Track of the Year: Circuit of the Americas

The start of the race. Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Race, Austin, Texas, 18 November 2012.

Dec.23 (Grand Prix 247) The United States, which has largely ignored Formula One in the past, is suddenly being viewed as a land of promise for the world’s glamour circuit with the sport’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone calling for up to three races in the country more in tune with NASCAR and oval racing.

Grid girls with an American flag.Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Race, Austin, Texas, 18 November 2012.After a five-year hiatus, F1 mad its long-awaited return to America in mid-November, resurrecting the United States Grand Prix and along with it hopes that the series may finally be ready to conquer a market it has long coveted.

With the newly constructed $400 million Circuit of the Americas providing the spectacular beach head, a successful race in the Texas capital could pave the way for even more grands prix in the U.S. with possible races in New York and Los Angeles.

F1 teams up and down the Austin paddock could not hide their delight at being back in the United States while Ecclestone gushed a new found enthusiasm for a market he had once dismissed.

“The Americas are probably big enough to have five or six grands prix,” Ecclestone told reporters.

Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR7. Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Race, Austin, Texas, 18 November 2012.The F1 boss added, “We’re trying to get something sorted out in New Jersey/New York, we’ve had a lot of requests. Maybe we can do something in LA (Los Angeles) in the future. It’s a shame [New Jersey] didn’t go through as planned, it won’t happen in 2013 and hopefully we can resurrect it in 2014.”

Unable to find a permanent home, F1 has barnstormed its way around the U.S. with Austin becoming the 10th city to host the series after Sebring (Florida), Riverside (California), Watkins Glen (New York), Phoenix (Arizona), Dallas (Texas), Detroit (Michigan), Las Vegas (Nevada), Long Beach (California) and Indianapolis (Indiana).

But with the country’s first purpose built F1 track already drawing rave reviews and a 10-year contract in place, the series appears ready to take up residence in Texas while looking to spread the F1 gospel to the rest of the country.

Herman Tilke, often criticised for his unexciting tracks, produced a masterpiece and perhaps even his best work to date as the sport’s premier race circuit designer. Drivers were smitten from the word go.

  • Lewis Hamilton: “This is a great drivers’ track – it’s very tough to pull together three perfect sectors. Personally, I find the final two sectors easier than the first; those high-speed changes of direction need a good set-up, and balancing that requirement against the demands of the slow-speed stuff is tricky. Turn One probably looks more exciting from the outside than it does from inside the cockpit – it’s certainly not easy, though. You can get oversteer, or lock up, and it’s tricky to get a perfect line through there.”
  • Fernando Alonso: “The circuit was a nice surprise, even if we had an idea of what to expect from the simulator: it’s very demanding, especially the first sector which is very fast and where you can really feel the acceleration of an F1 car.
  • Jenson Button: “Turn One to Turn Nine is a brilliant and free-flowing section – particularly if the car is working well. Turn One is a strange corner though – with a very wide entry rather like Turn Three in India. Turn Three here – the start of the esses – is fantastic though. It’s quicker than Becketts at Silverstone. It’s very unsual to find a section of corners like this on a modern F1 track. I love it.”
  • Mark Webber: “It’s a pretty good track, it’s quick, especially the first sector which is quite full on, although sectors two and three are more traditional and similar to other tracks.”
  • Nico Rosberg: “I like the new track here at the Circuit of the Americas very much and they have done a great job with the layout.”
  • Michael Schumacher: “The circuit will certainly help to showcase how attractive our sport can be. It has a very nice layout, and the good thing is that it is very challenging.”
  • Kimi Räikkönen: “It’s a nice circuit to drive; the sectors are quite different so there’s a good challenge there. Of course.”
  • Pastor Maldonado: “The circuit is really nice and it was fun to drive.”
  • Kamui Kobayashi: “The high speed corners of the new circuit are very enjoyable, I really like driving here.”
  • Sergio Pérez: “The track is amazing.”
  • Daniel Ricciardo: “The new track lived up to the expectations we had … coming here.”
  • Jean-Eric Vergne: “I have to say this is a really nice track and I like it very much. It is very challenging with a lot of places where you can overtake, even without DRS I can see some corners where you can pass, which will be good for the show and it is also excellent purely from a driving point of view. There was not one corner where I felt it wasn’t interesting.”
  • Bernie Ecclestone: “It’s absolutely first class. All things we wanted to get done have been done. We’ve taken the good bits from all the different circuits and tried to put them together. It should make [for] good racing.”

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(L to R): Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing, Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren and Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari celebrates with the champagne on the podium. Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Race, Austin, Texas, 18 November 2012.

  • Joe Kinnear

    Pffffttt of course they would say it’s a good track for PR’s sake. Honestly… with the exception of turn 1 that’s basically a mirror image of A1 Ring (now Red Bull Ring’s) turn 1… it’s just a mess of corners. Typical Tilke Trash Track. Anyone with a sane mind could see there’s no flow or interesting combination of corners.

  • Psych4191

    @Joe CotA is a fantastic track. And, Tilke makes fantastic tracks if he’s given full reign over what happens (India, Turkey, USA).

  • RicJ

    People seem to have forgotten that while Tilke built the track the layout was envisioned by Tavo Hellmund and Kevin Schwantz.

  • splat

    I was there for the 1st race in Austin and it IS A NICE TRACK!
    IF you haven’t been there, shut up until you actually know what you’re talking about.