Laps: 56 (sprint: 19 laps)
Length: 5.513 kilometres
The Circuit of the Americas has established itself as the permanent home of Formula 1 in the United States since its acclaimed 2012 debut, with its design — featuring corners borrowed from longer standing circuits around the world — winning driver praise. Its classic layout and massive crowd capacity stand it apart from the glitzier competition from newcomer neighbouring races in Miami and Las Vegas.
Winner: Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing)
Max Verstappen had to fight for victory after a slow second stop dropped him from first to third behind Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc. It took him four laps to battle past Leclerc, setting him up for a 6.5-second pursuit of victory. A slipstream into turn 11 with seven laps remaining got the job done, winning Red Bull Racing its first constructors title since 2013.
As has been the case ahead of every weekend this season, Red Bull Racing starts as the unbackable favourite, with the newly minted three-time champion Max Verstappen — winner of the last two races in Austin — spearheading the team’s efforts.
The Verstappen-Red Bull Racing combination is on track to be the most dominant ever. Already with the team and driver records for most successive victories, both can break new ground for most wins in a season both outright and in percentage terms. Red Bull Racing must sweep all five remaining races to get there; Verstappen needs just three victories from the last five rounds.
Of interest in this spell of domination, however, is Sergio Pérez, whose poor form leaves him only 30 points ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the battle for second place, with just one podium since the midseason break and with management despairing about his utility to the team in a potentially closer fight next season.
Team will get just one hour of free practice on Friday afternoon before locking in set-up for qualifying later that day according to F1’s sprint rules.
In Qatar last round — practically a new track for the work done since Lusail’s first race in 2021 — the format caught out some heavy hitters, including Sergio Pérez and Carlos Sainz, who were knocked out before Q3, having been unable to get the most from the tyres over one lap.
COTA’s more familiar layout will pose less of a set-up dilemma, but the circuit’s ever-changing asphalt profile could still wreak havoc.
The track, built on shifting Texan soil, has become notorious for developing enormous bumps on the racing line. Rather than fully repave the course, race organisers have ground down the bumps where possible, resurfacing only the very worst bits of road.
MotoGP riders decried that the track had become a Frankenstein’s monster on their visit earlier this year, with four different surfaces stitched together.
A rough ride will force F1 cars to run with a higher ride height to avoid damaging the sensitive floors. But that’s not something this generation of ground-effect machines like, and there’s not enough time to really fine-tune it in just one hour — yet another twist.
Looking at the race more broadly, a forecast for ambient temperatures over 30°C, plus the high-energy corner combinations, will make tyre conservation crucial to success here — as usual, as this is ordinarily a two-stop race.
The layout, which demands high downforce for the sweeping bends but low drag for the very long back straight, should make the competition for pole interesting, with Red Bull Racing generally running more wing than other teams, leaving it somewhat vulnerable in a straight line.
However, that leads to a much bigger advantage in race trim, when tyre life becomes a secret weapon. It’ll therefore be a tough battle to prevent Verstappen from claiming a third successive victory.