Distance: 5.513 kilometres
The Circuit of the Americas is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this season, but in just a decade of racing its established itself as a favourite among the drivers and the undisputed home of Formula 1 in the United States. The secret to its success is the borrowing of some of the best corners from racetracks around the world, which stitch together in a formidable and entertaining challenge
Winner: Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing)
Max Verstappen pipped Lewis Hamilton to victory at what had previously been a Mercedes stronghold with a perfectly executed aggressive strategy. Hamilton jumped pole-getter Verstappen, but that enabled the Dutchman to gamble with a series of provocative early pit stops. It handed Hamilton a pace advantage at the end, but track position proved decisive in Verstappen’s victory.
Max Verstappen claimed his second championship in succession last round in Japan by winning the half-distance wet race by almost half a minute ahead of vanquished title rivals Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc.
It was his 12th win of the season, one behind the all-time record of 13 jointly held by Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel.
The RB18 has established itself as the car to beat in all conditions and at all tracks. Red Bull Racing leads Ferrari by 165 points with four rounds remaining; it needs a lead of 147 by the end of this weekend’s race to secure the title double.
Meanwhile, the gap to Ferrari and Mercedes — and the order of those two challenging teams — has been more volatile depending on the circuit.
Mercedes in particular has missed opportunities in the last two races to drop 67 points behind Ferrari with four rounds to go.
The Circuit of the Americas is a well-rounded technical challenge requiring a bit of everything from a car.
The track can be divided roughly into two parts. The first half is the downforce-dependent esses which put significant lateral load through the car and tyres. Overheating rubber is a real challenge here, particularly given ambient temperature tends to be in the low 30°C range under the sizzling Texas sun.
The second half of the track is mostly hairpins and straights, where power becomes an advantage.
An efficient car that can be quick through the sweeps without sacrificing top speed and making itself vulnerable to DRS attack is what you need — and what Red Bull Racing has.
An additional crucial element to this track has been the development of some extreme bumps at some corners. During the 2021–22 off-season circuit organisers undertook more substantial resurfacing work, and though MotoGP riders said the track was much improved earlier this year, they doubted how permanent the fixes would be.
A bumpy track will be an issue for the 2022-spec cars, which run lower than last year’s machines, and especially for Mercedes, which has a well-known serious weakness for uneven surfaces.
That would be extremely disappointing for the German marque, still without a win this season. George Russell has picked out COTA as a potentially strong track for the troubled W13 based on those sweeping turns in the first part of the lap and its good tyre usage, but any major bumps would risk unsettling the car, as was the case in Singapore.
In that case Ferrari would be set for a good opportunity to enhance its hold on second in the constructors standings if its plays its cars correctly.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author. Quotes have been obtained from team press conferences and issued press releases.