‘Know Your F1 Circuit’ is a new series launched on my F1 blog. The posts under this series will be penned by Saumil Patel, an avid fan of the sport. You can follow the full series throughout the season by using the ‘Know Your F1 Circuit’ tag. This post focuses on the ‘Circuit of the Americas’, the only FIA-certified Grade 1 circuit in the United States of America.
The Circuit of the Americas or COTA has been home to the US Grand Prix since 2012. The ultra-modern 890 hectare complex is built on undulating land on the southeastern fringe of Austin city’s boundaries in Central Texas. Not only does it boast of one of the best high-tech circuits, the mega complex features quite a few unique structures.
The observation tower probably tops the list; standing imposingly at an elevation of 251 feet, it provides a 360-degree panorama of the circuit. It is accessible to seventy members (at a time) of the public for an admission fee. At the base of the observation tower is the open air amphitheater, ‘The Austin360 Amphitheater’ with a 14,000 people capacity.
The Main Grandstand has three tiers (lower, club and suite levels), sixty five foot tall and five hundred feet long permanent seating structures for 9,000 spectators. It houses restrooms, offices and lounges. The famous Velocity Lounge features a wall empaneled with thirty six large screens and a hundred twenty feet long acrylic painting “Velocity” by Dallas-based artist Christopher Martin.
The latest addition was the ‘Bold Stadium’, a soccer specific stadium built for five thousand fans. Geographically, Texas is the second largest state and all things in the ‘Lone Star State’ go with the maxim that ‘bigger is better’. Austin–Bergstrom (AUS), the only international airport in Austin and is around 17 km from the circuit. George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston (IAH) and Dallas / Fort Worth International Airports (DFW) , though better connected for long haul flights, are at a distance of 260 km and 360 km respectively.
Legendary American Formula 1 Broadcast Bob Varsha Will Feature On The Inside Line F1 Podcast In the Build-up To The 2021 United States GP
— Soumil Arora (@iamsoumilaroraa) October 18, 2021
Did You Know? F1 History & Stats: United States GP
- COTA or the Circuit of The Americas is the only FIA-certified Grade 1 track in the United States.
- It is also one of the seven anti-clockwise tracks on the current F1 calendar. The others are – Istanbul, Imola, Interlagos, Baku, Jeddah & Yas Marina.
- The start/finish line the track rises 133 feet before heading into a tight and blind first-gear left-hand turn. Turn 1 is also known as “Big Red”.
- The track cost $400 million to construct and employed a workforce of 1,700.
- 640,000 cubic meters of materials were used to construct the track.
- A three hour race at Circuit of the Americas brings in up to $200m in commercial revenue.
- Between 800,000 to 1.2 million people attend events at Circuit of The Americas annually, spending $1500 a day.
- Circuit of The Americas has hosted mega stars like Willie Nelson, Elton John, Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars and more.
- Circuit of The Americas has hosted the prestigious racing events like W Series, INDYCAR , FIM MotoGP World Championship, Motorcycle Grand Prix of the Americas, Moto America, Blancpain GT World Challenge America, NASCAR Cup Series, Texas Grand Prix, NASCAR Xfinity Series, Pit Boss 250 & NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
- It is home to a 5,036-seat stadium, which houses USL Championship League team, Austin Bold FC and Major League Rugby team, AG Rugby.
- The 2012 race was the first time Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso finished on the podium together.
- In 2015, Alexander Rossi became the first American to race at the Circuit of the Americas in an official F1 competition.
- In 2019, Lewis Hamilton became the first driver to clinch the Drivers’ Championship in the United States twice. (According to Sports Betting Dime, the odds are favoring Lewis Hamilton (-135) to finish first over Max Verstappen this weekend at Texas)
History of The Circuits of the Americas:
Tavo Hellmund, an American businessman, former racing driver and event promoter along with World Motorcycle Champion Kevin Schwantz conceived the plan of constructing a purpose built Formula 1 circuit. They were supported by Texan billionaire Red McCombs who agreed to finance the project. The plan to build the 890 hectare avant-garde motorsport circuit and complex was announced during a news conference in July 2010.
Tilke Engineers & Architects were commissioned to design the circuit and Austin Commercial was awarded the construction contract. By mid-December, the FIA had approved the design and work commenced on 31st December 2010. The project was scheduled for completion by June 2012, but a year later into the project a ‘Stop-Work Order’ was served by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (United States Department of Homeland Security) as they had concerns over the floodplain portion of the site.The concerns were addressed and FEMA issued its acceptance towards the end of June 2011, delaying the project by a couple of months. The completion date was revised to August 2012.
The FIA appointed Race Director for Formula 1, Charlie Whiting keenly tracked the progress and ensured that all rigorous FIA circuit standards were met. To adhere to the FIA standards, high tech ultramodern GPS based 3D equipment were incorporated on the asphalt paving and milling machines. By September 2012, the circuit was completed and inspected by the race director who gave his approval. The circuit was officially inaugurated on 21st October 2012 with Mario Andretti doing a lap in a Lotus 79, in which he had won the 1978 World Drivers Championship.
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 19, 2021
Circuit Layout: F1 History & Stats, United States GP
A relatively recent entrant, COTA had the advantage of incorporating the best vintage European circuit features and is considered as one of the best Formula One circuits constructed in this century. Exploiting the significant naturally undulating topography, each section is spectacular in its own right. The twenty corners cover the full range of corners. Sweeping high speed corners to, tight, twisty 180⁰ corners all test drivers’ physical and technical skills constantly.
- Turn 1 – The best first corner on the calendar. An 11% gradient ascend, (steeper than the Raidillon at Spa, elevation of 133 feet in a shorter distance) before going into a sharp left-hander
- Turn 3-4-5 – Flat-out section based on Silverstone’s Maggots-Becketts-Chapel complex
- Turn 12 – Sharp 90⁰ left hander after the DRS zone
- Turn 13-14 – Sweeping right-hander, inspired by the Hockenheim’s stadium section
- Turn 15 – Most challenging, slowest and sharpest turn at COTA (average speed 60km/hr)
- Turn 16-17-18 – Fast, long, flat-out multi-apex corners based on Istanbul’s iconic Turn 8
- Turn 20 – Tight 90⁰ left hander before heading into the DRS zone
The circuit is known to be a busy one for the drivers – they negotiate 20 corners every lap. Cars clock 325 km/hr on the odometer with a record lap time of 1m 32.029s, but decisively it’s a circuit that encourages overtaking on-track and by using smart strategy.
?: NEOOOOOOOOOOW! NEOW! NEOOOOW!
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 18, 2021
- Circuit Certification: Grade 1
- Circuit Classification: Permanent Circuit
- Circuit Direction: Anti – Clockwise
- Pole Position: Right-hand side of the track
- Circuit Length: 5.513 km
- Race Distance: 308.728 km
- No. of Laps: 56
- Distance Grid To Turn One: 230.8 m
- Longest Flat-Out: 1200 m
- Number of Corners: 20 (9 right & 11 left)
- DRS Zones: 2 (after turn 11 & 20)
- Track Width: 12 m to 15.8 m
- Track Deviation: 40.5 m
- Downforce level: Medium
- Gear Changes Per Lap: *56
- Fuel Use Per Lap: *1.88 kg
- Pit Lane Time Loss: *18.6s
- Fastest Race Lap Record: 1:36.169 Charles Leclerc, 2019 – Ferrari SF90 2019
- Fastest Lap Record: 1:32.029 Valtteri Bottas, 2019 – Mercedes F1 W10
- Inaugurated: 2012
- Most wins – Drivers: Lewis Hamilton – 5 (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016 & 2017)
- Most wins – Constructors: Mercedes – 6 (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 & 2019)
Race Strategy: F1 History & Stats, United States GP
Car setup for COTA will be challenging for the teams. The twenty corners will be a paramount consideration in the trade-off between raw speed and traction. Both, the back straight and the straight (DRS zones) are entered and exited with sharp left handers, coming in strong will open overtaking opportunities on the straights. Finding the optimal balance will be the key.
Key matrixes teams will be considering:
- Aerodynamics: High-speed sector at start of lap, one enormous back straight and tortuous mid and end section.
- Suspension: Plenty of kerbs, especially in the high speed corners which can unsettle the car stability.
- Transmission: Power out of slow corners and solid rotation into tighter corners.
- Brakes: Balance between brake pressure and bias to give enough power without locking up.
- Tyre: Theoretically a one pit-stopper will be the fastest (combination of C2 with C3 or C4). Practically, a two pit-stop strategy will be more suited to the circuit (C3 – C2 – C3 or C4 depending on tyre degradation).
Saumil Patel is an avid fan of Formula 1. He aims to take you deeper into the sport by uncovering the lesser read.