Race starts at 1:10 pm Texas time/2:10 am (Monday) Malaysian time

This weekend, the 2018 Formula One World Championship is at one of the few venues in the western hemisphere with teams and drivers gathered at to Austin, Texas, and the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) for the 2018 F1 United States Grand Prix. Despite being a relatively new addition to the F1 calendar, with the circuit making its debut in 2012, COTA has already made a name for itself as a track capable of showing off F1 cars at their best.

Similar to the Esses of Suzuka at the previous race, it features a first sector with high-speed changes of direction as the cars run counter-clockwise. But the 5.5-km long COTA is a more balanced layout than Suzuka: while the latter features only two low-speed sections, the whole of the second half of the lap at COTA is built around a series of medium and low-speed corners (20 in all). It is this characteristic that prompts the tyre supplier to move to softer tyres for the US GP, bringing the soft, supersoft and ultrasoft compounds to Texas.

While COTA has a predominantly smooth surface, in the last few years the track has settled and now features several prominent bumps, some of which are located in braking zones and have the ability to unsettle a car. This gives engineers and drivers something to ponder. The softer their car, the easier it will ride the bumps, but at the cost of lost performance through the corners. The circuit owners have attempted to grind down some of the undulations and, in doing so last year, produced some interesting variations in the grip level.

The Championship battles are nearing their conclusion. Lewis Hamilton needs to outscore Sebastian Vettel by 7 points to secure the Drivers’ Championship again. Mercedes-AMG scored a second consecutive 1-2 finish in Japan, giving the team a very useful 78-point lead over Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship. A similar result in Austin this weekend would put them on the brink of a fifth consecutive title.

The US GP has been around since 1959 but it has not been a regular inclusion in the F1 calendar. It has been held at different circuits over the years and this year is the 40th running, and the seventh consecutive time at COTA.

There have also been several other F1 GPs held in the USA. The US Grand Prix West ran at Long Beach in California between 1976 and 1983 and then there was a GP in the giant carpark of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The Detroit Grand Prix ran between 1982 and 1988, and even Dallas hosted a one-off GP in 1984. Between 1950 and 1960, the Indianapolis 500 was also officially included as a round in the F1 World Championship.

[Chips Yap]

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