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Exclusive: Onboard lap of new US Grand Prix circuit, Austin Texas
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Posted By: James Allen  |  27 Aug 2012   |  7:52 am GMT  |  95 comments

This is something a bit special, a chance to see what the cars will look like as they drive the new Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

The circuit is still under construction, ahead of its inaugural Grand Prix on November 18th, but we’ve got together with official F1 game developer Codemasters to drive this lap. It is driven on the final launch version of the F1 2012 game, by Codemasters Creative Director Stephen Hood, with comments from him and from JA.

The track is 5.51km (3.42 miles) and features 20 corners. Designed by Hermann Tilke it has a bit of everything, including plenty of high speed corners and has several parts very reminiscent of the Istanbul track in Turkey, albeit without quite as much elevation change. Like Istanbul is anti-clockwise and the lap length is similar, just 200 metres longer.

The opening part of the lap also features a series of corners like Maggotts/Becketts at Silverstone and there is a hairpin leading onto a long back straight, leading to another tight corner, similar to Abu Dhabi. This is where the DRS zone should be, so there should be plenty of overtaking.

Track map: FIA

Final paving is underway at the circuit, which is due to be inspected by the FIA’s Charlie Whiting on September 25th, ahead of the scheduled race date.

What do you think of the track? Leave your comments below.

*You can hear more about Codemasters new F1 2012 game, including an interview with Creative Director Stephen Hood, in the next edition of the JA on F1 podcast next week.

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95 Comments
  1. daphne says:

    This is very interesting – up until now, by not paying close enough attention to the photos released, I supposed the circuit ran clockwise.
    From the photos, at least, the hill at the end of the start finish straight seems awfully steep – a bit of a hill climb in fact. It looks like an engine-breaker.
    How will the teams manage this new obstacle with regards to engine overheating, especially under the Texas heat and climatic conditions?

    1. Wayne says:

      Great article, James, thank you.

    2. Matt RG says:

      Central Texas in mid November can go either way, chilly to fairly warm. Very unlikely to see temps or conditions like a Malaysia so should be fine, will be more like one of the mid season european races

    3. Tim Wood (@austin_f1) says:

      Daphne, you’re correct, the hill to turn 1 is quite steep and will test engines. However, while high Texas temperatures are possible in November, they’re no more likely than very cold weather. November is very pleasant in Austin, with highs usually in the mid 70s (F).

    4. Paul Kirk says:

      Full throttle is full throttle! Doesn’t matter if you’re going up a slope or going along a flat, the engine is under load subject to how much power/torque/RPM it can deliver! In fact going up a slope might be easier on the engine due to the fact it may not achieve the revs it might achieve on a flat, thereby not subject to the inertia loadings of higher rpms!
      Daphne, are you a crossdresser, a female, or a guy with a female’s name? Respectfully of course!
      PK.

    5. Spyros says:

      It’s unlikely that the hill will affect engines negatively, since it is more or less a braking zone. It is interesting in that it makes the turn blind, making it a bit harder for drivers to pick an alternative line when trying to overtake.

      I hope it’s every bit as good in real life as it seems.

  2. Steve Arnott says:

    Looks like a good circuit. Lots of interesting corners with a good flow. I like it!

    Incidentally, Codemasters really are excelling themselves with the F1 game series. I know it’s not all about graphics, either, but some of those shots could be mistaken for live video. Amazing.

    1. Sebee says:

      It does look crisp.

      But I have this strange feeling that CGI Alonso’s F2012 lap time would be beaten by CGI Vettel’s F2012 lap time. :-)

  3. goferet says:

    Ha, it’s just perfect that this race was moved over to the end of the season especially seeing as the 2012 motor combat is likely to go down to the wire.

    Maybe, just maybe, a couple of championship contenders may fall at the handle of a brand new track more so, one looking as promising as this.

    Anyway, that first corner is looking very enticing to the hot headed but lets wait and see how the track favours the racing action but am optimist for isn’t it true that anti-clockwise tracks tend to end up being classics e.g. Interlagos & Istanbul, maybe Abu-Dhabi being the exception because it was built on a desert which are known to be flat.

    Gosh, I now wanna see the boys get up there already and tear up this track.

    Thanks to the US organisers who stood up to Bernie and made sure this race happened.

    *Fun Fact*

    Alonso doesn’t go too well in the Americans i.e.

    Never won the US Gp, Brazil Gp and has a horrid record at the Canadian Gp.

    Likewise Vettel hasn’t had a win in North America too, however Sebi has a pretty good record at new venues especially is he happens to find himself starting from pole.

    1. GT_Racer says:

      “Alonso doesn’t go too well in the Americans i.e.

      Never won the US Gp, Brazil Gp and has a horrid record at the Canadian Gp.”

      However he did win both his world championships at the Brazilian Gp ;)

    2. Trent says:

      That’s not Alonso…wrong helmet!

      1. Optimaximal says:

        It’s probably a custom helmet.

  4. Rachel says:

    Looks pretty good. I’ll be sitting at T12, so should hopefully see some action at that tight turn :-)

    1. Trent says:

      Would love to see the corners named – it’s a shame that they can’t think of anything more evocative than ‘T12′.

      I’m disappointed this wonderful tradition seems to have been abandoned. Eau Rouge wouldn’t be quite the same if it was called just called Turn 2, would it?

      1. Rachel says:

        Agree, naming the turns would be great. As I think it’s not built in an area with lots of existing names, they’d have to be made up!

      2. Wu says:

        Takes a while for turns to be named I guess. I mean they can always fill the names with corporate sponsors or drivers’ names, but I find that even more shallow than the “Turn 12″.

        Perhaps Rachel can come up with a name for it while cars are running past her there?

      3. Tim Wood (@austin_f1) says:

        I’ve already named the back straight the “Longhorn Straight”.

        You’re welcome. ;)

      4. Trent says:

        Very true, sponsored turn names smack of crass commercialism (of course that has no place in F1!) and so I don’t think the names really stick.

        Driver names are OK, but you end up with a whole bunch of similar names on different tracks (eg ‘Senna Ess’) thus there is no sense of it being unique.

        I think the best bet is to name after proximity to local place areas and geography, as it is distinctive and injects a sense of place. A browse of the map reveals some interesting names like Wyldwood, Garfield and San Leanna, so I reckon that’s a good start.

      5. PZ says:

        How ’bout naming Turn 1 after Phil Hill (hill, get it?) followed by the Andretti Esses? ;)

      6. Paul Kirk says:

        I agree! Even here in NZ the circuit owners or promoters sell most of the corners to sponsors/buisinesses/companies as a means of improving income so I don’t understand why all the tracks don’t do it! I think the terms “turn 3, turn 8, etc., must indicate that it is hard to get people to associate their name/business with the track/motorsport, and in any case American circuits have used those terms for decades, I seem to remember all the other tracks outside America had names to their corners in the old days!
        PK.

      7. Elie says:

        How about Armstrong in honor of the great astronaut recently passed.

      8. Baktru says:

        I read Armstrong and thought of doped up Lance… Maybe not a good idea.

      9. Elie says:

        Lol Baktru – perhaps give it the full name Neil Armstrong ‘

      10. PZ says:

        Don’t forget, there’s a cyclist with the same last name from Austin. ;)

      11. Philadelphia says:

        Great point. For Austin, it would be great to see the corners named for past American greats. Mario Corner, Shelby Curves, Breedlove Straight… and, Turn One? Simply, Phill Hill.

    2. PG says:

      Ha! me too at T12, cant wait for some action!

  5. David says:

    Nice! One thing that struck me: in the information I’d seen about the circuit in construction (like DC driving an F1 car on the dirt!), I expected there to be much more pronounced changes in elevation.

    Does the video flatten perception? or is the terrain flatter than we had been led to believe?

    1. Tim Wood (@austin_f1) says:

      Yes, the video flattens perception. The elevation changes are striking. Here, check out some photos we took recently:

      https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.512664435414773.129803.157330087614878&type=3

      https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.507908509223699.128348.157330087614878&type=3

      1. Daniel MA says:

        Its like everyone says about Eau Rouge, its much steeper in person than in tv

      2. Bill Nuttall says:

        Turn 1 is going to be a bloodbath! Steep uphill, then a blind left at the plateau means the car will go light just as you need it to have maximum grip – I can’t wait :)

      3. William Wilgus says:

        The slope leading into the first turn seems to be excessively steep—even for a normal street. I can’t help thinking that the last photo on the second page of your FaceBook photos was taken with a telephoto lens, which minimizes distance and exaggerate slopes. Am I right?

      4. Tim Wood (@austin_f1) says:

        Ah, I don’t know what kind of lens was used or how much it distorts the grade, but I can tell you from experience that it’s pretty damned steep. Here, check out this video I made driving up Turn 1 earlier in the construction process:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcB3ulaHDbc

    2. William Wilgus says:

      I doubt it. It depends on what ‘video lens focal length’ they used for their simulation. I’m guessing that they used a slight ‘telephoto lens’, which would have the effect of exaggerating the slope by reducing the apparent distances.

  6. Kay says:

    Nice.

    At 1:40, is that new ability added to the game with you adjusting the brake bias or just the game showing stuff that not really possible to do yet but the game does it itself anyway?

    1. Dries says:

      yes, in the new game you’ll be able to adjust brake bias.

  7. Ram says:

    looks like one of the better designs from the Tilke factory … while elevation is sought after to make the track exicting …is it a mandatory requirement ….

    1. Tim Wood (@austin_f1) says:

      Tilke is the architect of record, but Tavo Hellmund and Kevin Schwantz designed the layout of the track. Tilke’s people made the detailed plans.

    2. Nathhulal says:

      while elevation is sought after to make the track exicting …is it a mandatory requirement
      –> Barring circuits like Valencia, Singapore and Abu Dhabi, all of the new circuits (designed by Tilke) have significant, elevation and camber changes. unfortunately the TV doesn’t do enough justice to circuits like Malaysia, China, Bahrain, neither do the commentators covering the races talk about the sections with elevation changes and camber changes. As a result Tilke who designs the circuits per FIA specifications ( to ensure driver, crew and spectator safety), gets slammed for “Tilke Dromes”. The reasons why we don’t have enough racing on three car wide tracks is aerodynamic designs of the car and fans blindly blame Tilke.

      In the years prior to artificially doctored tyre regs, and gimmicks like DRS, KERS, dry weather race on classic tracks like Silverstone and Spa have been processional as well, which is another proof that fans have not been objective about their evaluations of the F1 tracks.

  8. Great video. I have to say that i would not normally go out and buy a game and i don;t even have a console, but this is very tempting now. I may have to get myself an early xmas present!

    1. Tom in adelaide says:

      For a casual gamer i think you’ll have a blast. The game will have “issues” and Codies probably wont fix them, but to be honest you probably won’t notice them!

      The handling and t-cam view look MUCH improved this year.

  9. i really do like this layout and i really look forward to seeing how it races. the morphology is superb and some of those corners are going to test a lot of drivers.

    turn one should be a doozy and the series of flowing bends around the back half seem to me to be like ‘eau rouge x 3’, in a manner of speaking.

    roll on.

  10. Truth or Lies says:

    Thanks again for a nice sneek preview!

    Circuit looks really good and that long straight should suit the Mercedes. Still using F1 2010 on PS3, I guess it’s time to upgrade :)

  11. Andrew Carter says:

    The first half of the lap looks like its going to be something special, with the blind entry to turn 1 and the fast corners after that.

  12. Iain says:

    Great sneak peak JA of the new circuit – thanks for that, and I luv the Summer Break banner photo at the top of your webpage – outstanding!

    Cheers,
    Iain

  13. Elie says:

    Thanks for that James.. Really flowing circuit -got Lotus written all over it.

  14. AussieRod says:

    I think that the idea of copying corners, or sequences of corners, from other ‘classic’ tracks for an entirely new facility is completely the wrong way to design a race track. The fact that this strategy is being employed by the foremost F1 circuit designer in the world is disappointing to say the least.

    Austin Texas should not have recreations of Turkey, Silverstone or Hockenheim Stadium (of which the latter looks to me to be an awkward and poor attempt). It should have corners that are first and foremost particular to it’s own site and topography. Following this, surely all the simulation and software available in the design process could help produce something just a little bit original?

    Even more disheartening is the constant implementation of the Tilke 1-2-3 (slow corner-excessively long straight-hairpin) that F1 fans around the globe are bored to tears with. We’ve seen it in Malaysia, China, Bahrain, Valencia, the Hockenheim refurb, Korea, India, Abu Dhabi and now the US GP.

    It’s a shame F1 circuits nowadays have abandoned originality and continue to produce the ‘tried and tested layouts’ that come from Tilke’s drawing board. Populous did an outstanding job with the new Silverstone layout, surely they would be a good candidate for any potential new venues looking to make they way onto the calendar?

    I hope so.

    1. Anil says:

      Agreed on the hairpin-long straight-hairpin arrangment! Makes overtaking so difficult because the guy infront gets on the throttle SO much earlier, eugh. Spoon curve (Suzuka) onto that big back straight is a great example of how to do it right…The corner after ‘turn 8′ at Turkey is another great example.

      1. Kimi4WDC says:

        Having a longest straight after T1, that would be a show.

      2. brendan says:

        it could be korea, india, or instanbul.

        its bland and predictable.

        singapore is only decent new concept since sepang in terms of new tracks. The rest have been rubbish

    2. Fazzy Binx says:

      I totally agree with this comment. New tracks should not be seeking to replicate corners from classic circuits but should bring their own originality to the table.

      I too (like many it seems) have grown tired of the Tilke factory circuits with corners that appear to have been copied and pasted from previous tracks. It was by playing the F1 games that I noticed how bad this really was. Along with your Tilke 1-2-3 example there is the Tilke large S bend that was loved by the drivers at Malaysia (T5-6) so has been pasted onto Bahrain (T11-12), China (T7-8), Korea (T7-8) and Abu Dhabi (T2-3).

      I must add that I think Malaysia and Singapore have pretty good layouts and that Turkey and especially India are cracking tracks. However, they are still nothing when compared to the classics and of course could never even think about competing with Spa and the nordshleife (Nurburgring)

    3. Chapor says:

      I like that the same corners are at different tracks. Usually the dynamic of the corner is changed since the cars setup will be different at each track, and also the corner preceding it will be different, so the cars will behave differently on the different tracks. Altitude can also make a difference in horse power, so the corner will provide a unique challenge to the driver each time. IMO

  15. Nathan says:

    Turn one reminds me a lot of the first corner at the A1 Ring (except left instead of right). I used to like that track and this looks similar except on steroids.

    1. simon says:

      Agreed was waiting for someone to say that, im thinking it was turn 2 though if i remember, was always quite a messy occasion which has me excited for the Austin GP

  16. SP says:

    Looks good, a sequence of corners with a lot of flow and rhythm. Some sectors reminiscent of Spa and Suzuka. I have a feeling it’ll be a big hit with the drivers!

    1. SP says:

      2/3 passing opportunities too. Not a fan of DRS so I really hope its not too long on that long straight. Being the US though, I guess they’ll lengthen it to put on a show for the fans ;)

  17. Tim Wood (@austin_f1) says:

    Agree re: testing the drivers. The esses will be challenging. T10 will test driver skill and will, and will keep engineers up at night.

  18. Tim Wood (@austin_f1) says:

    It looks like they got it mostly right, but the Main Grandstand isn’t nearly as big as shown in the video. They were originally planned to be as long as the pit building, but now they’re less than half that length. The graphics are amazing. Let’s hope the physics are as good.

  19. Simon Haynes says:

    Give it ten or twenty years and they’ll be able to do away with tracks, drivers and cars, and just show virtual F1. The drivers will all sit in a warehouse in some tax haven.

  20. Jon Wilde says:

    SOLD!

    If my wife wasn’t due to give birth early November we would be there!

    Comments about the elevation and its possible effects on engine reliability are exciting! I wonder how the teams have built the new circuit into their engine and gearbox usage planning for the season?

    3 days till Spa!!!

    10 Days till Monza!

    I can’t wait…..

  21. ronmon says:

    For anyone questioning the amount of elevation change, you might want to check out these photos. There are lots more in that thread, but the guy who shot these really got the angles right.

    http://forums.speedtv.com/threads/1525-Austin-F1-Circuit-Construction-Updates-%28On-Topic-Only%29?p=293558&viewfull=1#post293558

    1. Tim Wood (@austin_f1) says:

      I posted those on the Speed forum and above as well. They were edited by my buddy Vance, who originally posted them on our Facebook page (Facebook.com/FoF1ATX). They were shot by our friend Art Nunes. Yes, he did get the angles right. It’s amazing how many professional racing photographers have shot the place and didn’t manage to show the elevation changes nearly as well.

    2. Tim Wood (@austin_f1) says:

      Oh…hey ronmon.

      - hairy_scotsman

      1. ronmon says:

        Hey Hairy,

        Thought that others should enjoy them too.

      2. Tim Wood (@austin_f1) says:

        Thanks for posting them!

  22. Justin says:

    I feel like the DRS would be better used on the start/finish straight; the back straight is so long it will provide overtaking chances without DRS. Putting it on the start/finish straight could add another spot.

    1. Tim Wood (@austin_f1) says:

      I heard months ago that there would be DRS activation zones on both the back straight and the main straight. We’ll see if that holds.

  23. Petter Vaink says:

    As a Finn (flat landscapes, snow etc.) I don’t see this track suiting Kimi. I can see Grojean, being French/Swiss and more accustomed to the Alpine environment sneaking a beat here. Could be crucial coming in the the last race of the season.

    1. CNSZU says:

      Utter rubbish. Spa is Kimi’s favorite track and it’s flat as a pancake!

    2. Valois says:

      Are you guys serious?

  24. veeru says:

    James,

    went through the memory lane and watched youtube videos of your commentary… we miss that

    Thanks

    1. James Allen says:

      Listen to Radio 5 Live commentary this weekend in Spa then.. me and Alguersuari

      1. Lanza81 says:

        Do they have a live stream over the internet?
        Can we get the link?

        Also when do we get to see your lap around the track?

      2. tom in adelaide says:

        Beeb locks the broadcast down to UK listeners only. It’s disappointing.

    2. dkfone says:

      Agreed! Brought back the memories, as does this. Great commentary! “Mr. Raikkonen”. Must tune in to 5 live this weekend. Many thanks James.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMc8qy6U1o0

  25. Looks very real on the video; but it’s a frightening clone of Tilke’s (lack of) imagination. Shirley, they’ll have a bit of overtaking here and there with a little help from the DRS. The only way it can be seen as positive is the return of the American race, for sure, you know. Plenty of F1 fans out there (in the US) who are tyred of watching this stuff on telly or invading Canada/Brazil for a bit of F1 fun.

    Think F1 folks need a new approach, go back to the roots when people would just show up and build a racing circuit for the sake of doing it and sheer pleasure of experiencing a decent race. Now it’s all social media and useless PR, think imma be sick, if you’ll excuse me.

    1. Rich C says:

      We should just go capture Brazil so we can have Interlagos. And the beaches of Rio, too, come to think of it!

      1. No need to do that: just stage US Grand Prix in Portimão. Will cost less than bulding a proper new circuit. American spectators can me imported, that’s not an issue these days with cheap air travel.

  26. Richard Foster says:

    That first corner has Maldonado accident written all over it!

  27. Mark Z. says:

    For those who doubt that Tilke truly had very little to do with the layout of the track, check out this early drawing by Tavo Hellmund:
    http://alt.coxnewsweb.com/statesman/pdf/04/042412F1.pdf

    It’s an absolute gold mine of a look into his thought process—it’s basically like a schoolboy’s drawing in class, creating his fantasy F1 track, stitching together all of his personal favorite corners. Whether it adds up to a coherent whole is a matter for debate, but I can’t help but imagine Tavo with a huge grin on his face and giddy delight as he drew this up. (My favorite detail is the comment in the bottom from Bernie. Looks like we have him to thank for the long backstretch.)

    It was published by the Austin Statesman accompanying this article, which gives even more insight into the design process:
    http://www.statesman.com/sports/formula1/turn-for-turn-austin-tracks-design-layout-should-2321735.html?viewAsSinglePage=true

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks very much for sharing that. Very interesting. It’s also clear that in translating these ideas, Tilke has brought in some of his signatures and driving the track on Codemasters game it feels very much like Turkey in parts.

  28. CNSZU says:

    The car physics in the video looks unrealistic, too smooth. Was it controlled with a keyboard?

  29. Austin Healey says:

    The most interesting thing about this track is how the scenery is going to be in the future. Is it going to be “asphalt as far as your eye can reach” or something better for the eyes?

    Layout just like we expected, I think. It is funny that only some 10 years ago, F1 fans could joke about oval racing like “they only have to turn left ” etc. When was the last time we saw a new circuit without a standard “hairpin- long straight like a ruler- hairpin” combination?

    There must be different ways too. Just for change, set up Blanchmont or bent backstraight of Estoril together leading to Rivazza, to make heavy braking zone. Or the regulations for circuits are just so…demanding that every new circuit must mimic the previous ones as much as possible? Doubtful.

  30. Rinawisee says:

    test

  31. Darren says:

    Seems awfully like Abu Dhabi to me, at least there is some hills though. I will reserve judgement till the race though!

  32. Thomas Mason says:

    Surprised that they posted such a scrappy lap for a presentation. Those tight bits are gonna be trip up zones for sure.

    1. Josh Gant says:

      Ha! I thought the same thing. Run a few laps first and get the hang of it before you present. :)

  33. melissascott says:

    My personal thoughts on Windows 8 are quite negative and I am not a fan of the direction Microsoft is taking. The Release Preview feels as if Microsoft has ignored most of the negative feedback and keeps pushing for their vision. The improved desktop elements such as explorer & task manager are a great improvement however for a home or work desktop, the metro start-screen IMO is not suitable. My reason for this is the lack of customizatiion it has. Users such as me have become familiar with the start menu and have watched it evolve for years. Tablets should use metro, desktops should use the typical start menu.

    1. BurgerF1 says:

      Try CTRL-ALT-DEL…

  34. Bru72 says:

    Looking good! Both the new track in Austin, and the superb graphics on the game!

  35. Robert Powers says:

    80 miles away. Biggest F1 fan in the world. Gee, sure hope I can go.

  36. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    WOW! It looks amazing for me, I guess there are many opportunities for overtaking, maybe one of the best circuits, although time will tell.

  37. Kieran McQuaid says:

    Is Mr Tilke the only designer allowed near F1? Apart from the first corner which will kill you as soon as look at you (Eau Rouge with a v12) it seems as exciting as Yas Marina. Lovely on telly if you don’t mind no passing

  38. Tauheed says:

    If Alonso wins, there will be a minimum of 3 points between him and Vettel

    1. Tauheed says:

      wait A MAXIMUM of 3 points

  39. Benalf says:

    yeap, the end of the pit straight is steep and the turn is blind, it flattens as you get to the top and start cutting towards the apex. I had the chance to watch FP2 from there and there are a few ways to attack the turn, the best seemed to brake ~60m before and cut through the apex sharp getting ready for the fast right-handed turn 2. Impressive to hear the cars downshifting and breaking quite fast..lots of uprevving…quite a show the race start will be, very likely someone is gonna brake too late and bump a few cars in front. Hope Alonso already paid all his DNF this season

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