The Circuit of the Americas, venue of the United States Grand Prix – Round 17 of the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship – is one of the few tracks on the Formula 1 calendar which tests all aspects of a car in equal measure.
Sector One is about high speed turns and quick change of direction, Sector Two places more of a focus on power unit performance with the long back straight, while the final Sector examines lower speed performance.
Downforce vs Drag
- If it were not for the long full throttle stretch between Turns 11 and 12, a very high downforce configuration would be run, so ultimately, a load level at the higher end of the spectrum will appear on the cars.
- With the greater downforce for 2017, the start of the S section in Sector One, as well as Turns 16-18, should be flat-out – teams will run as little load as possible to ensure that this is the case, in order to claw back some top speed for the back straight.
Car Strengths Needed
- As mentioned above, all aspects of a car’s performance are tested in Austin, ranging from Aerodynamic downforce to Mechanical grip and straightline speed.
- Another key requirement is a chassis with a wide operating window, since the vast range of cornering speeds and turn angles places the car in different scenarios, with regards to roll, pitch and yaw.
- Turn 1 – this uphill, blind entry hairpin rewards late braking and driver commitment.
- Turn 11 – good traction is required on the exit of this corner in order to apply full power as early as possible, ahead of the back straight.
- Turn 15 – this corner, especially on entry, is difficult to maximise, with braking and turning occurring simultaneously, therefore inducing tyre locking.
- As has been the case at a number of races this year, Pirelli is bringing compounds which are a step softer than last year.
- he favoured strategy in 2016 was a two stop, with a variety of compounds involved.
- Using this information, together with that on the 2017 tyres at other circuits, it appears as if a one-stop using the softest compounds available, possible at many recent circuits, will be highly unlikely.
- Instead, a two stop US-US/SS-SS strategy, or a US-S one-stop, will probably be the plans of choice.
- There are multiple overtaking opportunities around the COTA, with Turns 1 and 12, both preceded by DRS zones and featuring very wide entries, being the best opportunities.
- Turn 15 is also a popular passing place, given that the wide track allows different lines, while the preceding corners are slow speed, allowing cars to run in closer proximity.
- The forecast looks uncertain for all three days, with the possibility of thunderstorms, but the most likely scenario is that sessions take place in the dry.
- As a result, teams should be able to gather all necessary long run data, something which was not possible in Malaysia and Japan due to wet/interrupted Friday sessions.
- Mercedes and Ferrari will enter the weekend as favourites once again, but the use of the Ultrasoft tyre could be beneficial to the latter given recent history on this compound.
- Red Bull’s improved package should see the team fair well through the first and last Sectors, but the long back straight should prevent the RB13 from challenging at the front in qualifying.
- Behind the top three teams, Force India has had the fourth quickest car in the last two races, and given the similarity of the COTA to the recent circuits, a strong performance is on the cards again.
- Despite the power deficit the team faced in 2015 and 2016, McLaren performed well in Austin, so expect the MCL32 to challenge for Q3 and points this weekend.
See further analysis by Iman Hansra here>>>