Made up of 11 left and nine right turns, the Circuit of the Americas is 5.516km (3.4 miles) long. It is one of just five current F1 circuits to run anti-clockwise, the others being Singapore, Korea, Abu Dhabi and Brazil. Curiously, all five circuits feature in the final seven-race stretch of the 2012 season.
COTA’s track surface took four months to lay and the third and final layer was completed in late September. The final layer is made up of aggregate from all over Texas. All told, over 640,000 cubic metres of material have been used to construct the track.
Race organisers are billing Turn One as the track’s signature corner. From the start/finish line the track rises 41m (133 feet) before heading into a tight and blind first-gear left-hand turn.
Turns 2 and 3 pay tribute to the Senna ‘S’ at Brazil’s Interlagos, while turns 4-6 have been designed as an homage to the Maggots, Becketts, Chapel complex at Silverstone. Other recognisable elements include a section, from Turns 12-14, reminiscent of Hockenheim’s stadium section and the triple apex stretch through turns 16-18 has been modelled after Istanbul Park’s Turn 8.
The first lap of the finished circuit was completed by legendary US racer Mario Andretti. In his 131-grand prix F1 career, Andretti raced in 11 US Grands Prix, seven races billed as the US GP West and both of the races held in Las Vegas, but recorded just one win on home soil. That was at the the USA West race at Long Beach in 1977 where, driving for Lotus, he finished ahead of Ferrari’s Niki Lauda and Wolf’s Jody Scheckter.
Nine US circuits have previously hosted grands prix: Sebring, Riverside, Watkins Glen, Phoenix, Dallas, Detroit, Las Vegas, Long Beach and most recently Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The last winner of a US Grand Prix was Lewis Hamilton in 2007. Racing for McLaren in his rookie season, Hamilton scored pole position at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the following day took his second career win. His first victory had come a week earlier at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.
That 2007 US GP at Indianapolis was also notable in that, as well as seeing a future world champion win in Hamilton, it handed a race debut to another future title winner, Sebastian Vettel. The German replaced the injured Robert Kubica at the wheel of a BMW Sauber. Aged just 19, Vettel qualified in seventh position and finished eighth, for which he earned one point. In so doing, he became F1’s youngest ever points scorer, a record he still holds.
In recent times Michael Schumacher, due to retire for a second time after next week’s Brazilian GP, has been the most successful driver at the US GP. In the period from 2000-2007, when the race was staged at Indianapolis, Schumacher won five of the eight events (2000 and ’03-’06).