America’s relationship with Formula 1 has always been a bit strained, but since the Texas track arrived on the scene things have picked up for F1 & the USA.
Motorsport is popular in the US, but F1’s technical prowess and complicated nature, together with a lack of American driver success and the global nature of the sport, has meant it never picked up much of a fanbase.
The USA first hosted a Formula 1 championship race in 1959 at Sebring, before moving to Riverside and then Watkins Glen for the next 20 years before it would drop off the calendar in 1981.
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The USA Grand Prix would return to a track in Phoenix for three years in 1989 but would again vanish before Indianapolis cropped up as a host in 2000. However, tyre safety issues caused a calamitous race in 2005 in which just six cars competed, with Ferrari running away with a win that soured the audience to the sport once more.
Indianapolis would disappear after the 2007 season, before a brand new circuit, the Circuit of The Americas, was unveiled in Austin, Texas and has played host to good races since 2012.
This track features a long back straight, a tricky esses section, and some massive elevation changes too, meaning this circuit requires a unique setup to truly maximise performance.
There is a desire to strip all the aerodynamics off the setup for this track due to the massive back straight, but you simply can’t carry the necessary speed for the rest of the lap if you do that.
Instead you need to keep a solid balance of aerodynamic performance to keep the car stable and predictable through the 20 corners on this lap.
We have gone with a 5-6 aerodynamic setting. This keeps the car stable and responsive through the esses and the tighter back sector, while not dragging too much down the back straight.
So many corners create more acceleration points and traction points, which stresses the rear tyres.
We can protect them with our transmission settings, which describes how power is transferred from the engine to the rear wheels.
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We have gone with a 65% on-throttle differential setting. This allows the rears to rotate at different speeds when your foot is down, which helps protect them when we are powering through the long right-hander of turn 17/18 as well as pushing through the esses.
The 85% off-throttle differential causes the tyres to drag a little less when cornering, but also keeps them rotating close enough that the car isn’t unstable when you put your foot down.
Tyre wear isn’t much of a problem for this race. It is impossible to make it a 1-stop, which means you can push a bit more and 2-stop comfortably.
As a result we can use the suspension geometry to extract a lot of performance out of the tyres. The front camber is set to -2.50 with the rears at almost the maximum of -1.10.
Front toe is set to 0.06 to keep the front a little more responsive on turn-in, while the rear toe of 0.26 helps to keep the car stable when you get the power down.
The suspension settings are vital to a fast setup. You have to take a fair bit of kerb to take the optimum line throughout the lap, so soft suspension is very helpful. We have put a 1-1 suspension setting on this to help weight move rearward for added traction and keep the tyres protected.
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Anti-roll bars are stiffened slightly to 6-7 to allow the car to flick through the esses while it can also take the longer corners of the latter half of the lap without damaging the tyres too much.
Ride height is set to 3-4 to add some bite to turn-in and make the car a little more slippery down the straight.
While getting the anchors down for turn 1 and the overtaking chance at the end of the back straight, you do have to squeeze slightly at different points of the lap so we can’t max out the brake pressure. As a result we have gone with a 88% setting.
Brake bias is set to 54% as it keeps the front responsive when flying through the esses, you can push this further forward to add to your stopping power later in the lap if you need to make a lunge.
The tyres pressures are one of the best weapons you have to handle tyre wear without taking away too much performance. We have left the front tyres at 23.0 psi, but if you are particularly kind to your tyres then you can up this to get more performance.
The rears are lowered to 21.1 psi to aid traction and just protect the temperatures given the several big acceleration zones around this lap.
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So that’s our setup for the USA Grand Prix. The lap is challenging and fun in equal amounts, and with enough overtaking chances to make it a thrilling race no matter where you start on the grid. This setup should keep you fast enough down the straight to pass, and fast enough through the rest of the lap to build a lead, chase after the front runners, and push hard for as long as possible.
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