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.
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)
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.
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.
+24 Van der Garde*****
+22 Sutil*** /*********
+18 Massa ********
+17 Di Resta
+8 Button ***********
-5 Raikkonen *******
-11 Hamilton **********
-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.