Lots for teams to consider ahead of US Grand Prix – will Vettel do qualifying after all?
Austin F1
Strategy Briefing
Posted By: James Allen  |  29 Oct 2014   |  11:14 am GMT  |  92 comments

The world championship is finely balanced as F1 makes its third visit to Austin, Texas, which proved a huge hit with teams, drivers and fans last season. The two Mercedes drivers have scored 565 points between them – enough to secure the constructor’s championship already – but there are only 17 points separating Lewis Hamilton from his team mate Nico Rosberg.

There will be only nine teams participating in the Grand Prix after Caterham and Marussia went into administration.

This means that the FIA is likely to change the format of qualifying with four cars dropping out at the end of Q1 and four cars at the end of Q2. There is some debate about whether world champion Sebastian Vettel will take part in qualifying in Austin. He needs to take a 6th power unit and wants to take one with all the new components, which means starting from the pit lane. But the FIA is believed to have told the team that he can still use some of the other components from his original allocation of five for the season together with a new Internal Combustion engine, in which case he will have to go out and qualify on Saturday and then take a grid penalty.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Russian Grand Prix - Practice Day - Sochi, Russia

The 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. There were a total of 55 overtaking moves during the 2012 race, but only 18 in the 2013 edition.

Strategy wise, the race has been a one stopper for both the previous races, due to a conservative choice of medium and hard tyres by Pirelli. This year they have opted for soft and medium.

Track characteristics

Circuit of the Americas – 5.516 kilometres. Race distance – 56 laps = 308.896 kilometres. 20 corners in total. Average speed 197km/h.

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

Full throttle 58% of lap.

Brake wear- medium/hard. Number of braking events – 10 (Four heavy). At Turn 12 the drivers incur 5.5g in braking forces.

Time needed for a Pit stop – 21/22 seconds

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Russian Grand Prix - Race Day - Sochi, Russia

Form Guide

The US Grand Prix is round 17 of 19 in the 2014 FIA F1 World Championship.

Lewis Hamilton has now won nine races this year and is the form driver going into this Grand Prix. It is a track on which he has won before in 2012.

Sebastian Vettel won the race last year and took pole position in 2012. He has yet to win a race in 2014. He has only three more races for Red Bull before leaving the team.

The track has similar characteristics to Silverstone and Suzuka, which were both strong tracks for Williams, so they should be podium contenders this weekend.

Weather Forecast

The forecast for the weekend is for warm weather, with temperatures of 24 to 26 Centigrade.

Pirelli F1 tyres

Likely tyre performance and other considerations

Pirelli tyre choice for Austin: Soft (yellow markings) and Medium (white markings) This combination has been used six times already this season.

For the last two seasons, Pirelli has brought the medium and hard tyres to Austin and it has led to one-stop strategies. This year they have gone for the soft and medium tyres, but that is because the 2014 compounds are harder than last year’s. So we could have one or two stops as the preferred strategy, Pirelli thinks two.

Tyre warm up has been a factor at this race track in the past as it can be very cool, in the mornings especially.

In the 2012 race drivers found themselves doing five lap runs in qualifying to set a fast time. The track is now three years old so the surface will have matured and there should be more grip.

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 at 395m and it takes around 21 seconds to make a stop, so there is no discouragement there from making an extra stop.

The big question mark will be the difference in performance between the two compounds; we have seen some significant differences, for example in Russia the soft tyre was clearly a second a lap faster than the medium, which meant that in the first part of the race, none of the runners on the soft were in any hurry to make their pit stop for the medium. At other venues the pace difference has been closer.

The main limitation is front inner shoulder wear from sliding.

Mercedes Strategist James Vowles
Number and likely timing of pit stops

Typically with the harder compounds of the past in Austin one stop has been around 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 soft tyres and pit around lap 20 for a new set of medium tyres.

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

Counter strategies have worked in the past; in 2012 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

There have been two races so far and one safety car so the probability is 50%.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Russian Grand Prix - Race Day - Sochi, Russia
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 2014 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.

Net gained positions

24 Gutierrez

21 Maldonado, Hulkenberg 

17 Ericsson,

14 Kobayashi

13 Chilton
12 Raikkonen 


11 Massa

8 Alonso, Bianchi

7 Hamilton, Bottas, 

6 Sutil 

5 Button
4 Magnussen, Lotterer, Perez, Vettel,

Net lost positions

19 Vergne,

15 Ricciardo,

8 Grosjean,

7 Kvyat,

4 Rosberg 



Melbourne Notes: Kobayashi, Massa eliminated in a first corner accident; Perez, Gutierrez pitted at the end of Lap 1; Bianchi, Grosjean started from pit lane.

Malaysia Notes: Perez started from pit lane, Bianchi pitted at the end of lap 1 

Bahrain notes: Vergne pitted at the end of lap 1 after contact

China Notes: Sutil lost power at start and dropped 8 places, retiring soon after. 

Monaco notes: Maldonado did not start, Ericsson started from pit lane, Perez crashed Lap 1.

Canada Notes: Gutierrez started from pit lane; Bianchi and Chilton crashed lap 1; Ericsson pitted lap 1

Austria Notes: Grosjean started from pit lane

GB Notes: Raikkonen and Massa eliminated in 1st lap accident

Germany notes: Massa eliminated in 1st lap accident, Magnussen and Ricciardo dropped back as a result

Hungary Notes: Hamilton, Magnussen, Kvyat started from pit lane

Belgium Notes: Grosjean and Bianchi collided on lap one, Kobayashi absent and replaced by Lotterer.

Italy Notes: Ericsson started from pit lane.

Singapore notes: Kobayashi did not start; Rosberg started from pit lane

Japan notes: Race started behind Safety Car.
Russia: Rosberg and Massa pitted at the end of Lap 1

Pit stop F1
Pit Stop League Table

Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and consistency is the key; nevertheless, we have seen tyre stops carried out in two seconds this year.

The table below shows the fastest single stop by teams in the recent Russian Grand Prix from the car entering the pit lane to leaving it.

1. McLaren 29.736 seconds

2. Force India 29.876s
3. Williams 29.912s
4. Red Bull 30.006s
5. Lotus 30.037

6. Ferrari 30.097s

7. Toro Rosso 30.272s

8. Sauber 30.303s
9. Mercedes 30.503s

10. Caterham 30.760s
11. Marussia 31.374s

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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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A real shame that both cater ham and marussia never made it to the end of the season. When hopefully they would of been able to of got hold of some more sponsorship deals for next year. Still cannot get my head round this double points in the last race of the season I think it takes away some of the aspect of previous results.



I’ve only recently subscribed to your site updates and wanted to say that this is an absolutely awesome write up! I wish I knew you did this sooner!



We’ve been doing it for four years. Tell your friends!


I may be wrong here James but after the coming together in spa and the team retiring Lewis, I could have sworn that Ted Kravitz said that Lewis was allowed a new power unit and that he would have a new one for the last two races can you confirm please on who is in a better situation between the two Merc drivers on that front please!


Hi James,

I don’t know why sometimes there’re differences between race strategy brief on your website and on UBSF1 (in collaboration with you James Allen). For example (this race):

Items Your web/UBS

Circuit length: 5.516km/5.513km

Race distance: 308.896km/308.405km

Average speed: 197km/h/198km/h

Full throttle: 58%/63% (big difference)

Time needed for a Pit stop: 21-22 seconds/23seconds



Am I reading between the lines properly? Since “FIA is believed to have told the team that he can still use some of the other components from his original allocation” Vettel is not allowed to take a complete new PU, even if he and or RBR wanted too. Effectively forcing him to quali.

Or is it that they have deemed some parts as usable to the delight of RBR, so they can take part in quali?


As far as the engine penalty goes you would think that if Mercedes or any other team need to take another engine they would do it here the same as Vettel. No sense to take it for the double points race and if they all took it at the same time the points should even out and make for a great race for the faster teams having to drive though the pack. if Mercedes needed a engine on one side of the garage the other side would take it as well as it would be a fairer strategic position to take.

Just a thought


This has to be a win for LH. He has the in form going into the weekend and this race along with Brazil means two wins and any result at Abo D means the WDC is his.

I think even the Ham haters have to admit it would be a travesty for him not to take the championship when he has double Nico,s wins.

Nico has pushed Lewis of that there is no denying but race craft and results are all in Lewiis,s favour.

Go Lewis!!


I dont see any reason for Vettel to NOT start from pitlane. I believe he takes a 10 place penalty anyway. Qualifying would only put extra miles on the power unit. I’m guessing they would like this unit to last all season now. Might be wishful thinking but you got to try. With so few cars on the grid he might well start from the back of the grid even if he ran qualifying. Anything lower than 7th would put him at the rear. Add to this the guy probably doesnt care too much at this stage with his poor current WDC standing and the fact that he’s leaving at the end of the year.

At the end of the day it’s not up to him anyway.

This should be a walk in the park for the 2 Merc guys assuming good reliability. Seems to me Nico is due a win to spice this thing up even more, although it’s a big ask with the form Lewis is currently showing. Bottas has gotta be worth a few dollars each way with his current form too. The guy is due a win and this would look great on his resume.


As much as I love this race and don’t live too far away, I wont be attending due to ticket prices and the new cars. I make a good wage, I am a life long fan, I love this sport. I saw an Indycar race this summer for $60, excellent seats, lots of access, and had my ears blown off every time they went by. Currently F1 is not worth ten times that (was it ever?). Not to mention for an average seat where the voices of those around you could be louder than the cars on track.

They have no problem filling the stands, so not everyone agrees obviously. Ill be curious to see the attendance next year after fans get a taste of the new cars. For me personally, despite some VERY good races this year, something about F1 is missing. Whatever has hooked me all these years is gone and the appeal is fading. It is silly to think it’s as simple as the sound of the cars, I think there is more to it than that, but it just isn’t as fun as it used to be. I am slowly falling out of love with something I have followed for 30+ years. I thought attending this years race might be the medicine I need, maybe the cars aren’t THAT bad… maybe it would rekindle my fire… Unfortunately i’ll never know as the ticket prices compete with frivolous things such as food and shelter. They say your vote as a consumer is your wallet, my vote is cast; I won’t be there.

Not to whine, just this American fan’s opinion on the current state of F1. I’m still watching it on TV 🙂


Vet should take the all new engine and start from the pit lane. Give it a good race optimized setup and light a fire. The he goes into the final two races with a newer engine with less risk of one of the reused parts giving out. Seems simple to me.


If the FIA are really going to tell RB exactly what parts they must fit to Vettel’s car then the tail is truly wagging the dog. If it is no longer up to the team to decide if an engine (PU if you must) could last a race or not we are on a sliipery slope (OK another slippery slope). Suppose the FIA told Hamilton what to run and a component they insisted he must use failed and cost him the WDC – he could not even blame his own team! Maybe the FIA are suggesting to RB in a round about way to do a bit of ‘make do and mend’ cost saving!


Mr Allen of the topic Sir, today the 29th / 10 Fiat/ Chrysler gave statement to Dow Jones stock market that early in 2015 Ferrari will be of span with IPO of 10 % according to Bloomberg TV.

Mr Allen I consinder you a man in the know does this indicate Scuderia F1 stand alone, your view if any ramifications may be drawn to their F1 continuation.

Perhaps one can now understand L d Montezemolo departure.


Love the circuit.

Improvement with tire selection, for this year.

1st and 2nd should be a safe bet, but Bottas could be a spoiler for one of the top two steps, in fact, this could be his chance!

One thing I am confused about: the options available to Vettel with the engine/engine component changes?

If I understand correctly, Vettel wants a completely new PU; which necesitaes a start from the pit lane.

But, if correct, the FIA are instructing Red Bull to cobble together components, and thus take a five??? grid spot penalty??? Or something else? What?

If Vettel gets his complete power unit, and thus is regulated to a pit lane start (?), then there would be no reason for him to use up any more milage than he has to on that PU (for the final 3 races); so he would voluntarily forgo qualifying to save engine wear???

Why would the FIA have a say in how Red Bull decide to play this out?

If Red Bull are volunteering to take a pitlane start, to get full new component engine, why would the FIA have a say, based on the rules?

James? Anyone else?


It just looks better with 18 on the grid than 17cars yes/no


Here’s looking forward to McLaren topping Ferrari in constructor points, starting Texas!


Flash news! Fiat-Chrysler will spin off Ferrari within the next few months. 10% of Ferrari to be listed in the US and European stock market, the remaining 90% shares will be spread within FCA which will inevitably invite wealthy funds to gain board seats. I think now we fully understand the reason for Montezemolo’s exit. Montezemolo for all his short comings built the modern day Scuderia brick by brick both on and off the track. It looks increasingly likely that we may see a day soon when Ferrari drops out of F1 at the behest of its stockholders just like Ford and Toyota.


That might be the shake up F1 needs!


The track in Texas is something of a miracle – it’s a Tilke designed circuit that is exactly very good!

Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh, because Turkey and Malaysia are also wonderful tracks. It does beg the question: if Tilke got Texas, Turkey and Sepang right, how come he got the likes of China, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Korea so badly wrong??? Open to discussion about that one

Let’s be honest, if you were designing a track from scratch, all you have to do is look at classic circuits from the past. The original Buenos Aires (No.15), Interlagos, Kyalami, Silverstone, Brands Hatch, Zandvoort, O-ring – circuits with long fast sweeping corners and long straights. That’s what racing drivers want: mega fast curves, not point and squirt stop start Mickey Mouse tracks!

By the way, the assumption there will be only 18 cars this weekend is technically incorrect – don’t forget our old friend Bernd Maylander in his chugging Merc gullwing. Personally I think it’s unfair he’s still able to use a normally aspirated reliable V8 lump…………..


You’re right..Mercedes is already running a three car team!


@ gazboy….you might care to follow up on this point but i was under the impression that the circuit design was originally drawn up by two other people, tavo whatshisname and kevin schwantz? tilke was only drafted in to finesse the actual layout and to build the circuit.

it may well be an urban myth but i would be surprised if there wasn’t an element of truth in there somewhere.


@K Chapman

🙂 that rude word you have after “Kevin” is usable with reference to the mclaren, force I, and sauber nose designs,….. but circuit layout? maybe …..


@ Gaz Boy

Hahaha good old Bernd Maylander. He has had the best seat in the house all season.


@ blues paul…..Que?


Bring on the prius.


Austin is an OK circuit as Tilke tracks go but is is a travesty to compare it to Spa


I think Vettel would be smart to sit out qualy…at least it will provide him with a convenient excuse for being outqualified by Danny boy. Lets not forget that Vettel has been officially outqualified by a teammate over a season for the first time in his career. It was done by none other than my boy Ric who embarrassed Vettel time and again this season. Vettel could not stand the humuliation any longer and turned tail to Ferrari. Sadly I fear he will end up as another Villneuve, trundling around in the midfield. Oh, and to think what a difference a year makes…

Lest we forget, Vettel, during the winter break, said: “It would look pretty silly if I, as a four-time world champion, got beaten by my new teammate (Riccardio)”. Vettel, however, is very good at PR and to save face he is making noise about emulating the great Schumacher. The truth is that golden boy Vettel has got his comeuppance this year…and he wants a weak teammate like Kimi to restore his ‘legacy; (or whatever is left of it). Unfortunately for him, Daniel will continue to outperform him for many more years to come 😀 and will soon be regarded in the same class as the true greats of this F1 era: Hamilton and Alonso.



Kimi is only weak in comparison to Alonso and also has issues with the front of the car (could be a good excuse!).

I do not see Vettell having an easy ride and my money is on Kimi to expose “double diffuser down draught boy” as much as Ric has done!!


“and will soon be regarded in the same class as the true greats of this F1 era: Hamilton and Alonso.”

Do you do stand up?


Just to add on point e), Senna won the USGP for Mclaren and Lotus (in 1987).


@Ma Oberson, The Detroit GP or the GPs run as the US Grand Prix West don’t count as United States Grand Prix races.


@Pat M + @Ma Oberson

Yes the US had a race at Detroit in the 80s but it wasn’t under the official US grand prix

Kind of like when Germany had two races but it was only Hockenheim that was the German grand prix


@ Ma Oberson

No, the race wasn’t held from 1981-1988.


Just look at your stats, they ran in Detroit on these years.


I think the US grand prix ran in Detroit in the eighties.


Rosberg needs a big weekend,when you look at the season the only thing hes been any good is qually,and that’s only even Stevens with ham, race pace,race craft,overtaking,defensive driving, fuel use,tyre wear wet weather running,etc etc it’s all Lewis, the guys is still in credit regards issues 1 dnf and 2 dnfs in qually,and he’s behind?any one still thinking he’s a tier 1 driver, he’s got 3 races to nail Lewis,if he beats Lewis in those 3 races,without any issues Lewis side,then fair play


Maybe before Vettel bleats about the “stupid engine rules” he should consider the hundreds of people at Caterham and Marussia, who now face a very uncertain future due to the high costs of F1 racing, and then consider whether cost savings isn’t a good idea after all?

I hope Ferrari have a very large rear diffuser budget next year to allow him to compete at the front again!


The same stupid engine rules that helped the straw break the camels back at those two teams. Just think of all the greenhouse gases saved though by those folks not having a job to drive to every day.


I like this track interesting mix of corners, any word on how the event is being marketed in the US, and ticket sales?…is bernies dream of cracking the states getting any closer. In the 2x prev years I get the feeling only those who already knew about F1 are aware.

Be interesting to see how the 2014 medium fairs, the hard tyre in previous years did not perform so well as drivers struggled with warm up. Given the tyres this year are a step harder maybe drivers will struggle initially…I guess it maybe similar to Russia, which was not that bad really

Key to 1 stop vs 2 stop will be the time difference between compunds, my gut feeling is 2 stop as in prev races the soft has been a lot quicker


I hope it’s entirely different to Russia. Bullet proof tyres, no excitement on track, fuel saving snore fest.


This is a great track and much better than any of the Tilke-designed ones. The only change I would make is to the hairpin-straight-hairpin section..i’d love a corner like Sochi (T3) or Spoon Curve before the straight, but hey ho!

Let’s hope we see packed grandstrands and a great race.

Oh, and there was a safety car last year? I genuinely don’t remember a single thing about that race.


Some US stats:

Officially begun racing in 1959

a) Ferrari 9 wins, Mclaren + Lotus = 8 wins, BRM 3 wins

b) Schumi 5 wins, Graham Hill + Clark = 3 wins, Stewart + Hunt + Reutemann + Senna + Lewis = 2 wins

c) The back to back winners are Schumi 4 wins, Graham Hill 3 wins, Clark + Hunt + Senna + Lewis (2007/2012) = 2 wins

d) Due to the fact the race has been on and off the calendar since 1981, therefore, the only none Mclaren/Ferrari winners since 1975 are Vettel in 2013 and Alan Jones in a Williams in 1980

e) No driver has won the US race in different teams

f) No American has won an official F1 race

g) Since the beginning of european style of racing in the US (1908) Lewis is the only driver to have won at different circuits i.e. Indianapolis and Austin

h) Only 5 Ferrari drivers have won the race of which only Schumi has won more than once.

i) The only Mclaren drivers will less than 2 wins are Mika & Prost

j) In a period from 1960-1968, the race was won by British drivers, however, Lewis’ 2007 win was the first British win since 1977.


Goferet, I think (f) is wrong. Mario Andretti is an American, and has won 12 official F1 races.


@ BoogWar

Oh no, I meant a US grand prix race.


Rosberg Senior won his WDC at Las Vegas 1982, in the same style as Piquet Senior won his first WDC in 1981 at Ceasers Palace – by finishing 5th both times! Poor old Lord Nelson was sick in his car thanks to the anti clockwise layout and desert heart of the Ceasers Palace circuit. His overalls were covered in his liquid stomach matter at the end of the race and he had to be carried out of his car………………..still, he got his WDC in the end.

Didn’t Andretti Senior won at Long Beach 1977? Super Mario took the chequered flag after nailing Jody Scheckter in a hairpin towards the end of the race.

Personally, I don’t think Indy 2005 qualifies as a race, more of a farce…………….


@ Gaz Boy

Blimey!!!! Lord Nelson was covered in his own lunch. Darn, just goes to show what the title means to these blokes.

But it’s interesting that both Lewis and Jenson too won their titles by finishing 5th, maybe drivers tend to take it easy at the last race.

Regards Super Mario, his win didn’t count because at the time the US had two grand prix and so he didn’t win at the official US grand prix of 1977.


You forgot 2 stats and one of your others is not right

The 2001 race at Indianapolis was important for 2 reasons:

1 Mika Hakkinen win at the 2001 US Grand Prix was the 20th and last of his career

2 The race was Murray Walker’s final commentary for British TV.

Also when you say no American has won an official F1 race don’t you mean no American has won an official United States Grand Prix as part of the world championship?


Yiu forgot 2 stats and one of your others is not right

The 2001 race at Indianapolis was important for 2reasons:

1 Mika Hakkinen win at the 2001 US Grand Prix was the 20th annd last last of his career

2 The race was Murray Walker’s final commentary for British TV.

Also when you say no American has won an official F1 race don’t you mean no American has won an official United States Grand Prix as part of the world championship?


@ Stephen Taylor

Thanks for the stats and yes I meant no US driver has won a US race part of the world championship.


You obviously don’t need to count sheep to get to sleep…LOL!


@ buzzzzzzzz



James, as regards start performance, presumably cars starting on the dirty side are still hugely disadvantaged here, as last year?


Agree its going to be critical for good side of grid start, especially with the extra torque

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