F1 2018: USA Grand Prix Track Guide
Formula 1 and the USA have always had a rocky relationship, but since it arrived in Texas in 2012 it has become a favourite of fans.
The first USA Grand Prix was held in 1908 in Savannah, Georgia. It came back in 1910 and was held six times that decade before disappearing for over 40 years. It returned in 1958 but disappeared again after the 1980 season. There were then three races in Phoenix from 1989 to 1991 but it was off the calendar until it moved to Indianapolis in 2000. After a disastrous race in which only 6 teams started in 2005 USA once again fell out of love with F1 and waved goodbye after the 2007 season.
In 2012, F1 returned to America at a new circuit in Texas, the Circuit of The Americas (COTA). The 5.5km track has already seen some good racing, even if it has been dominated by Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton. With 20 corners, including some borrowed from other tracks, COTA is a terrific, flowing, circuit that includes a massive back straight with a tricky elevation change into turn 1. There are several tough corners around this track, but there are also plenty of overtaking opportunities if you are patient enough through the single-line sections.
The track is pretty flat, but not at turn 1. There is a late climb up to the corner and then an immediate drop off on exit. This shortens the braking distance significantly, which would normally hurt the chance to make a pass. Fortunately, you get DRS down the pit straight and the entry to turn 1 is extremely wide, giving you plenty of angles to make a pass. The inside is preferable but if your opponent goes defensive then you can make a move around the outside with little difficulty.
The long back straight has a slow entry corner, meaning a good exit can have you on the gearbox of someone in a flash. With DRS added in it is easy to get along side an opponent nice and early so you can position yourself on the inside for a move into the slow left-hander. This is one of the best overtaking places in all of F1 2018. You do need to guard against a switchback attempt, but you’ll have the inside line for the next corner if you execute this move correctly.
These are the best two overtaking spots of the lap, but it is possible to get a move done into turn 11 and if you have a big advantage in tyres you can even make a sweeping move around the sweeping 16,17, & 18 corners. There are plenty of tough and challenging corners here too that will cost you time if you get wrong.
Turn 7, 8, 9
The esses at this circuit are longer than even those in Japan. The first part of them are fairly simple but at turn 7 it tightens and slows. You can’t let the car drift out on the exit of turn 7 as you need to line the car up for entry to 8. This is vital and you will cut as much of turn 9 as you can and get the power down quickly to run through to turn 11. It is very easy to lose time here by getting too deep into some of these corners and ruining your line.
Turn 15 is a tricky left that is much tighter and slower than you would think. It is easy to lose the back end on exit and completely miss the apex by turning in too early and too late. You can take too much of the inside kerb and just spin out as you get on the power, but wait too late and you’ll end up over the track limits and be extremely slow into turn 16.
The final corner is another that is a lot tighter than you’d think. With the start/finish line very close to the exit of turn 20 it won’t ruin your qualifying if you get a bit deep into this corner, but during the race you will be horribly vulnerable into turn 1 if you get this corner wrong. You need to take this corner a lot slower than you think in order to get a good exit and run down the pit straight.
The USA Grand Prix requires a very delicate setup. You need a lot of straight line speed to keep pace here, but your suspension setup should be kind enough that your tyres will last. There are several punishing corners here and if you are to have good race pace you need to look after your rubber. You can see our setup here, but remember that your own driving style, controller setup, and level of assists means you may need to make a few tweaks.