The last time Formula One held a United States Grand Prix was back in 2007 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Lewis Hamilton won his second Grand Prix; Fernando Alonso had got very angry at McLaren and a German teenager survived a grassy excursion at the first corner to pick up eighth place. F1 returns to the USA for the first time in five years and that mop-haired German could be about to win his third world title at his one hundredth grand prix. But firstly, he has to significantly beat Alonso.
Formula One has had a chequered history in the United States. Despite sometimes running two races per season in the country, the sport has yet to find a permanent venue that has seen success. Watkins Glen hosted races in the 1970s, with races at Long Beach and Las Vegas (in a car park) also proving short lived. F1 returned to the USA in Indianapolis in 2000, with a newly built infield circuit being joined together by the famous oval. However, the defining shot of Indianapolis’s involvement with Formula One is of the six car grid in 2005 when the Michelin shod runners pulled out after the formation lap. It was a humiliating moment for the sport. Seven years after that debacle, Formula One could finally have a circuit in the USA to be proud of.
The circuit looks to be one of the best new tracks for several seasons. The pit straight features a long climb uphill to Turn One, before dropping down through a fast turn two and into a sequence of corners like the Maggotts/Becketts complex at Silverstone. Like most new circuits, COTA features a long back straight, which opens up into potentially the best overtaking spot on the track down into Turn 12. Turns 16-17-18 features a reverse of Istanbul Park’s famous Turn 8 complex, which leads onto a couple of left handers and another lap.
What might happen?
Quite a lot might happen because of the unknown nature of the circuit but Pirelli has gone conservative in their tyre choice, meaning that a one stop strategy is probable. The layout of the circuit also appears to be prime Red Bull territory, meaning it could be up to Alonso to drag his F2012 as high up on the grid as possible as the car is always better on a Sunday. Turn One could claim a few victims as it widens at the apex, meaning drivers will be tempted to try a move that otherwise could be optimistic. In terms of the championship, Vettel needs to score fifteen more points than Alonso to leave Austin as a triple world champion.