With one of the titles already decided in Russia two weeks ago - when Mercedes retained its Constructors’ Championship following Kimi Raikkonen’s post-race penalty – the fight for the other trophy enters a decisive phase this weekend. Lewis Hamilton can clinch the Drivers’ title this weekend in Austin, three rounds before the end of the season.
There are many permutations but the easiest way is for Hamilton to win the race from Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel and such a result will be sufficient for the Briton to retain his crown.
Round 16 of the Championship sees the teams and drivers travelling to Austin, Texas, the 10th host of a Formula 1 race in the United States. However, only six of them have hosted a United States GP: Sebring (1959), Riverside (1960), Watkins Glen (1961-80), Phoenix (1989-91) and Indianapolis (2000-07).
After a five-year absence, Formula 1 returned to the United States at a brand new facility just outside of Austin. The construction of the Circuit of The Americas (COTA) began in 2010 and was opened in 2012, with the facility now an important contributor to the economy in the area through increased tourism and its annual events.
The circuit features a mixture of corners, with a sweeping section of Esses similar to Silverstone’s iconic section, while the signature area is the steep rise to the top of Turn 1, which dominates the landscape.
"The track has some special parts, especially the first sector and the uphill Turn 1. You can take a few different lines through the corner and you can brake really late for it, which makes it a good place to overtake. The whole of the first sector is very fun to drive with a lot of quick corners,” says Force India’s Sergio Perez.
All these characteristics, combined with the circuit’s mix of fast corners, long straight and the slow-speed section, provide a good challenge in setting up the power unit. Getting the compromise right but still have a well-balanced car in the end, is the key to maximise the performance.
“The lap is made up of a mixture of corners - high-speed, medium-speed and low-speed. There are also a lot of gradient changes, such as the uphill approach to turn one where it can be tricky to get your brake balance right. Turns 3 to 6 are where downforce counts and you need a car that’s responsive to the quick changes of direction. It’s these quick parts of the lap that put high lateral energy through your tyres,” Nico Hulkenberg added.
“The DRS is worth quite a lot in Austin and the long straight between Turns 11 and 12 is a really good opportunity for overtaking.”
Lewis Hamilton can become the first British driver to claim back-to-back world titles this weekend. All he needs is to finish nine points ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and two points ahead of his team mate Nico Rosberg on Sunday.
Sebastian Vettel made his Formula 1 debut in the United States in 2007 at Indianapolis and he is one of only two drivers to take pole position in Austin, the other one being Rosberg. Vettel (2013) and Hamilton (2007, 2012, 2014) are the only current drivers to have won on American soil. From a team perspective, Ferrari has the best record in United States GP history but they are yet to triumph at COTA.
Sauber will reach a milestone in Austin as this will be their 400th Grand Prix since the team’s debut race at the 1993 South African Grand Prix.
As in 2014, Pirelli has nominated the Soft and Medium compounds to cope with COTA’s wide range of demands and Austin’s variable weather conditions.
The two DRS zones used at last year's event have been retained, with the first being along the backstretch between turns 11 and 12, and the second on the start-finish straight.
Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen will act as the FIA’s driver steward for the event.
US Grand Prix facts and stats
- Circuit length: 5.513 km
- Turns: 20
- Direction: Anticlockwise
- Race laps: 56
- First Grand Prix (Austin): 2012
- Lap record: 1:39.347 (Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 2012)
- Lowest starting position for a winner: P2 (Lewis Hamilton - 2012, 2014)
- Wins from pole: 1 (Sebastian Vettel - 2013)
- Most US wins (driver): Michael Schumacher (5)
- Most US wins (constructor): Ferrari (9)
- 2014 Qualifying: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
- 2014 Race: 1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), 2. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), 3. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)
Timetable (GMT -5):
Friday 23 October
- Practice One: 10:00 – 11:30
- Practice Two: 14:00 – 15:30
Saturday 24 October
- Practice Three: 10:00 – 11:00
- Qualifying: 13:00 (60 minutes)
Sunday 25 October
- Race: 13:00 (56 laps or two hours)