago we had seen Mercedes and Red Bull here at eye level. But in five of the last six races, the black silver arrow has been the standard, and there have been different designs as well. That’s why we easily see Lewis Hamilton as the favourite.
The reigning multi-time world champion proved that Austin Track suits him especially well. He’s already got five wins here. But in his last appearance in 2019, the England player suffered a slight weakness in the playoffs that brought him back to fifth on the net and cost him victory in the duel with teammate Bottas. As a consolation, Hamilton drove home a sixth world title with a second place finish.
In the chase duel, it’s clear that Ferrari has had the upper hand over McLaren lately. But Austin should have a taste of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo’s car a little better than Istanbul. However, Ferrari has taken a huge step forward with the new engine. So we fear that Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz will be the third force in the field.
Pierre Gasly and the Alpine pilots are likely to fight for the last remaining world championship points. On the other hand, for Aston Martin, we only see outside opportunities if the midfield competition makes mistakes. Even the up-and-coming Haas players shouldn’t have high hopes of scoring first championship points of the season in Texas from all places. For Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, the Austin circuit is a whole new territory.
This is how the race went last year – GP USA 2019
The 2019 US Grand Prix was supposed to be Hamilton’s big gala. The Mercedes driver wanted to combine Austin’s sixth win with his sixth world title. In the end, his teammate Valtteri Bottas, of all people, spat into his soup. The World Cup runner-up started from first place and confidently defended the lead during the early stages. Only when pursuer Max Verstappen attempted to undermine on lap 13 with an early stop was victory briefly in jeopardy.
Mercedes strategists did not risk any chances and immediately repelled Red Bull’s attack. So it was clear that Bottas and Verstappen had to use a two-stop strategy. Lewis Hamilton, who was able to climb from fifth to third in the turmoil at the start, tried an alternative one-stop tactic. In the end, that wasn’t enough to win.
Four laps before the end, Bottas made short work of his long-term teammate, whose worn tires no longer allowed for a defense. After all, Hamilton was able to successfully defend himself against the next Verstappen in the last few laps, thus making the Silver Arrows’ double win perfect. On the finish line, Mercedes and Red Bull were separated by just 0.8 seconds. The victory was not enough for Bottas to keep the World Cup duel open. Hamilton celebrated his sixth title with second place.
In the gallery we once again show photos of the Texas scene of 2019.
GP USA 2021 schedule
|free practice 1
|the father. October 22, 2021 – 6:30 pm
|free exercise 2
|the father. October 22, 2021 – 22:00
|free exercise 3
|Sa. October 23, 2021 – 8:00 pm
|Sa. October 23, 2021 – 11:00 PM
|Sunday October 24, 2021 – 9 pm
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