Formula One has made several attempts in past decades to regain a successful foothold in the United States, but it seems to have finally struck gold with the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. And with F1 now under the control of American media giant Liberty Media, it’s likely there will be many more United States Grands Prix to come.
The 2016 race is on this Sunday and serves as round 18 of the Formula One World Championship. The fight for the title is very much alive, albeit with only Mercedes AMG drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg left in contention. Rosberg has the edge, however, since even with Hamilton winning the remaining four races this season, the German can still win the title if he comes second each time.
COTA has been designed specifically with F1 in mind. In particular, it has an eclectic mix of 20 corners, some of them reminiscent of corners from past and present F1 circuits. In addition, there are more fast corners than Spa-Francorchamps and more slow corners than the Hungaroring—a combination that makes this track a huge challenge for both engineers and drivers.
On top of this, there’s the spectacular climb leading to the blind first corner. The start can be interesting because cars lining up on the dirty side of the grid struggle more than at any other circuit to find grip. The surface is also still relatively new (the first race was in 2012), which is another reason for the lack of grip.
Unpredictable weather can also be an issue here. Last year’s United States Grand Prix was memorable for the monsoon-like weather conditions, which led to qualifying being abandoned. Fortunately the conditions are looking good this year, with Sunday’s race predicted to be run under partly cloudy skies and in 86 degrees F (30 degrees C) peak temperature. Teams will rely on Pirelli’s medium, soft and supersoft compounds throughout the weekend.
Going into tomorrow’s qualifying and Sunday’s race, Rosberg leads the 2016 Drivers’ Championship with 313 points. Hamilton is second with 280 points and Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo remains third with 212 points. In the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes has been declared 2016 champions due to its unbeatable 593 points. Red Bull remains in second with 385 points and Ferrari [NYSE:RACE] is third with 335 points. Last year’s winner in Austin was Hamilton.