How to win the US Grand Prix on new track in Austin: All you need to know
Posted By: James Allen  |  14 Nov 2012   |  10:10 am GMT  |  67 comments

This weekend the F1 teams will race on the new Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas for the first time. And it could well be the title decider with Sebastian Vettel 10 points ahead of Fernando Alonso and only 50 points left on the table.

So what will this race turn on? What is the secret to being competitive at Austin and how will the all-important race strategy play out?

The new Circuit of the Americas looks very attractive from a drivers’ and spectators’ point of view. It has a little bit of everything; Mercedes’ simulations suggest the circuit has more corners over 250 kph 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 and this is where the single DRS zone will be located, which should promote overtaking. And it features numerous corners, which pay tribute to some of the great corners of tracks around the world. For example, the first turn is an uphill turn, similar to the great 1970s Osterreichring track in Austria, then there is a sequence of high speed corners which are very like Maggotts/Beckets at Silverstone.

The track is 3.4 miles long and features 20 corners, a lap time of around 1m 38secs is predicted for qualifying.

The first and last sectors of the lap, which are all about cornering, look like they will favour Red Bull, with its massive down force, but McLaren, Lotus and Ferrari should also go well here.

In terms of finding the key to winning at Austin, qualifying will be very important because the sequence of corners at the start of the lap will string the field out on the opening lap, so making sure you get away first on the opening lap will be vital. Then breaking the DRS tow will be the next target.

It has quite a short pit lane so there is scope for trying things with strategy.

Austin is the tenth different venue for the Formula 1 US Grand Prix. F1 has had several homes in America over the years and has never really taken root. The last one was Indianapolis, but the circuit and Bernie Ecclestone fell out over how much they should pay to host the race. There are lots of Ferrari loving car fans in the USA, obviously, and the key is to get them energised about F1 again. The Austin race is a sell out, but getting them back in year two will be the acid test.

Sebastian Vettel can win the title in Austin, if he scores 15 points more than Fernando Alonso. If not, the title fight will go on to the final round in Brazil. Alonso cannot afford another retirement.

Red Bull will almost certainly clinch the constructors’ championship in Austin.

Here is our guide to the Race Strategy for Austin. When you’ve read it, see if you can find the fastest strategy for the race using our RACE STRATEGY CALCULATOR

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.

Full throttle – 60% of the lap. Total fuel needed for race distance – 142.8 kilos (ave). Fuel consumption – 2.55kg per lap (ave)

Brake wear- medium. Number of braking events – 8.

Loss time for a Pit stop = 16.5 seconds
Total time needed for a pit stop: 3 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 19 of the 2012 FIA F1 World Championship.

Sebastian Vettel is the form man at the moment, having won four of the last five races. And this Austin track looks like it will suit the Red Bull car very well, with its series of high speed corners and the long Turn 17, which are well suited to the high downforce of the Red Bull and its powerful double DRS system, which will be used in qualifying. Expect at least one Red Bull car on the front row of the grid.

Vettel will be champion if he ends the race with 25 points more than Fernando Alonso. While Red Bull need just 4 points to clinch the Constructors’ Championship for the third year in a row.

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton performed very well at the last round in Abu Dhabi, which indicates that his McLaren will be competitive here.

Weather Forecast

The forecast for the weekend is for stable weather, with temperatures in the low 20 degrees C and little chance of rain.

Likely tyre performance and other considerations

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

At the two most recent races in India and Abu Dhabi Pirelli went too conservative with the tyre choice and it led to a largely one-stop strategy race in both cases. The selection for Austin again looks fairly conservative.

On any new track, working out the best race strategy could once again be the decisive factor.

Austin appears to be similar to Silverstone in terms of the energy that will be put into the tyre, while its general character is similar to Korea and India.

The track is brand new, so it will be covered in dust at the start of the weekend, but the improvement is likely to be significant once the cars run and plenty of rubber goes down. The lap times should tumble, with a lap around 1m 38s predicted for qualifying.

The performance gap between the medium and hard Pirelli tyre is going to be critical to race strategy, as always.

It is estimated that the medium will be around 0.8 secs per lap faster than the hard in qualifying trim. Estimates of tyre life are that the medium will last around 20 laps, the hard around 26-28 laps.

Pirelli is to give the teams an extra set of hard tyres to encourage teams to do lots of laps in practice and to gain more data.

Number and likely timing of pit stops

Based on the forgoing assumptions, it is likely that this race will be predominantly a one-stop race again for most teams, based on the conservative tyre choice.

Before a wheel has turned in practice it looks as though one stop is around three seconds faster than two stops (see Race History Simulation above) and it offers track position in the final stint. But all the teams will be working hard in practice to understand if the simulations are accurate, or whether two stops might be better.

If the performance difference between the two compounds is more significant than expected in Friday practice, or if the surface is more abrasive than expected, then there may be a few more two stoppers, particularly as the pit lane time is short so there is not as large a time loss in making an extra stop as there is at some venues.

See if you can find a faster strategy for the race than the one on this chart – using our RACE STRATEGY CALCULATOR

Chance of a Safety Car

As this is a new track the statistical chance of a safety car has yet to be calculated.

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 2012 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.


+39 Glock
+34 Massa ***** *******, Kovalainen
+25 Alonso********
+24 Perez***, Vergne **********, Pic
+22 Karthikeyan, Senna* ***** ********
+16 Raikkonen, De la Rosa ****
+15 Hulkenberg***********
+14 Kobayashi**** *********, Schumacher* ****** **********
+8 Maldonado****, Button*********, Petrov***** *******
+6 Vettel
+4 Di Resta ***** ***********
+3 Hamilton

-1 Ricciardo*
-5 Grosjean** **** ***** ******** ***********
-7 Webber********
-10 Rosberg******** ***********

* Senna, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg were all involved in accidents on 1st lap in Australia
** Schumacher and Grosjean collided on Lap 1 in Malaysia, Senna and Perez pitted for wet tyres on opening lap
***Perez punctured on lap 1 in Spain and went to back of field
**** Eliminated by or involved in first lap accident in Monaco
***** Di Resta eliminated lap 1 at Silverstone, Petrov did not start
***** Massa, Senna and Grosjean involved in first lap collisions dropping them to the back
****** Schumacher forced to pit lap 1 in Hungary (lost six places)
*******Massa (puncture) and Petrov (broken nose) pitted for repairs on lap 1 in Singapore after making contact.
******** Alonso, Rosberg, Webber, Senna and Grosjean either retired or dropped to the back following first-lap accidents in Japan
********* Button eliminated, Kobayashi pitted for repairs, on lap 1 after collision in Korea
********** Schumacher and Vergne pitted for repairs at the end of lap one after first-corner collision in India
***********Rosberg, Grosjean di Resta pitted for repairs and rejoined after first-lap incidents in Abu Dhabi. Hulkenberg eliminated after first-corner accident

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 and a half seconds this year.

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 2.41secs (1)
2. Ferrari 2.7secs (2)
3. McLaren 2.80secs (3)
4. Sauber 2.82secs (6)
5. Mercedes 3.04secs (5)
6. Force India 3.17secs (7)
7. Marussia 3.22secs (11)
8. Toro Rosso 3.23secs (8)
9. Lotus 3.62secs (4)
10. Williams 4.06secs (9)
11. Caterham 4.11secs (10)
12. HRT 5.61secs (12)

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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Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

my money on the red bulls this Sunday! 1st Vettel 2nd webber 3rd a mac larren i hope… cheers 😉


Hi James,

Is it Bernie who tells the tire supplier what to bring and when to publish the info?

Do FIA or the teams have any way to force their will on this?

Any push to make it so that the tires would be decided and communicated before the season starts, maybe in order to guarantee ano imparcial run of the season?


The tyre choice is “fairly” conservative? What, pray, would be “very conservative”? Bringing the super-hard demo-run tyre that isn’t meant to be raced!?


Will HRT F1 be participating in this GP… reports suggest they have gone bust and may be putting the lifes of their drivers in danger by feilding them in the GP…. is it true… sad to see another F1 team going bust


“And it features numerous corners, which pay tribute to some of the great corners of tracks around the world. For example, the first turn is an uphill turn, similar to the great 1970s Osterreichring track in Austria,/—/”

To an extent, I agree. But the example of Osterreichring is a little confusing. The only similarity is that the track goes uphill there. Hella Licht was initially a fast right sweeper.

It is clear that formula 1 has not been constantly popular in US and needs positive publicity. But to end up calling every new tarmac runoff area as “similar to the old famous Nurburgring”(because tarmac was used there as well), would not be very accurate.

I still wonder how they could locate the most uninspiring type of corner on top of the most exciting elevation change. Luckily, there is a section from turn 2 to turn 10 to compensate that. Turns 16 to 19 seem to be fun as well.


The harder tire choices on offer seems to favor Ferrari vs. Red Bull, although the circuit itself favors Red Bull.


I’ll go for a two stop strategy used soft for 20 laps new soft for 20 laps remainder on the hard. marginally quicker if traffic does not hold you up. good luck USA hope you put on a show for what has been a tremendous year in F1.


At last. A race being held in a proper time zone!


The race to turn 1 will be interesting… A blind corner and with guys like Romain, Pastor and Sergio, I will be very surprise if all make it through without incident.


Ham takes Seb out, as Ham has nothing to loose and wants to leave McLaren with a win.

Webber will have the corner speed to keep Alonso under control…The big winner could be Kimi if his crew give him the support he wants and not keep telling him how to drive 🙂


Very interesting lay out, much excitiment from the teams hope to be entertaining and clean without Alternators, DRS signs Vs safety cars and driven by pure racing spirit.

Yeah very hated Sebastian lad is for sure among drivers, he is too young for 3 neverimind in a raw, kinda Hamilton was around his first and second year. thereafter Hamilton is respected even by Alonso and the other way around and all the fans too… As such, for the sake of been respected Seb just accept it lol, Ferrari all the way, mark is watching you!


Looking forward to this race

I understand that people in the US are getting very excited about the race this weekend so I hope F1 puts on a good show

In particular, people new to the sport in the US seem to like the KERS and DRS ideas – claiming it makes it more like a “video game”


Vettel is on form and he is very strong mentally. However, he has an unreliable car. I believe they are bringing the new batch of alternators which could create an upset. On the other hand, Ferrari has been bullet proof on race day and has been doing fastest laps.

Ferrari are desperate. I sincerely hope Alonso and Ferrari don’t play any dirty tricks. I won’t be surprised if they do. There are several Vettel haters among drivers as well.

I have a feeling Webber will do well here.

Will we see HRT on race day? I feel sorry for the guys. But that was a team without a clear vision.


Yes Ferrari seem desperate… they have every right to be, cause their car is not there in terms of qualifying speed.

On the other hand, Vettel panics already the moment his race is not developing according to plan (to start from pole and vanish).

And about these dirty tricks… so far this season RB are definitely the ones exploring limits.



On a different topic, any insights into the sale of HRT? Is a new buyer likely, or are we looking at the end of the line for the team?


Can’t wait for this one – I think it’s going to be a great race! Vettel seems to usually do well when it comes to learning new tracks, and given the Red Bull advantage, he has to be favourite for this one. I hope Alonso can hang on and take it down to the wire in Brazil – the perfect track for a title decider!


Looking forward to this one! Just out of curiosity, James. Do you know how the teams will handle the influx of spectators come the race weekend?

Apparently Austin GP had a running race last weekend and had a group of 20k people or so (expected up to 120k people for this weekend). It was so congested to get in that many of the people were late for their own race (got in when the race ended) though they left really early. It’d be interesting to see how these teams come in and prep especially considering there’s only 1 main way to get to the track from Austin.

I heard there are helicopter flights but I doubt teams would heli everyone in. Any insight?



My experience with Ticketmaster for Austin doesn’t bode well. They have been terrible. Their web page is completely incomprehensible. I received my tickets a month late. I received my second corrected parking passes yesterday, and an email today saying my new passes would be available at the ticket “window”, where ever that may be. Next year, I hope they use a more adult oriented ticket agency, and I don’t mean that in XXX sense. Still amazed that F1 will finally return to the US at a real track.


I’ll let you know when I get there!


I think Lewis will do well here IF he can qualify on the front row and lead. We all know what Seb can do if he leads from the get-go. I think some of the quicker drivers like Lewis need to pressure Seb right at the start. Seb cant afford to get tangled up with them and *might* just give way. His priority is to finish in front of Alonso, winning is just an added bonus, retirement is not an option 😉


Spot on!!

Sebastian worst nightmare would be Lewis taking pole in Austin. I am sure if Sebastian is not leading after the 1st lap then he will finish behind Lotus’s and will be fighting with Felipe for position.

I don’t agree that is Sebastian would have stated Abu Dhabi 3rd then he would have won the race. No way! he would have got in to trouble just as Mark did as the car was setup for qualifying only.


Seb would not have had as terrible a start as Mark


Dear Sebastian Vettel’s alternator,

We’re really grateful for all you’ve done for us in the Championship this year, and I know it might be asking a lot….. but could you do us a very small favour?

If you could just summon up everything you’ve got left and put it all into one catastrophic failure we would be your bestest friends for every and ever.

Hugs & kisses,



God bless you sir!


And Webber and just about all the fans !


There are occasions when prayers can backfire …


with best wishes from the red planet:-)


If you are Alonso and Ferrari fan, you surely don’t want to see them win championship like that …


Yes, I’m an Alonso fan.

Frankly, I don’t care how he wins it as long as he wins it.

Obviously I’d love him to simply out-race Vettel but with the car he has in qualifying I think that’s unlikely.

A win is a win…..


How about…

Dear Ferrari F2012,

You have been most reliable this year, to every male and female cow’s displeasure, even the red ones. Could you please go “Ka boom” while visiting your #1 market and have a little bit of a marketing blunder?

…Come on, let’s not have a 2006 here and decide this championship mechanically. Let’s bring both cars home next two races and decide this on track – like double champions.


please please Sir alternator


What everyone also needs to know that this amazing U.S. effort on a brand new purpose built track will receive worse TV coverage in North America than nearly all previous F1 races this season. Just a crying shame I tell you! So much effort paid to host the race, and such poor TV coverage on the actual day.

FYI – No major network will carry the race in US. It will be live on SpeedTV. It will be blacked out in Canada on SpeedTV. In Canada it will not be carried by TSN – main sports channel F1 is on. It will be on TSN2, which will bump the race by 6 hours to make room for the NASCAR race. Of course it is not live on BBC for the UK fans either. Enjoy reading about it here, becuase most likely you won’t get to see Vettel win the WDC live this year.


Scratch that – for all Canadians, the race will be live on CTV2 in both regular and HD. *phew*


I don’t think we get CTV2 in Montreal 🙁


Yeah CTV for stepping up and carrying it live! And OTA to – no excuse Canadians not to watch.


How is it that us Canadians can’t even see a North American race live?!? Guess I’ll need to try to find a pub that carries the BBC or Sky. Grrr.



Any news regarding the Red Bull ‘rubber’ nose?

Is it legal? Are there teams going to protest it, like Ferrari?

Like to hear your opinion..


Everyone on their best behavour please, and a tilte decider in Brazil wouldn’t go a miss 😉


With 10 different tracks used; is the USA the country which has used most different tracks for F1?


I think it is, with France a close second with 8 different tracks. 9 if you count the 2 different layouts of Paul Ricard (full circuit and short circuit)


I’m mistaken, it’s 7.


Although I’m not attending this year, I’m very excited about F1 being back in the States.

I hope that Lotus can find it in their hearts to get the lead out, and produce some better pit stops this weekend to keep Kimi in third place in the WDC standings.


Great info.

James, what are the engine situations like, who’s used the most out of vettle and alonso, and how many races have the engine they’ll use in Austin been used for? Will one of them have an advantage of a fresher engine?



Click on the ‘engine cycle’ tab.


Thanks Bradley, a great informative website.


I have found a website that illustrates the engine cycle for each driver. The chart only identifies when new engines were used. It does not identify how much mileage is on any given unit.

It appears that Mercedes have run all eight engines at least one race distance. Both the McLaren and the Mercedes team used there 8th engine in Japan. The Force India team used its 8th engine in India.

Ferrari and Renault seem to be on the same page having used there 8th engine in Abu Dhabi with one exception. Vettel’s 8th engine was used in India.

The long and short of it suggests that the Mercedes engines are well used and Vettel is just slightly behind the other Renault and Ferrari drivers. Perez has not fired the 8th engine yet, so he will definitely have an advantage in Austin or Brazil.


Good question


Don’t know about Alonso but Vettel has used all 8 engines.


Didn’t Vettel change his engine at Abu Dabi?

Not sure when Alonso did his?


If i’m correct, Ferrari did a better job with their engines than Red Bull..


Alonso used engine 8 in Abu Dhabi, whereas Vettel used his last one in India (I believe). Alonso however also has 2 relatively young engines (spa and Suzuka) whilst Vettel doesn’t.

Engine power is so important at brazil, will be interesting to see what happens.


You are right and I am surprised James has not mentioned this factor in any article.

Ferrari engines are more reliable than Renault’s and not to mention the races in which Sebastian retired he did lot of laps on the engines (All laps in Monza and half of them in Valencia). However, Fernando crashed out on the 1st corner in both of his retirements.

I am sure Ferrari will use the engine with least mileage in Brazil. It’s definitely not over.


When was the last time a f1 season went into the final round with the 2 guys in a winner takes all scenario. I mean like if both guys wins the final race they win the title no matter what the other guy does. I hope they go into brazil level on points. Would be epic way to finish a season.


Good question…and I think Andrew M has got it! I think there was four points in it back in 1999…the same as the gap between first and second (and both had – before Suzuka – won the same number of races). Would need it to be less than 7 between them this year (or maybe exactly 7 also possible…particularly if Alonso is in front).


I don’t no exactly when it was but it definitely wasn’t 2010 because vettel winning was him winning and other things going his way. I’m on about its a winner takes all no matter what scenario.


1999 I believe, Hakkinen vs Irvine.


Yep, with one race left the scores were Irvine 70, Hakkinen 66, both on 4 wins (still on the 10-6-4-3-2-1 scoring system), had Irvine finished 2nd rather than 3rd to make them level on 76 points each, Hakkinen would still have got the title by having 5 wins to 4.

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