Round 18 of the 2016 F1 season brings us to Austin, Texas, for the US Grand Prix – the fifth time this venue has hosted the race.
A circuit that has proven popular with drivers, due to a cherry-picking of elements from other tracks that has actually worked quite well, Austin has also proven popular with fans, and it appears to be popular with the Americans as well, with the event well-attended, year after year. Bernie’s long desired to crack the US market, and so far, so good with Austin.
Especially noteworthy parts of the track would have to include the sequence from turn 3 to turn 9, which borrows from Silverstone and Suzuka to create a windy, high-speed set of corners that test a driver’s mettle. Turns 1, 11 and 12 are obvious opportunities to overtake, though some may look to other, more unlikely points to have a go.
In the context of 2016, Lewis Hamilton comes here needing a win to keep his title hopes alive. He is at a stage where he can win every one of the remaining four races and still lose the title, so it is imperative that he doesn’t drop points today. He’s put his Mercedes on pole for the first time here, but pole position, especially this season, is no guarantee of victory. His teammate and championship leader Nico Rosberg lines up beside him, so the blast up the hill to the wide first corner should be interesting.
Lurking just behind the Mercs are the Red Bull pair of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. Both are ‘punchy’ drivers who aren’t afraid to go for an overtake and the Red Bulls had good long-distance pace here in practice. Might they be the variable that upsets Hamilton or Rosberg today?