It’s been five years since Formula One last raced in the USA but for the 19th and penultimate round of the 2012 season the series is returning to America this weekend for the US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.
The new Circuit of the Americas is a purpose-built 5.516km (3.4 mile), 20-turn, F1 standard facility located 15 miles outside downtown Austin and promises to provide teams with some interesting challenges, and spectators with some thrilling racing.
Chief among the challenges is, of course, the fact that no team has yet turned a wheel in anger here. Former F1 driver David Coulthard drove a Red Bull Racing showcar here when circuit construction had just begun and more recently Lotus test driver Jérôme D’Ambrosio piloted a 2010 Renault R30 on opening day at the track, but beyond those very different laps teams will only have simulator data upon which to base their weekend preparations.
That should make Friday’s free practice sessions labour-intensive workouts for the teams, though again it will present a challenge as the new track will undoubtedly be largely free of grip in the early stages of the weekend.
It means that the unknown of Austin represents the perfect wildcard for a championship that has become increasingly hard to call in recent weeks. After a dramatic race in Abu Dhabi, defending champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing leads Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso by just 10 points, with a maximum of 50 on the table over the final two rounds. Kimi Raikkonen’s win in the UAE was a spectacular feat in his comeback year but even with that victory the Finn is now out of the title fight.
So it comes down to a head-to-head battle between the famous red of Ferrari and the blue of Red Bull Racing. And after recent events in the US, locals will know just how intense red versus blue showdowns can be!
CIRCUIT OF THE AMERICAS
Length of lap:
None as yet
Start line/finish line offset:
Not yet available
Total number of race laps:
56 Total race distance:
Pitlane speed limits:
60km/h during practice and qualifying, 100km/h during the race
The Circuit of the Americas will feature a single DRS Zone, on the back straight, between Turns 11 and 12. The activation zone is likely to be approximately 650m before Turn 12.