2015 United States Grand Prix Practice Review

COTA_09

Lewis Hamilton wins the Russian Grand Prix ahead of Sebastian Vettel in second place and Sergio Perez in third place. This allowed Mercedes to secure their second consecutive Constructors Championship which is a fantastic achievement and a big congratulations to the team.

Heading into this race weekend in Austin, there have been meetings this week that Formula One needs to address the key issues in order to move forward for the future. For example, the cars having more engine talk and power.

Also, Hamilton could become World Champion for a third time if he wins the US GP and Sebastian Vettel finishes third or lower.

The Circuit of the Americas (COTA) is the first purpose-built F1 racetrack in the United States and site of the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix. The circuit is located near Austin, the capital city of Texas. The circuit is only 5 minutes away from Austin Bergstrom International Airport.

The track passed the final FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) inspection on 25 september 2012. Austin is set to host Formula 1 racing from 2012 through 2021 and MotoGP from 2013 to 2022.

The track is designed by well known German architect and circuit designer Hermann Tilke. The circuit length is 5.5 kilometers and the driving direction is counterclockwise. A total of 20 corners with 9 right turns and 11 left turns. The track width is 11.9-15.9 meters and the estimated top speed is 320 km/h. The elevation change of 40.5 meters makes the course not only scenic, but also extremely challenging and very exciting for the spectators.

The grandstands, temporary stands and natural seating areas created by integrating natural grass berms and picnic areas for families will enable over 120,000 to attend the Grand Prix race. The $ 250 million multifunctional facility is being designed with year-round functionality and attractions.

There are some proposed attractions within the racetrack development include driving/riding experience and seminar building, motorsports driving club and a kart track. The paddock building will also serve as a 500-person banquet hall for private or corporate events or galas.

Let the race weekend begin in Austin…

Practices 1, 2 and 3

The main headline from the Practice sessions is Mercedes look to have the driver-car package to beat this weekend as weather conditions and tyre management which will test the drivers, teams and the cars throughout Friday and Saturday practice sessions.

Nico Rosberg tops the timesheets in FP1.

Nico Rosberg tops the timesheets in FP1.

Practice 1 saw Nico Rosberg tops the timesheet with a time of 1.53.989 followed closely by Daniil Kvyat with a gap of 1.235 seconds behind, Daniel Ricciard was in third with a gap of 1.603 seconds behind, Carlos Sainz Jr was in fourth 1.678  seconds behind and Lewis Hamilton was in fifth place 1.704 seconds behind Rosberg

Sebastian Vettel was in sixth 1.721 seconds behind, Max Verstappen was in seventh 1.980 seconds behind, Kimi Raikkonen was eighth with a gap of 2.337 seconds behind, Fernando Alonso was ninth 2.850 seconds behind and Valtteri Bottas was in tenth 2.877 seconds behind Hulkenberg.

As had been the case in the last two events at Suzuka and Sochi, wet conditions dominated early proceedings as a heavy downpour soaked the Circuit of the Americas just over an hour before the session began.

Fortunately the rain relented with 45 minutes to the start and although it stayed away for the 90 minutes of on-track action that followed;  it ensured the circuit was at best damp throughout the session.

After the initial installation lap was conducted on Pirelli’s full wet tyres, the field switched to the intermediates to carry out more meaningful running thereafter.

Unlike many opening practice sessions when the cars sit in the garage on the basis of drier weather being forecast as the event progresses; on this occasion with rain set for most of the weekend, the teams opted to churn out the laps which was great to see.

In between the break between Friday’s two practices; Hurricane Patricia made her presence known. The rain came down while lightening in the vicinity meant the marshals were unable to take to their posts.

A weather warning went up from the Circuit of the Americas officials, telling spectators to seek cover. The teams and drivers definitely did as, with the start of FP2 postponed, everyone hid in their respective garages watching the rain pour down.

As the storm continued and the light faded the FIA cancelled FP2 just before the hour mark with the following message:-

‘No medical helicopter operations for the next 2 hours.’

This then brought doubts for if FP3 would start. However on Saturday morning just before the final practice session; it was announced that the session would go ahead as planned.

Lewis Hamilton tops the timesheets in FP3.

Lewis Hamilton tops the timesheets in FP3.

Practice 3 saw Hamilton tops the timesheet with a time of 1.59.517 followed closely by Vettel with a gap of 0.863 seconds behind, Hulkenberg was in third with a gap of 0.979 seconds behind, Bottas was in fourth 1.006 seconds behind and Sainz Jr was in fifth place 1.170 seconds behind Hamilton.

Kvyat was in sixth 1.177 seconds behind, Raikkonen was in seventh 1.268 seconds behind, Ricciardo was eighth with a gap of 1.491 seconds behind, Rosberg was ninth 1.957 seconds behind and Massa was in tenth 2.682 seconds behind Hamilton

During FP3, we saw in the early stages both the Mercedes drivers of Hamilton and Rosberg going off the track, with Hamilton managing to get the car back under control as Rosberg hit the barriers through the Esses after aquaplaning and suffered front wing damage which needed him to come back to the pits to get it sorted.

We also saw in the second half of the session Vettel spinning at Turn 19 but managed to keep the Ferrari together and continued running in the session. Within the space of a few minutes, Vettel had another spin which saw him going in the right direction but backwards. However, Vettel did manage to turn the car around and continue on with the session.

You would be stupid not to bet against the Mercedes drivers of Hamilton and Rosberg to gain pole position again this weekend. As the Mercedes drivers seem to be performing brilliantly at the moment and the momentum is with them from all the track mileage and their strong form from the last race.

But Bottas is looking strong this weekend and could snatch pole from them. However, Sainz Jr, Hulkenberg and Ricciardo and Kvyat also cannot be discounted for the pole also as they are consistently within the top ten places at the moment.

However, I think that Toro Rosso or Force India have shown that they could throw themselves into the mix and could qualify well here to be in the hunt for some decent points this weekend. We all look forward to the qualifying session of the Grand Prix with excitement…

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