The United States Grand Prix has been part of the Formula One calendar since 1959, when Sebring International Raceway was the host in Florida. The US race has visited five other locations in its time on the calendar, moving to the Riverside International Raceway, California in 1960, before heading to a more permanent home of Watkins Glen, in New York from 1961 – 1980.
There was then a nine year hiatus before the US Grand Prix returned to the calendar, when the Phoenix Street Circuit was the location of choice from 1989 – 1991. However, from 1976 – 1983 the United States also hosted the self-titled Long Beach Grand Prix, in California. As well as the Las Vegas Grand Prix from 1981-1982, the Detroit Grand Prix from 1982 – 1988 and the Dallas Grand Prix in 1984.
Nine years down the line and the United States Grand Prix was back on the programme, this time at the famous Indianapolis circuit, better-known for the legendary Indy 500 race, which held the F1 event from 2000 – 2007. The Indianapolis 500 also featured as a round of the F1 world championship in its own right between 1950 and 1960.
There was then a further five year gap before the sport would return to America’s shores, when the purpose built Circuit of the Americas (COTA) was constructed in Austin, Texas in 2012, and that is where we still go racing today.
Although there have been many American drivers to contest a F1 race, none have ever won the United States Grand Prix itself. However, Mario Andretti did scoop the United States Grand Prix West at Long Beach in 1977, in what was a race long battle with Niki Lauda and Jody Scheckter, the American taking victory after out braking Scheckter half way round the circuit on the final lap of the race.
Michael Schumacher has taken the most victories on US soil with five wins, four of those in succession from 2003 – 2006, closely followed by Lewis Hamilton who has four and could equal the German’s record this time around.
The Scuderia Ferrari team is the most successful squad to compete at the US Grand Prix, with nine wins to their name, however they have never tasted victory at COTA. McLaren and Lotus are next on the list with eight triumphs on American soil.
There have been some action packed races held across the Atlantic over the years. Here are a few interesting moments and facts from US Grand Prix gone by:
Alesi audaciously attacks back…
The 1990 United States Grand Prix was a thrilling race from start to finish, when Jean Alesi, in just his ninth F1 race, dared to do battle with the late, great Ayrton Senna.
Having qualified in fourth on Pirelli tyres the French-Sicilian got a fantastic start to jump into the lead of the Grand Prix at the first corner, ahead of pole man Gerhard Berger. Senna at this point was down in fourth but steadily making his way through the field, until on lap 33 he was right up behind Alesi in second place.
Unaccustomed to being challenged by a driver lower down the order, Senna could not believe what he was seeing when his challenge on Alesi’s Tyrrell for the lead at Turn 1, was not taken sitting down by the Frenchman who fought back to retake his position at the next left-hander.
Despite his best efforts, Alesi was unable to hold the Brazilian off for very long, and two laps later Senna was able to make the pass stick, although the French-Sicilian tried a few more times to get back ahead, he was certainly not going to give the place up easily, no matter who he was dealing with!
Alesi did hold on to take second place however and had definitely forged his name in F1 history with his fighting spirit!
Put the pedal to the Vettel…
Sebastian Vettel definitely appears to like being on American soil, having notched up a number of statistics whilst competing at the US Grand Prix.
The German made not only his first F1 start in America, at Indianapolis when he was the tender age of 19 back in 2007, but also his 100th when he finished 2nd at COTA back in 2012. Along with Hamilton, Vettel is the only current driver to have won in the US and the German also takes the title of most laps led at COTA with 95, nineteen more than Hamilton, who has completed the next most revolutions of the track whilst out front.
The four-time world champion can also boast losing a race at COTA by the smallest ever margin, Hamilton beating the German by just 0.675 seconds in 2012.
McLaren’s maiden victory…
Legendary driver and team owner Bruce McLaren won his first ever F1 race at the 1959 United States Grand Prix, which was held at the Sebring International Raceway circuit for the first and only time in F1 history.
The victory made McLaren the youngest F1 winner at that time, and the first ever New Zealander to achieve that feat, a record he held until Fernando Alonso won the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2003 and a result that saw his career launched into the spotlight.
His efforts also saw the New Zealander help his Cooper-Climax team-mate, Jack Brabham, become world champion that year, crucially finishing ahead of Tony Brooks who had also been in with a chance of winning the title that day.
What a farce…
The 2005 United States Grand Prix, held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was one of the most controversial races in F1 history.
In an era where teams had the option to run either Bridgestone or Michelin tyres, some drivers were always going to fare better than others at different tracks.
Following a number of tyre failures that weekend on a newly resurfaced track, Michelin advised its customers before the race that unless they slowed down into Turn 13, the rubber would only last for ten laps, after which point they could not guarantee the drivers safety.
Unable to reach a compromise with the FIA, the Michelin runners, who had wanted to add in a chicane to Turn 13 to slow all the cars down sufficiently to meet the French tyre manufacturers requirements, decided there was no alternative but to sit out the race. Although they took part in the formation lap, the fourteen Michelin tyre customers retired to the pits before the official start of the grand prix, leaving just six entrants to complete the event, and some extremely disappointed fans.
That allowed Michael Schumacher and Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello, both Bridgestone runners, to take a relatively easy one-two victory, which greatly bolstered the German’s position in the world championship standings at that time, moving him up to third place.
As is often the case in such situations, everyone blamed one another for the debacle, with the FIA condemning Michelin for not providing usable tyres, Bernie Ecclestone ganging up on the circuit owners for its poor resurfacing job, and Ferrari not siding with the rest of the teams in the need for the Turn 12-13 chicane, all resulting in one of the biggest shambles ever seen in F1.
Senna so sublime …
The 1991 United States Grand Prix saw Senna at his best, putting in a faultless performance to take the twenty-seventh grand prix victory of his already illustrious career.
The Brazilian started from pole and never looked back, taking victory by sixteen seconds from rival Alain Prost, who tried his best to mount a challenge on the Brazilian, but was no match for Senna and the McLaren MP4/6.
Whilst Senna opened up a lead from the off, Prost had plenty to contend with, first in the form of Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese, and then later Nelson Piquet and Alesi.
Mansell kept on at Prost, until a gearbox problem on lap 36 forced the Brit to retire from the race, not before spinning dramatically however, and coming to a stop at the side of the track.
Many drivers had started the race with a full tank and soft tyres and were not anticipating having to stop, the Frenchman included, but as the event went on it was clear this had been a somewhat optimistic stance and more than one trip to the pits was required, with many cars sustaining mechanical issues that would see them unable to finish the race.
A second stop for Prost saw the Frenchman return to the track in fourth, just behind the battling Alesi and Piquet who were fighting over second place. Senna had already rode off into the distance, whilst Prost had some work to do.
After a long battle for position, Piquet finally got the better of Alesi and passed the French-Sicilian on the straight, whilst Prost saw his opportunity to follow suit and also went by his young team-mate on the left, however the Frenchman was not done there, and quickly cut back to the right, running between the two other cars and beating Piquet to the upcoming corner to steal the second place that the Brazilian had fought so hard to make his own.
Senna went on to claim a flawless victory by sixteen seconds, despite a gearbox issue that threatened to thwart his advances towards the end of the race, and sending out a warning message to all that this season was going to be his.
The 1991 Grand Prix also saw the first F1 appearance of Mika Hakkinen and Mark Blundell, as well as the Jordan Grand Prix Team.
2016 Race weekend
Going into the 2016 United States Grand Prix this weekend, Mercedes AMG PETRONAS driver Nico Rosberg still remains in the driving seat in the championship, from team-mate Hamilton after a dominating victory in Japan last time out, where the Brit could only manage third. The German now only needs to finish second at the four remaining races, to be crowned the 2016 champion.
Thankfully for Hamilton, the COTA track is a venue he usually goes well at, and he will be hoping to capitalise on that strength and claw some much needed points back from his main rival. One result that goes the current world champion’s way here, whilst Rosberg falters, and Hamilton could be right back in it!
Red Bull Racing will look to continue their recent impressive efforts, with another good result in the United States this weekend, whilst Ferrari will aim to up their game and beat both drivers from the Milton Keynes based squad on track this time around.