Formula 1

PREVIEW: 2019 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix – Circuit of The Americas

7 Mins read
Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

The nineteenth round of the 2019 FIA Formula 1 World Championship will take place at the Circuit of The Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas.

The United States Grand Prix is held at one of the most interesting new tracks on the Formula 1 calendar. This is the eighth running of the race at COTA after Formula 1 returned to the United States of America (USA) in 2012 after a prolonged gap.

Austin is the tenth venue for a Formula 1 race in the USA after Dallas, Detroit, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Long Beach, Phoenix, Riverside, Sebring and Watkins Glen.

The Unites States Grand Prix races have been mostly held at oval tracks or street circuits. Watkins Glen in New York was the most popular home of the Unites States Grand Prix. It was a purpose-built track that hosted this race for twenty years.

The lucrative American market had proved difficult for Formula 1 to penetrate for many years. The race at COTA in Austin, a university-city and capital of Texas, has attracted large crowds. This latest attempt by Formula 1 to set roots in the United States appears to have finally succeeded. A second race at Miami also seems on the cards for the 2021 season.

The US Grand Prix was first promoted by the Austin native Carl Tavo Hellmund. He is a former American racing driver who drove in the lower formulas in Britain. After financial problems and many disputes, Hellmund exited the project.

The initial track design was conceived by him and was later developed under the supervision of Hermann Tilke. The US Grand Prix returned to the calendar in 2012, after it was last held at Indianapolis in 2007.

What happened at the 2019 Mexican Grand Prix?

Lewis Hamilton secured a brilliant win at the 2019 Mexican Grand Prix when he made a difficult one-stop strategy work.

Ferrari had a front row lockout with Charles Leclerc in pole position. Sebastian Vettel joined the Monégasque driver on the front row. Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen started on the second row. Alexander Albon and Valtteri Bottas were on the third row. Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris, Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly started at the front of the grid.

Verstappen qualified on pole position but was given a three-place grid penalty for failing to slow down for yellow flags caused by Bottas’s heavy crash on his final flying lap.

Leclerc made a good start to lead Vettel into Turn 1. Behind them, Hamilton and Verstappen were locked in hard wheel to wheel combat and they came together and ended up with excursions into the run-off areas. Hamilton dropped to fifth-place and Verstappen to eighth-place after this skirmish. By lap 4, Hamilton was in fourth position behind Leclerc, Vettel and Albon.

On lap 5, Verstappen overtook Bottas but suffered a puncture in the process and the subsequent pit stop dropped him to the back of the field. A few laps later, Bottas was in fifth position behind the leaders.

Albon was the first driver among the leaders to pit and was followed by Leclerc on lap 16 into the pits. Both drivers pitted for medium compound tyres and were on a two pit stop strategy. Vettel, Hamilton and Bottas extended their first stint in a bid to one-stop. However Hamilton pitted a full thirteen laps before Bottas and Vettel. Hamilton rejoined in fourth position behind Leclerc.

Hamilton had to defend from Vettel on much older tyres, but was able to maintain a two second gap to the German. Bottas was also putting Vettel under pressure as he closed within DRS-range. Leclerc after his second pit stop set about closing the gap to the leaders who were all on one pit stop strategies.

Hamilton maintained the steady gap in front to Vettel and clinched the win. Vettel and Bottas completed the podium places with solid drives.

Leclerc finished in fourth position ahead of Albon in fifth position. Verstappen finished in sixth position after a fine recovery drive. Sergio Pérez managed to keep a charging Daniel Ricciardo behind to secure seventh position at his home race.

Kvyat made a desperate lunge to overtake Nico Hulkenberg for ninth position on the final lap that pushed the German into the barriers. The Russian was given a post-race 10-second penalty for the incident that dropped him to eleventh position. Team-mate Gasly was promoted to ninth position and Hulkenberg finished in tenth position.

This was Hamilton’s tenth win of the season and the eighty-third win of his career and moved him one step closer to wrapping up a sixth drivers’ title.  

What happened at the 2018 United States Grand Prix?

Kimi Räikkönen scored an unlikely win at the 2018 United States Grand Prix. Räikkönen overcame pole-sitter Hamilton at the start and withstood late pressure from Verstappen for his first win in his second stint with Ferrari. It was the Finn’s first victory since the 2013 Australian Grand Prix.

Verstappen and Hamilton completed the podium places. Vettel finished in fourth position after being spun around after a clash with Ricciardo that dropped him to the back of the field.

Bottas was passed by Vettel in the final laps and had to be content with fifth position. Hulkenberg and Sainz finished in sixth and seventh positions respectively. Esteban Ocon and Kevin Magnussen were disqualified after they finished in eighth and ninth positions. Pérez, Brendon Hartley and Marcus Ericsson completed the top 10 positions.

The Circuit

The anti-clockwise 5.513 kilometer COTA circuit has 20 corners (11 left-handers, 9 right-handers) and an elevation change of 41 meters.

The race will be held over 56 laps with a total distance of 308.405 kilometers. The track features elements similar to the Becketts complex of Silverstone, Istanbul Park in Turkey and the Yeongam circuit in Korea.

The circuit is a highly technical one and has an average speed of 197 km/h. The circuit has tight high to slow speed corners which demands a medium to high downforce setup. The cars are on full throttle 58% of the time and the fuel consumption is medium. The brake-wear is low with medium loads placed on engines.

The FIA has taken measures to avoid the controversy created by Verstappen’s penalty for overtaking Räikkönen on the last lap by going outside track limits in 2017 by installing kerbs at the apexes of turns 16 and 17.

Credit: Pirelli Media

Sectors, Corners, and DRS Zones

Sector 1 (Turn 1 to Turn 6) has a series of high speed corners like the Maggots-Becketts sequence at Silverstone. Turn 1 is being talked about as a potentially iconic corner like the Eau Rouge corner at Spa. The track rises sharply, climbing nearly 41 meters between the start/finish line and Turn 1 before a blind apex. The Esses that follow between Turn 3 to Turn 5 offer overtaking opportunities at Turn 6.

Sector 2 (Turn 7 to Turn 12) starts with a kink at Turn 7 and then the uphill right-hander at Turn 8. The elevation changes of the track is evident as the track plunges downhill at Turn 10. The sector ends with a long straight between Turn 11 and Turn 12 with hairpins at either end.

Sector 3 (Turn 13 to Turn 20) starts with a difficult right-hander at Turn 13 and a series of fast corners that leads to the triple apex stretch between Turns 16-18, which is similar to Istanbul Park’s famous turn 8.

There are two DRS zones this year. The first DRS detection point will be after Turn 10, with the first DRS activation point after Turn 11. The second DRS detection point will be after Turn 18, with the second DRS activation point after Turn 20, just before the start/finish line. This track offers many overtaking opportunities for adventurous drivers.

Tyre Strategy

The white-striped hard tyres (C2), the yellow-striped medium tyres (C3) and the red-striped soft tyres (C4) nominated for this race is from the middle range of compounds of the Pirelli tyres.

The drivers have chosen eight or more sets of the soft compound tyres (C4) in the thirteen sets allocated to them.  Vettel, the Red Bull Racing and Mercedes drivers have chosen eight sets of the soft compound tyres. Leclerc has chosen nine sets of the soft compound tyres.

In 2018, the winner Räikkönen and Verstappen had a one-stop strategy. Hamilton finished in third position with a two-stop strategy. In recent years, the variable weather conditions that prevailed in Austin has led to interesting tyre strategies.

Two sets of the 2020 soft compound tyres will be given to the drivers which they can use in FP1 and FP2.

Credit: Pirelli Media

What should we look out for this year?

Ferrari has been the in-form team in terms of one lap pace with six straight pole positions after the summer break. The Ferrari SF90 will again excel at this circuit in terms of qualifying pace.

Mercedes has been on the backfoot in qualification, but used a combination of good race pace and strategy to score victories in the last three races. Red Bull Racing will look for Verstappen to comeback from his recent travails and put in a strong performance at this race.

The Silver Arrows clinched their sixth consecutive constructors’ championship at the Japanese Grand Prix. The Renault F1 team recovered some ground to McLaren in the midfield battle for fourth-place after the French team had a double-points finish and McLaren went pointless in Mexico.

The close battle in the midfield continues with just nine points between the teams from fifth to seventh position. The Haas F1 team will be looking for an inspired performance at their home race after the recent woeful form.

Hamilton leads his team-mate Bottas by seventy-four points in the drivers’ championship. The Briton needs to score four or more points to clinch his sixth drivers’ championship in Austin. Hamilton has won five of the seven races at this circuit, including the inaugural race in 2012.

Hamilton (363 points) is now leading team-mate Bottas (289 pts) by seventy-four points in the drivers’ championship. Leclerc (236 points) is in third position with a six-point lead over Vettel (230 points). Verstappen (220 points) is now in fifth position and rounds off the top 5 positions in the drivers’ championship.

Mercedes (652 points) has won the constructors’ championship. Ferrari (466 points) has sealed second position now. Red Bull Racing (341 points) will finish in third position. McLaren (111 points) has retained its fourth position. Renault (73 points) is in fifth position in the constructors’ championship.

With two races to go after this race, all interest will center on Hamilton’s bid to clinch his sixth drivers’ championship.

What’s the schedule?

Friday 1 November

16:00 GMT / 11:00 Local Time – Free Practice One
20:00 GMT / 15:00 Local Time – Free Practice Two

Saturday 2 November

18:00 GMT / 13:00 Local Time – Free Practice Three
21:00 GMT / 16:00 Local Time – Qualifying

Sunday 3 November

18:10 GMT / 13:10 Local Time – Race

How can I keep up with the action?

Follow all the action at the Checkered Flag with our extensive coverage, quotes and analysis of every session of the United States Grand Prix.

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Avid Formula 1 and Motorsport fan for a very long time. Love researching and writing about F1. An Engineer by profession. All-round sports nut
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