Formula 1 and the United States have a rocky history to say the least. F1 Grands Prix have been hosted at classic venues such as Watkins Glen and Long Beach, but have also taken place at some of the worst circuits in the sport’s time, such as Dallas and Caesar’s Palace. However, despite this, F1 has a foothold in the USA thanks to Austin’s Circuit of The Americas.
The Texan track has hosted the USGP since it was created in 2012 and the layout of the circuit has remained the same ever since. Lewis Hamilton has dominated the event, winning six of the eight times that Formula 1 came to town.
Designed by Hermann Tilke, COTA has already played host to some classic races and has become a very well attended event. You can really push the 2019 cars to their limits around here, but you have to be careful as track limits are strictly enforced throughout.
Turns 1 & 2
Turn 1 is one of the more spectacular-looking corners on the circuit, but the uphill left-hander is a relatively simple one to round.
As this follows a DRS straight, it’s one of the main overtaking spots on the track. Although the braking zone is relatively short, the fact that it’s so wide gives you the opportunity to go down the inside or around the outside of your opponent to make a pass.
You’ll be arriving at 195 mph (312 kph) and need to begin braking at around 75m down to second gear and kiss the inside kerbing. You can get away with quite big cuts of the corner, but this unsettles the car somewhat. However, this is preferable to going wide on exit, as there’s very little grip on the outside run-off.
In the race, beware of drivers feeding back onto the track from the left, as the pit exit goes directly into the apex of the corner. The second corner is a flat-out bend to the right which won’t give you any trouble but don’t touch the inside kerbing, it will cost you time.
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Hermann Tilke was clearly trying to emulate Silverstone’s Maggots-Beckets-Chapel complex with these turns, and he succeeded in producing a difficult complex to get through. You’ll be in seventh gear for Turn 3, but you take it flat out with a slight turn on the steering wheel to the left, cutting the inside kerbing with the whole front-left wheel.
You can take Turn 4 flat, but it will make the rear end snake around through 5. At best, you’ll wear your rear tyres out, and at worst, you’ll spin out onto the stars and stripes. You lift in T4 and 5, staying in seventh gear and cutting around a wheel’s width of the kerbs each time, but no more, as you’ll get a penalty for taking too much.
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You need to trail brake down to sixth for Turn 6 and you can take a surprising amount of inside kerb, as long as some of the car remains on the track, you won’t get any sort of penalty. Squirt on the throttle before lifting again for Turn 7 and powering up to Turn 8.
T8 needs you to get down to fourth gear, and you don’t need to hit the apex, as a wider line sets you up better for Turn 9, the final corner of this complex. You need to be brave and use all the front wing you’ve got for 9, you can power through without lifting or taking too much kerb, doing so is difficult, but it is possible.
Turns 10 & 11
Turn 10 is another kink that’s flat out, but it’s narrow, so you need to make sure you use the right line to get through. For Turn 11, brake at the 100m board down into second gear, and run over the red and white striped inside kerb, but avoid the bollard on the inside.
Because of the low speed, traction is hard out of the corner, but you need the back end planted as the longest and fastest straight on the circuit follows it. Avoid the outside exit kerbs like the plague too, there’s little grip out there.
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Turn 12 is the main overtaking point on the circuit, the straight that precedes it is so long that you’ll usually be completely past before the braking zone, but beware of your opponent picking up a slipstream off you.
You’ll be arriving into the braking zone at 205 mph (328 kph) and need to slow to second gear beginning just after the 100m board. Clip the inside kerbing and be careful on the throttle for the exit, the rear end loves to get away from you. Completely avoid the exit kerbing and swing the car back to the left for Turn 13.
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Turns 13 & 14
You need to treat Turns 13 and 14 as one long right-hander, and its difficulty isn’t to be underestimated. A braking marker is hard to find here, you need to get on the quiet pedal just after you shift up to fifth gear and decelerate to third, using a little kerb on entry and none on exit.
Lock-ups are common here and be careful on throttle application on exit, it’s like ice between these corners and Turn 15. It’s very easy to run wide on exit, too, as the corner tightens on exit.
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Turns 15 & 16
Turns 15 and 16 are another pair of corners you have to treat as one turn. There is no braking marker here, I usually get on the anchors when topping out fifth gear and slow to second gear. This is the most common place to lock up, the front right just doesn’t want to rotate. A small under rotation is fine, though, as long as you hit the apex, you’re golden.
You can take a lot of kerb on entry, just avoid the bollard on the inside and you’ll avoid a penalty. It’s important to run over the kerb too, as the tighter line you can take, the better, because the racing line for Turn 17 is on the left.
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Reminiscent of Istanbul Park’s famous Turn 8, Turn 18 and 19 at COTA is thrilling and when your tyres are worn down, scary, The front left takes a hammering through this corner, but with this generation of cars, you need to go through it without lifting.
You need to get all the way to the left side of the track for the best angle to turn in from, and crank the right lock on just before the shadow from the Rolex hoarding is. Gently add more and more lock on as you go round and clip the three apexes of the corners.
Don’t release the steering after Turn 18, as you need to be on the right side of the track for Turn 19. You need to dab on the brakes and slow to sixth gear for the penultimate corner, running the car over the green run-off on the right for the best angle of attack. Doing this avoids all of the kerbs, which is fastest, but if you have to, use some kerb on the apex, as running wide on exit can land you a penalty.
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The final corner one is another tricky one, partly because there are no brake marker boards. Decelerate when you top out sixth gear down to third gear and run the front-left tyre over the inside kerbing, as usual, you need to avoid the exit kerb. Get the car straightened out fast, too, as the DRS activation line follows quickly after the corner.
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You need downforce around here because of the first sector and the higher speed corners towards the end. 6 wing angle on the front and 7 on the rear is the minimum you can get away with while making sure the rear end of the car is planted.
The standard 75% on-throttle transmission and 100% for off-throttle applications is best around this track, especially since tyre wear isn’t much of an issue. As such, the toe and camber angle can be towards the low side, a 1-stop is possible, especially if you start on the mediums.
The suspension springs must be soft, as you’ll be using the kerbs a lot around here, 3/3 usually does the trick. There are a lot of fast direction changes here, so the anti-roll bar has to be on the soft side at 3/4. The ride height needs to be low, 4 on the front and rear, mainly to aid straight line speed thanks to the high-ish downforce you need around here.
Brake pressure needs to be on the low side here, as there aren’t many big stops and lock-ups are common. 84% is about the highest you can get away with, while brake bias should be at 56% to the front. Tyre wear is low here, so you can have slightly higher pressures on the rear axle, 23.4 psi on the front and 21.5 psi on the rear.
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