F1 returned to America in 2012 at a new track, the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. Since then the track has been a firm favourite among fans of F1 games thanks to its smooth surface, fast corners, and forgiving run off zones. The first sector is all sweeping curves. Similar but less brutal than in Suzuka, while the second has a long straight leading into some tyre-punishing corners and the long double-right hander of turn 17 and 18. There are a lot of different ways to attack this track, but how should you set your car up to maximise your overall pace?
It is tough to balance your aerodynamic needs in the USA Grand Prix. The lengthy back straight as well as the pit straight lend itself to a low-drag setup, but the esses at the start of the lap together with the longer corners in the final sector demand downforce to keep the car glued to the track.
As a result, we find a balance at 4-5. This keeps drag low but does give us just enough rear downforce to keep the car stable through the esses double-right hander at the end of the lap.
Traction is vital for the Circuit of The Americas, but tyre life is also marginal so we cannot abuse the rears or else we will just slide off the track far too easily. An 80 percent on throttle differential gives us solid traction but also does not ruin the rear tyres too much. The off throttle differential is left at 75 percent to allow the tyres to rotate a little more freely when we brake and turn, which again helps save some tyre life.
This part of the setup describes how the tyres are aligned with the body of the car. Camber is their vertical alignment, and all F1 cars are set with negative camber, meaning the top of the tyre is closer to the car than the bottom. This provides more cornering grip at the cost of tyre life and straight line speed.
While we want cornering grip for those esses early on, we need more straight line speed and tyre life for later in the lap than we do ultimate grip at the start. We have removed a little off the camber to help in this.
Toe describes the horizontal alignment. Front tyres have the leading edge further away from the car than the rear, while the rear tyres have the inverse. This toe out on the front tyres improve turn in response, again at the cost of tyre wear. We need a responsive front end to get into the corners well, especially the slow, tight ones at either end of the long straight, but we want tyre life again, and so we have left the front toe alone. We have added a touch of rear toe to make the back end a little more stable under acceleration which helps entry into the two straights.
Finding a good suspension balance is key around this track. We need to weigh up responsiveness and change of direction against tyre wear. A 6-4 suspension setting allows weight to shift rearward under acceleration, to aid traction, while keeping the front end stable and responsive under braking but not punishing the tyres too much.
The 7-5 anti-roll bar setting makes lateral weight shift harder than forward and rearward, making it more stable under quick changes of direction, giving us some extra performance in the first sector without completely destroying the tyres for later in the lap or the rest of the lap and stint.
Finally, the ride height is set to 4-4. You could take it lower thanks to the smooth surface, but there are more than a few occasions where you will want to use the kerbs, especially when trying overtakes, and a 3-3 setting will make it very uncomfortable over the kerbs.
Stopping into turn 1 and turn 12 is vital for defending and getting passes done, but there are more than a few tricky braking points around the lap that can bite if you have the brake pressure too high. The need to slow through the esses also makes high pressures tricky, so we are going with an 85 percent setting to not lock up to frequently.
Brake bias is set to 58 percent to just help save the front tyres a little as well as create some oversteer to put the nose into the corners a little better.
This is where we use up some of the tyre life we have saved by upping the front tyre pressure to 23.4psi. This makes the front more responsive on turn in and reduces some rolling resistance, but the smaller contact patch does increase the temperature.
The rears we leave alone. We'd like better traction, but it would come at the cost of rear responsiveness and a big offset in tyre pressure between front and rear can cause wear issues deep into a stint so we aren't going to change them.
Weight ballast is moved to 7 to give us a little more traction and again create a touch of oversteer to help us get into the corners.
So there is our setup for the USA Grand Prix. It is well balanced between the twisty first and third sectors and giving us speed down the straights. There is more time to be found in each sector with changes, but it will come at the cost of tyre life and time elsewhere in the lap. This setup lets you run a one-stop race and also qualify well. See you on the time sheets!
USA Grand Prix Wet Lap Setup
Front Wing: 4
Rear Wing: 9
On Throttle: 65%
Off Throttle: 100%
Front Camber: -2.50
Rear Camber: -1.00
Front Toe: 0.05
Rear Toe: 0.20
Front Suspension: 6
Rear Suspension: 5
Front Anti-Roll Bar: 7
Rear Anti-Roll Bar: 5
Front Ride Height: 4
Rear Ride Height: 5
Brake Pressure: 90%
Front Brake Bias: 54%
Front Tyre Pressure: 22.6 psi
Rear Tyre Pressure: 20.7 psi