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US Grand Prix – Already an F1 favourite but What kind of race will we get?
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Posted By: James Allen  |  13 Nov 2013   |  11:53 am GMT  |  68 comments

The world championship has been decided, but Formula 1 still has plenty of energy for its second visit to Austin, Texas, which proved a huge hit with teams, drivers and fans last season.

Austin is the tenth different venue for the Formula 1 US Grand Prix, but this one is considered a real winner. The new Circuit of the Americas, which runs anti clockwise, is a wonderful mixture of many of the most famous circuits on the F1 calendar; it has more corners at over 250 km/h than Spa and more below 100kph than Hungary, which is quite a combination!

It has one very long straight with a hairpin at either end, which saw a classic overtaking move last season in the closing stages, as Lewis Hamilton took the win from Sebastian Vettel.

And it features corners, which pay tribute to some of the great corners of around the world. For example, the first turn is an uphill left hander similar to the great 1970s Osterreichring track in Austria, then there is a sequence of high speed corners leading to the straight, which are very like Maggotts/Beckets at Silverstone.

Strategy wise, the race was a conservative one stopper last season, with the leading drivers starting on used medium tyres and switching to new hard tyres around laps 20/21.

This year Pirelli has again chosen this conservative option, so one stop is likely again. However significantly higher temperatures are forecast, which may well affect tyre performance and the decision making process.

One unusual note is that there is a huge difference in grip on the startline between the clean and dirty side of the grid. So much so, that last year Ferrari deliberately incurred a grid penalty for Felipe Massa, so that Fernando Alonso could be promoted one place on the grid and start from the clean side.


Track characteristics

Circuit of the Americas – 5.516 kilometres. Race distance – 56 laps = 308.896 kilometres. 20 corners in total. Average speed 197km/h. A brand new circuit, replicating some classic corners of other circuits

Aerodynamic setup – Med/High downforce. Top speed 315km/h (with DRS open) 305km/h without.

Total fuel needed for race distance – 142.8 kilos (ave/high). Fuel consumption – 2.7kg per lap (ave/high) Full throttle 58% of lap.

Brake wear- medium/hard. Number of braking events – 8. At Turn 12 the drivers incur 5.5g in braking.

Time needed for a Pit stop = 21 seconds
Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.38 seconds (ave/high)


Form Guide

The US Grand Prix is round 18 of the 2013 FIA F1 World Championship, the penultimate race of the season.

Sebastian Vettel is the form man at the moment, having won every race since the summer break. If he wins on Sunday he will set a new record of eight consecutive wins in a single season.

Last year’s race was won by Lewis Hamilton in his penultimate outing for McLaren. Vettel took pole position.

Weather Forecast

The forecast for the weekend is for warm weather, with temperatures in the high 20 degrees C. Thunderstorms are forecast for Saturday – qualifying day.


Likely tyre performance and other considerations

Pirelli tyre choice for Austin: Medium (white markings) and Hard (orange markings). This combination was seen in Japan, Belgium and Italy.

Despite aiming for two stops from most races, for this race Pirelli has gone for the two hardest tyres in the range, so it’s likely that the race will be one stop, as it was last year. The temperatures are set to be higher than in 2012, so that may make a difference, if thermal degradation is encountered.

The tyres are essentially very similar to the ones used last year in construction, but the compounds are slightly softer. So Friday’s practice session will be vital for working out whether one stop or two is the faster race strategy. The pit lane is of average length, so there is no discouragement there from making an extra stop.

The difference in performance between the tyres is expected to be around 0.8sec per lap in qualifying, slightly more than last year. The medium is also slightly faster in race pace. The medium should last for up to 25 laps, the hard around 28-30. The main limitation is front inner shoulder wear from sliding.


Number and likely timing of pit stops

Last year with the same tyre construction but harder compounds, one stop was 10 seconds faster than two stops. One stop has another advantage in that it offers track position in the final stint, so the two stopping car has to overtake it on fresher tyres in the closing stages.

A typical one stop strategy is to start on medium tyres and pit around lap 20 for a new set of hard tyres.

Two stops would mean starting on the medium tyre, taking another set of mediums around lap 15 and then a set of hards around lap 37. Alternatively, two stints on the hard tyre if the wear on the medium was marginal.

Last year Jenson Button started 12th, but came through to finish fifth by starting on the hard tyre and pitting once for new mediums on lap 35.

Chance of a Safety Car

As this is only the second race and there was no Safety car last year, the chance of a safety car has yet to be established.


Recent start performance

Starts are a critical part of the race and strategy can be badly compromised by a poor start, while good starts can make strategists change their plans in the hope of a good result.

As far as 2013 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season on aggregate as follows. Please note that where a driver has been eliminated on first lap this has been noted and removed from the sample as it skews the table. So this is intended as a guide of trends, rather than a definitive list.

Gained:
+30 Maldonado



+24 Van der Garde*****



+22 Sutil***

/*********

+21 Perez



+18 Massa


********

+18 Gutierrez



+17 Di Resta



+12 Alonso



+8 Button
***********


+4 Hulkenberg**


+4 Vettel



+4 Pic


+1 Chilton

Lost:

-2 Bianchi******


-4 Grosjean

-5 Raikkonen

*******

-7 Bottas

-8 Rosberg

-11 Ricciardo



-11 Hamilton
**********


-21 Webber*



-22 Vergne ****



*Webber dropped from second to seventh after a clutch problem in Australia
** Hulkenberg did not start in Australia *** Sutil suffered puncture from contact with Massa in Bahrain ****Vergne retired following collision. *****Van der Garde and Maldonado made contact in Monaco. ******Bianchi started from pit lane in Monaco after stalling *******Raikkonen crashed into Perez at the first corner at Monza ********Massa spun at hairpin in Korea *********Sutil had collision in Korea ********** Hamilton suffered puncture from contact with Vettel in Japan *********** Button had contact with Alonso at hairpin in Abu Dhabi

Pit Stop League Table

Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and there have been some amazing performances; we have seen tyre stops carried out in less than two seconds this year.

The table below shows that the teams have closed up in performance, with only 1.7 seconds separating the fastest from the slowest. Caterham has improved its performance and this is the first time it has done a stop fast enough for the top ten.

The league table below shows order of the pit crews based on their best total time in the pit lane in the recent Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

1. Red Bull Racing 21.175s
2. McLaren 21.370s
3. Mercedes 21.372s
4. Ferrari 21.453s
5. Lotus 21.627s
6. Toro Rosso 21.930s
7. Force India 22.048s
8. Sauber 22.070s
9. Caterham 22.286s
10. Marussia 22.802s
11. Williams 22.886s


The UBS Strategy Briefing is prepared by JA on F1, with input and data from several F1 teams and from Pirelli.

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68 Comments
  1. Richard says:

    I like the circuit for the reasons expounded in the review, it is a new track with old style classic features, but also the tyre choice gives a more representative race. That said I think the Red Bull car is so far in front that the win is probably a foregone conclusion, Hamilton this time does not have the car to challenge Red Bull. Beyond that there is no scope for tyre strategy as it will likely be a one stop race. it should be a walk in the park for Vettel unless of course Webber can challenge with the more durable tyres.

    1. DEANO says:

      I believe that Pirelli is predicting a two stop strategy by most teams. It appears that the White Medium and Orange Hard compounds are actually softer then last years compounds, so the tire wear might not be as good as it was in last years race. So although I think many teams will opt for the 2 stop, other teams like Force India, Lotus and perhaps McLaren, might role the dice and try for a one stop race.

      1. Richard says:

        It all depends on what they learn in free practice about tyre life. If the majority go for two stops then inevitably those that can stretch the stints will do so. The tyres are softer with the same construction, but it will also depend on prevailing conditions,

      2. DEANO says:

        So true, I expect a few teams will try, I think that’s what the FIA wants, strategy and not simply the fastest cars always winning. When some teams with less recourses are competing from the back of the pack, sometimes pit strategy can make a huge difference., at least that’s the way I see it.

  2. radohc says:

    sorry for offtopic.

    http://connect.jamesallenonf1.com/f1-news/

    I don’t see any updates for last 2 days, is there an issue with the feed?

  3. fox says:

    Somebody plans to watch more than just a start?

    1. to says:

      I will watch the whole race, as I do most of the time unless there is something really REALLY MAJOR that prevents me to…

      :)

      Each his own, you know… ;)

      Have fun

    2. Me says:

      Some people are motor racing fans who just want to watch a race irrespective of how wins, we’re not all Hamilton/Alonso fans.

      1. Justin Bieber says:

        I like Alonso and I’m disappointed in this year championship.. but I like F1 even more so I will be quite happy to watch the FULL race as usual.

        Long live Alonso, Long Live F1.. lol

        PS: Looking forward to Interlagos as well. what happens in Brasil, stay in Brasil.. right?

      2. H.Guderian says:

        Bad, bad boy!!!
        8-)

    3. Tealeaf says:

      I will watch the whole race, it’ll be interesting fights all through the field, true F1 fans don’t watch races for Hamilton and his designed hat, if the Hamilton fanboys can’t stomach the races then keep it to themselves instead of always slagging off the sport its not classy or clever. As a Button and Raikkonen fan I could say there’s not much for me to watch but I’m not jumping on the Hamilton brigade’s bandwagon, hence why I think the british and english speaking media are actually doing more harm than good by being hugely biased against the world champion and Hamilton can do no wrong even though recent years have proven how overrated he is, F1 is more than just 1 overhyped driver.

      1. Datruthhertz says:

        You are like a broken record. Endlessly repeating the same boring diatribe. How you have the gall to accuse others of not being classy for slagging something or someone is beyond belief – that’s all you ever do !

    4. H.Guderian says:

      Why watch the start???

  4. Chester says:

    Phew, at least now we have a chance to talk about Lewis. All this focus on Vettel and other top drivers really does make F1 boring.

    For sure I think Mercedes have a good chance. They’ve got two of the best middle order drivers in the business in Nico and Lewis. And the teams finances are staggering. So much so that I often wondering whether it is time Nico was replaced with a rookie ‘top’ driver, someone like Grosjean or Hulkenberg.

    Can’t wait for practice and qualifying!

    1. Stephen Taylor says:

      Rosberg has won 3 GPs (2 of them this season not bad for a middle order driver and too call Hamilton the same thing is a bit silly in my view.

      1. Stephen Taylor says:

        and to oops.

    2. Stickymart says:

      Why replace Nico? He’s doing very well. The partnership between him and Lewis should flourish next season. Just look at where Mercedes are in the constructor championship this year compared to previous years.

      1. Koos says:

        That is beacause of an improvement of the car not drivers

      2. Simonb78 says:

        lat year nico out qualified an in most cases our raced MS now Lewis has in most cases out qualified and out raced Nico (above him in the Championship) so although the car is questionably better the driver pair is definately better

    3. Fireman says:

      Why would Mercedes replace Nico? He’s currently driving better than Lewis.

      1. Dan says:

        nico has totaly out driven Lewis. No question about it.Even one of Nicos podiums was handed to lewis lol.

      2. Datruthhertz says:

        If only the stat’s backed up your opinion ;-)
        What’s it like on planet ‘Dan’?

    4. Glennb says:

      I think that’s enough talk about Lewis for this year mate. Lets not go overboard eh.

    5. Tim says:

      Such a small hook and thin line – I bet you were hoping for a better ‘catch’ ;-)

  5. Seifenkistler says:

    Since Hulk stays at Sauber who races for second Lotus?

    1. Stephen Taylor says:

      Valsecchi probably or Heikki.

    2. P says:

      Read somewhr dat its gonna be kovalainen

    3. Rob Newman says:

      Heikki Kovalainen.

      1. Stephen Taylor says:

        It will be Kovalainen but they tried to get get Hulkenberg and then even tried to persuade Schumacher to come out of retirement again.

    4. JL says:

      Sources of the Finnish broadcaster MTV say Kimi will be replaced by Kovalainen :)

    5. Fireman says:

      Heikki Kovalainen! So I’ve heard.

      1. Dan says:

        thats only Mika salo’s wishes. Most likely it will be Davide Velsekki.

      2. Fireman says:

        No, this is based on strong info. It’s going to be Heikki.

    6. shri says:

      Whosoever does it will be up for a challenge with no time to understand / acclamatize.
      Worst of all for Lotus they need sizable points deperately to try and finish ahead of Merc / Ferrari.

  6. Dan says:

    James,

    Great analysis as ever, always enjoy reading to get me in the mood for the impending GP!

    What would be good however, is on your ‘Pit Stop League Table’ it would be good to see who is the best team over the course of the season on average of all stops and an average of all stops excluding obvious major errors and nose replacements to see the differential etc?

  7. Andrew Carter says:

    Not sure I’d liken turn 1 with anywhere on the old Osteriechring, or anywhere else for that matter, the steep drop on exit makes it pretty unique.

  8. Grant H says:

    No reason why vet wont continue his fantastic run assume merc likely to be best of the rest with webber, hopefully ham can get on top of his race pace gremlins that have been affecting him as late

    1. Tealeaf says:

      And quali as well, Rosberg has out qualified him more recently too, the dip in form is almost alarming, its as if its Alex Wurz in the 2nd car not Hamilton, weird.

      1. Fireman says:

        In Abu Dhabi Hamilton’s race engineer told him to drop two seconds behind the car in front of him if he could not pass. He didn’t do so and he destroyed his tires as he didn’t get past.

        Or at least so it seemed. So, I think his gremlins are in his head.

      2. Fireman says:

        Scratch that! Autosport reports that there was two large cracks in his chassis and will get a new chassis for Austin.

  9. Dave says:

    ‘What kind of race will we get?’ Probably a pretty boring one where Vettel sticks it on pole, leads from the first corner and drives off into the distance…. again…. and I end up switching off long before half distance…. again. Roll on 2014!

    1. Andre says:

      That’s what F1 is these days. If you don’t like it, you don’t like F1 ;)

    2. Sebee says:

      I’ll take it. Perhaps Vettel will try to do a two-stop while everyone one-stops? I can’t wait to find out. One thing is for sure, Vettel will pay Hamilton back for 2012! :-)

      1. Tealeaf says:

        He doesn’t need to pay Hamilton back its that Kathekayan or whatever he’s called, good thing the worst driver of the 2000′s is out of F1.

    3. ManOnWheels says:

      I guess if you’re just enjoying a battle for the lead, Formula One is not your kind of sport anyway.

      I enjoy watching a fight for any position.

  10. German Samurai says:

    I know everyone loves this track but apart from the some what unique first turn it’s mainly mickey mouse stuff. The fast corners don’t really require great commitment (IMHO). I much prefer Tilke tracks like Korea, India and even Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi was horrible before DRS but I quite like it now. There’s no sensation of speed at all at Austin.

    Then there’s the aspect of being in Texas. It’s about as exotic as Wal-mart. I think they’ll struggle to maintain momentum for this venue over the next 5 years. The first race at Indy in 2000 had something like 250,000 turn up, and it slowly dwindled after that. I see the same happening.

    I’m looking forward to Brazil.

    1. NickH says:

      Can hardly call Korea exotic. I think it’s one of the best Tilke tracks (most of them are awful)

      Definitely better than Korea and Abu Dhabi, plus they’ve sold 250,000 tickets so at least there’s atmosphere. Korea has probably the worst atmosphere and character in F1 history

      1. German Samurai says:

        I hated the Tilke tracks but I have to admit he was a little ahead of his time.

        Valencia, Sinagpore and the changes to Hockenheim are awful, but Sepang, Shanghai, India, Korea, Turkey when it was included are all great tracks for one reason or another.

        Bahrain and Abu Dhabi aren’t particularly good or bad but they have come alive with DRS. Abu Dhabi I give extra marks for the unique setting and glitz of the place. It suits F1.

        COTA is an average at best track with some odd corners, no real sensation of speed, set against a bland, barren backdrop. At least Korea makes up for it with a cracking track layout.

      2. Tealeaf says:

        To be honest watching from the TV the last thing I ever see or hear are the crowd so it doesn’t matter to me and yes after driving the track on a simulator its not all that tbh I much prefer the likes of Laguna Seca or VIR, these Tilke domes are mind numbing.

    2. Kirk says:

      I think this time will be different for this track, is also used for MotoGP (all categories) with great success. Also because is in Texas many people from Central and South America goes to see the race, is a lot cheaper than go to Sao Paulo in Brazil.

  11. Clarks4WheelDrift says:

    True about the dirty side of the grid, shame there isn’t a solution to this here and at some other dusty tracks. P3 shouldn’t be better than P2, plus P2 should have a fair shot at Vettel into turn 1 ;)

    Be interesting to see just how much harder guys like Perez and Sutil try, or if they overdrive looking for seats.

    Is Valsecche in for Kimi?

    Finally, surely F1 cars aren’t going to have the ugly noses predicted on autosport! The high nose with attached half-width dipping skinny nose. I can hear the phallic Top Gear Clarkson/Hammond/May jokes already. The cars look like those long nose proboscis monkeys. In fact the teams may as well get on to their local zoo to borrow a proboscis monkey for their wind tunnels. Not Newey of course, he can imagine the monkey nose airflow himself as he is so good…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Portrait_of_a_Proboscis_Monkey.jpg

    1. Thomas says:

      Of course they are! If the ugly noses are faster then you can bet your life on the teams going with it.

      1. Ambrose says:

        Perez and Maldonado and Grosjean and Sutil programmed for aggressive overdrive?

        OMG this is a 7 safety car event.

    2. Rich C says:

      As long as the grid girls don’t look like that!

  12. Bill Herring says:

    “One unusual note is that there is a huge difference in grip on the startline between the clean and dirty side of the grid.” – It may be that this year that difference in grip is not as much of an issue.

    If memory serves correctly, the reason for that difference last year was due to a lot of dust from final construction. That dust was “cleaned off” on the racing line side of the track during practice/qualifying, leaving the left side of the grid still dirty for the start.

    Since last year there have been several races and rain storms to clean off that construction dust. The chance of rain this Saturday may also serve to minimize the difference in grip levels, we’ll see soon!

  13. Glennb says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict Seb from pole.
    Crazy, I know.
    This is the only race I missed last year so am looking forward to it.
    Good luck to all your teams and drivers.

  14. SteveH says:

    Finally!!!! A race I can watch during the daytime!

  15. shri says:

    Looking forward to watching the race P2 and onwards.

  16. James says:

    A classic overtake? Hamilton cruised past down the 1km straight with DRS wide open.

    1. Tealeaf says:

      Not to mention the only reason Hamilton got that DRS run was because of Karthekeyan and a faster Mclaren in a straight line anyway, if Vettel wasn’t so tense due to his title fight he would have won easily, but I’m sure it’ll all be different compared to last year, Mclaren won’t be at the front like last year even Button’s pace was too hot for Webber to handle last year, and also Mercedes will flatter to decieve as usual.

    2. Bill Murray says:

      Listening to Vettel whinge has always been a classic moment.

  17. jmv says:

    what race will we get: a complete domination by Vettel. With Kimi out I may not bother to watch.

  18. Richard says:

    Save your weekend James, I think you can already prewrite the articles for both Saturday and Sunday.

    1. F1 Bobby says:

      +1, might as well copy and paste for Brasil while you’re at it.

      “It was a dominant display by Vettel… we’ve run out of superlatives for this young man …. blah blah … there was an interesting scrap for 21st place …. but ultimately all cars crossed the line in roughly the same order they began.”

  19. Just a bloke says:

    Any news on the 2nd Lotus driver yet….

    1. Ambrose says:

      it remains Grosjean.

  20. F1 Bobby says:

    What kind of race will we get? The same kind we’ve had since Spa. It’s dreadful James, I’ve been watching for 22 years and this is the worst it’s ever been.

  21. anp says:

    I like these analysis articles. To make the recent start performance table easier to read, can you please use numbers instead of asterisks. 5/6 is a lot easier to follow up in the footnotes, instead of *****/******

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