Formula 1 returns to Austin, Texas, for the sixth time, and for the second time the venue could see Lewis Hamilton crowned F1 champion – if results go his way.
When the Circuit of the Americas was designed, inspiration was drawn from several other venues, including Silverstone’s famous Maggotts-Becketts-Chapel sequence, the Senna Ss at Interlagos, and some of Hockenheim’s big bends. The track also features a big uphill charge to the first corner, and turn 1 is a big, beefy left-hander, on one of F1’s rarities – a counter-clockwise circuit.
Since the inaugural event here in 2012, the US Grand Prix has enjoyed something of a boon in popularity, which is good for Formula 1. F1 has traditionally struggled to crack the US market, despite at one stage hosting races at the spiritual home of US motorsport, Indianapolis. The on-going success of the Austin venue might finally mean that F1 can look forward to a long-term presence State-side.
The British are Coming
Lewis Hamilton has won at COTA four out of five times, including the opening race in 2012. The only other winner here is Sebastian Vettel, who won for Red Bull in 2013. Hamilton’s dominance of the venue saw him claim the title here in 2015, following an exciting and dramatic semi-wet grand prix, which including a very bullish push past Nico Rosberg into turn 1, and a late spin from Rosberg to hand Hamilton the win and the title. From 2017’s perspective, a Hamilton win would leave Vettel needing to finish no lower than fifth to keep the title fight alive for another round, whilst if Hamilton were second, Vettel could afford to finish no lower than eighth. Should Hamilton finish third or lower, the title race would definitely rumble on to Mexico.
It’s entirely possible for rain to impact the race on Sunday. If that happens, it could bring the Red Bulls into play, whilst it could make things more interesting between the Mercs and Ferraris. Rain might also inspire McLaren to a points finish, whereas dry weather, with some of the powerful straights, could hinder them.
The pit straight is a DRS zone, so expect overtakes, or least attempts, into turn 1. If a driver can stay close through the bendy section (turns 3-9), there could be chances at turn 11, whilst turn 12 comes at the end of another DRS zone, so there will be more opportunities there. This could be a good race for overtakes and battles.