Race starts in Texas at 2 pm Sunday/3 am Monday in Malaysia
After three rounds in Asia, the 2017 Formula One World Championship has moved to the other side of the world, to the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Texas for the United States Grand Prix. This will be the 39th F1 race ever held in the USA and the sixth to be held at the COTA. F1 rounds have also been held at Sebring (1959), Riverside (1960), Watkins Glen (1961-80), Phoenix (1989-1991), and at Indianapolis (2000 – 2007).
Since its debut in 2012, COTA has earned a reputation as one of the calendar’s most challenging and exciting circuits. The opening sector begins with a steep, uphill run to the blind Turn 1, a corner rich in possible lines and overtaking opportunities. A good exit from this key corner is crucial for making the most of the high-speed section that follows. Reminiscent of Silverstone’s Maggots-Becketts-Chapel complex or Suzuka’s Esses, the stretch from Turn 3 to Turn 9 rewards a well-balanced car capable of making the swift changes of direction as efficiently as possible.
Thereafter, the second sector, featuring a long straight ending in the heavy-braking overtaking opportunity of Turn 12, accents power, while the slower corners of the final sector provide a more technical challenge. Finding a set up that meets the demands of the three very different sectors makes COTA as challenging for those in the garages as for the drivers on track.
This Sunday in Texas, championship leader Lewis Hamilton – who starts the race from pole position – has the chance to wrap up a fourth world Driver’s title. Victory in Japan handed the Mercedes-AMG man a 59-point lead over chief rival Sebastian Vettel, with a maximum 100 points available from the final 4 rounds. Thus, should Hamilton outscore the Ferrari driver by 16 points here he will open an unbeatable lead in the Drivers’ Championship, as he also has 8 wins to Vettel’s four.
A win for Hamilton would mean Vettel would need to finish fifth or better to keep the title fight alive. Should the British driver finish second, he will be champion if his Ferrari rival finishes ninth or lower.
Hamilton’s team, meanwhile, can claim a fourth consecutive Constructors’ Championship title this weekend. However, despite recent woes, Ferrari have since the summer break often been a match for the champions on race pace, so though Hamilton is something of a dominant force at COTA, with 4 wins from 5 races here, nothing can be taken for granted.
Looking back, Ferrari has been the most successful team at the USGP, with 9 victories. However, if you count just the victories at COTA, then the most successful team would be Mercedes-AMG with 3 wins, collected by Hamilton over the last 3 years.
Brendon Hartley makes his F1 debut this weekend for Toro Rosso. The 27-year old will be the first New Zealander to race in Formula One since Mike Thackwell at the 1984 Canadian Grand Prix. A World Endurance Championship (WEC) winner in 2015, a winner of this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, and also the current WEC series leader as one third of the crew of the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid, Hartley has also driven F1 machinery before. A former Red Bull Junior, he tested for Red Bull Racing at Jerez in 2008, for Toro Rosso on two days at the same circuit the following December, and most recently, he tested a Mercedes W03 in 2012 at Magny Cours.