Formula 1 has had a difficult relationship with the USA. The self-proclaimed 'land of the free' has run into many difficulties over where to hold its race, culminating in what many believe to be the worst F1 showing ever at Indianapolis in 2005. The popularity and accessibility of other racing series like IndyCar or NASCAR in the States have given them a big advantage over Formula 1 in the eyes of the public, the latter being seen as too elitist and secretive by comparison.
However, the tide appears to be turning, with the United States Grand Prix receiving support from popstars such as Taylor Swift last year, and its calendar position even allowed it to stage the championship decider for Lewis Hamilton in 2015, where he took the win from teammate Nico Rosberg, the German slipping up from wheel spin late in the race.
This year, Lewis Hamilton could once again seal the championship title at the American track. The Briton has only lost the US GP once (in 2013 to Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull) since he joined F1 in 2007, winning F1's last race at Indy, and four of the five races held at Austin's Circuit of The Americas.
The Texas track features several corners that are direct copies of other circuits; The Maggots-Becketts complex from Silverstone inspires the first sector, and corners from Hockenheim and Istanbul feature in the final sector. The track is also famous for the steep climb to turn one, producing some exciting shots, particularly at the start of the race when all 20 cars will be pushing to overtake each other and get some clear air for the opening laps.
The Circuit of The Americas is a track that is typical of modern Formula 1: 5.5km in length, and dominated by a big straight (In this case, between turns 11 and 12) where most of the overtakes will happen. This is where the bulk of the action has occurred in previous races, with the DRS zone giving drivers their best chance to attack down into turn 12.
The other DRS zone is up the hill to turn one where drivers often use the wide entry to their advantage and try for the overtake there. This is a more spectacular move, but has resulted in plenty of raised fists and even a few broken front wings in previous years. People in the grandstand seats there often get treated to a good show, and shouldn't expect anything less this year with the increased grip of the 2017 machines.
Pirelli have brought their 3 softest compounds in Texas this weekend, with the ultrasoft tyre branded pink in support of breast cancer charities.
Last year's race was a 2-stopper for the podium finishers, and it looks to be a similar story for the 2017 running. However, the threat of rain might favour those who have ordered a few more of the supersoft tyres, meaning they can go much longer in their stints, whilst the ultrasofts may lose grip and need to be replaced before the rain falls.
With all the top 6 drivers taking the same amount of ultrasofts, expect little variation in practice and qualifying strategy. Further down, Williams' choice to fill up on the ultrasofts along with McLaren stands out as the big shock. Wait for Sunday's race to see how it plays out for two teams desperate for good results.
(As previously reported, Brendon Hartley will race in place of Pierre Gasly, and will be using his tyre allocations as indicated above)