2014 United States Grand Prix – Preview
- Round 17 of the 2014 Formula One World Championship brings us to Austin for the United States Grand Prix, held at the Circuit of the Americas.
- Driver / Senior Management Quotes
- Lewis Hamilton
Crossing the line on Sunday in Sochi was a really amazing moment. To win the very first Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix and help the team achieve the first Constructors’ Championship for Mercedes-Benz with a one-two finish – it couldn’t have got much better. When I went to the factories in Brackley and Brixworth the week afterwards, the atmosphere was just awesome. Everybody has worked so hard to achieve this title and they all deserve to savour the moment.
Of course, we still have three races left to decide the Drivers’ Championship – starting in Austin, which is one of the best weekends of the year. A lot of the American side of my family come to the race, plus I won the first ever Formula One Grand Prix at the circuit back in 2012, so it’s a special one for me. I really enjoy going there and I’m looking forward to another great race – hopefully ending up with another Stetson hat on the top step of the podium!
What a week we had after Russia. Being back at Brackley and Brixworth with a Constructors’ Championship title for Mercedes-Benz – the first one ever, of course – and celebrating with all the people I’ve watched working flat-out, day and night for nearly five years to achieve this goal – it was just fantastic. I’m really proud to be a part of this team along with all the great people within it, so it’s great to see them get such a reward for all their efforts. Now, of course, we target a big finish to the season in the final three races. It’s still all to play for in the battle for the Drivers’ Championship and I won’t be giving up the fight until the flag drops in Abu Dhabi. Hopefully we can keep the entertainment going right to the end for the fans out there enjoying the contest.
The first step comes in Austin, which is a really cool city and a great race track. I haven’t had the best races there so far, but I’m determined to change that this year.
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
We were immensely proud to have sealed the first ever Formula One World Constructors’ Championship for Mercedes-Benz at the first ever Russian Grand Prix a fortnight ago. The atmosphere since has been fantastic – and rightly so after the years of hard work that everybody has put into this achievement. What is particularly impressive, however, is that among the celebrations there has remained a strong sense of grounding and focus. Not just for the remainder of this season – but for the years to come. Success in Formula One does not come easily and we are determined to ensure that our performance this year is not a one-off but the first of many. For now, though, our priority is to give both drivers the best possible platform for an unhindered fight to the flag in Abu Dhabi.
The first step, of course, is Austin – a weekend the whole paddock looks forward to and an important event in terms of bringing Formula One to the United States. The U.S. is the biggest consumer market in the world and the largest global market for Mercedes-Benz; thanks to the race in Austin, we can see that the US is playing a bigger role in our sport, too, with greater interest and investment at many levels. F1 has a passionate fan-base in the USA, which we can see growing all the time: the crowds at the first two races in Austin were absolutely mega, which is very encouraging for the future.
Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
It was fantastic to secure the Constructors’ Championship at the very first Russian Grand Prix – and a great honour for me personally to be able to collect the race trophy on behalf of the team after such an amazing achievement. This is the result of many years of hard work from everybody involved at Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart and it was particularly satisfying to see the title clinched with a one-two finish. Lewis produced a flawless drive and Nico a fantastic recovery from the back of the pack, so it was a proud day all round. There have been plenty of celebrations at the factories, which is great to see. When you’re so focused on competing in a World Championship battle it can be difficult to take a step back and appreciate what has been achieved. Of course, with three races still to go it’s been straight back to business.
The Drivers’ Championship has yet to be settled and it is still all to play for with the standings so close. We have the prospect of a dramatic finale with the double-points race in Abu Dhabi and it is unlikely to be decided before that point. Our focus has been very much on providing the drivers with the equipment to compete on equal terms so that the best man may win. Looking first to Austin, it’s only the third time we’ve been there as a sport and it’s an event the whole team enjoys. It’s an interesting city and we see fantastic support from the American fans. It’s also a great racetrack – a good all-round circuit which is demanding of all aspects of the car. As we saw in Russia, a new – or relatively new – track surface can give unpredictable results in terms of tyre performance, so we’ll be doing our best to prepare for all eventualities and produce another strong result.
Circuit of the Americas: The Inside Line
Coming across the line, all you can see is this huge hill in front of you on the run up to Turn 1. As you’re braking you actually lose sight of the apex over the tyre. The corner itself is really tight and really low-grip so it’s tricky to get it right. But it’s important to get the best exit you can as you’re then flat out through Turn 2 and into the ‘S’ complex of Turns 3 – 6.
This combination of corners is fast and flowing, needs good downforce and requires the driver to hit every apex to carry as much speed as possible.
Positioning really is everything through here to ensure you set yourself up for the next corner with each turn. The next sequence through Turns 7 – 9 is a little tighter and you really have to take your time on entry to ensure the best possible exit through the kink of Turn 10 and downhill along the short straight to the hairpin.
The hairpin at Turn 11 is really tight. You want to brake as late as possible on the way in to defend from cars behind you – but a good exit is far more important as it’s followed by a long straight with a DRS zone. You then need good stability on the brakes into Turn 12, which is a heavy braking zone, before really attacking the apex and getting on the power early to launch you into the next sequence.
Turns 13 – 15 form a really tight complex of corners with very low grip, so you’re waiting for what seems like ages for the car to turn in. Turn 15 in particular is quite tricky in terms of finding the right braking point and the best line. You have to go really wide on the way in, then come tight to the apex and keep left for the next corner.
Turns 16 – 18 form one long, continuous right-hand bend that’s really high-speed. It’s flat-out through here but the car is constantly trying to snap away from you. You’ve then got to make sure you get back over to the right-hand side of the track as quickly as possible to carry the speed through the penultimate corner, Turn 19, using all of the kerb on exit. Finally, you’re braking into the last corner, Turn 20, where you don’t want to take too much angle on the way in before a short blast to the finish line.
The race in Texas is one of my favourite weekends of the year. The track is really cool and has been very well done. It starts off with a massive uphill climb into Turn 1, which is really good for overtaking, followed by a really fast, flowing section that makes up the rest of the opening sector to begin the lap.
In both years that we’ve been so far the turnout has been amazing, with not just North American but also South American fans coming to watch the race and creating an amazing atmosphere. The city itself is also good fun and quite unique, which I really enjoy. It’s a big student city that’s really lively, with loads of nightlife and plenty going on during the day time too, so I’m looking forward to going back there.
It’s an important race also for a major car manufacturer like Mercedes-Benz. It’s great for us to have a Grand Prix in the USA as it’s such a big market, so we’ll be pushing flat-out to do a good job and put on some great entertainment for the crowds.
On the Pit Wall
Austin has an interesting track layout, inspired by some of the most iconic elements of classic racing circuits from around the world. There is a lot of high-speed content to start the lap with the ‘S’ curves through Turns 2 – 6, requiring good downforce, balance and high-speed stability from the car. Before even that, however, there is an uphill braking zone into the off-camber Turn 1 – again requiring good balance. There’s the long, sweeping, continuous right-hand curve of Turns 16 – 18, which is deceptively difficult to carry speed through and equally tricky to get absolutely right lap after lap.
The back straight is one of the longest on the current calendar – providing a prime overtaking opportunity due to the low-speed nature of the preceding hairpin coupled with a DRS zone. Likewise the start / finish straight which, while not as long, offers good possibilities for a DRS-assisted overtake into Turn 1, where multiple lines can be taken both into and out of the corner. The circuit layout itself is not particularly demanding of one area of a car over another – it’s a good all-round test of performance with a few unique characteristics. While there is a long straight, there is far more time to be found through the corners, making good downforce far more relevant. It is also a middle-of-the-road track in terms of demands on brakes and tyres.
The Circuit of the Americas only made its debut on the Formula One calendar in 2012 and, as often seen with new circuits, track evolution has been radical between the first two seasons. The opening pair of races in Austin have seen marked differences between the performance of both cars and tyres. This can often be perceived as some drivers getting to grips with a circuit quicker than others – but that isn’t the case. Formula One drivers, particularly now with the aid of modern simulators, only take a few laps to get up to speed with a new track layout. Fundamentally, it’s then a matter of how well the car is set up and how well it is driven to suit the properties of that circuit rather than learning lines.
As the years roll on, that variation inevitably becomes smaller. After three years, as is now the case with Austin, the track should have reached what the teams will treat as a stable state, where such radical changes as those seen previously are not anticipated. With two races worth of track experience under their belts and simulators as accurate as can be by this stage, teams should be fully optimised to tackle the weekend without too much consideration for track evolution.
2013 saw a one-stop strategy adopted almost universally throughout the grid. This year, however, Pirelli have chosen a tyre allocation one step softer – medium and soft in lieu of the hard and medium nominated last time out in Austin. With a variety of racing formulae providing continued running on the circuit throughout the year, the surface will have stabilised and will therefore be as aggressive – if not more aggressive – than last season. A relative unknown quantity in the form of the soft compound will therefore provide a fresh challenge. Data gathered during running on the medium tyre will correlate – and this compound has performed well historically in Austin.
However, the performance of the soft in these conditions will need to be determined. An argument might be made that the 2014 compounds are, overall, half a step harder than last year’s editions, thus rendering the change in allocation insignificant. While this statement in its essence is certainly true, the characteristics of the new V6 Hybrid engines with their increased torque and power – coupled with a reduction in rear end downforce – negates that half step. Evidence of this can be seen when comparing the average number of pit stops seen at each race this season to that of 2013, which closely correlate.
It can be very cold in Austin at this time of year. There have been mornings during race weekends where arrival at the track is greeted by temperatures of just five degrees. During the race week, temperatures can vary from as high as 27 – 28 right down to 18 – 19 degrees. This shift in climate tends to fall during the Grand Prix week, with the preceding week often relatively warm and the following week often relatively cold. This is far from guaranteed, of course, meaning that teams must be able to cater for all conditions. This doesn’t require any particular pre-planning – more an ability to adapt to conditions as they evolve during the course of the weekend.Anniversaries
24 October 1954 – 60 Years Ago:
In the final race of the Formula One season, the Spanish Grand Prix in Pedralbes, Juan Manuel Fangio finishes in third place. Four wins in six races, plus two more wins in a Maserati, are the outcome of his first season with Mercedes-Benz.
28 – 30 October 1934 – 80 Years Ago:
Rudolf Caracciola sets a series of new standards in the W 25 record-breaking car at the Gyon track near Budapest, including a world best 317.5 km/h for the one kilometre with flying start and a record 188.6 km/h for the one mile from a standing start.
28 October – 7 November 1964 – 50 Years Ago:
Following on from their success the previous year, the driver team of Eugen Böhringer and Klaus Kaiser pilot their Mercedes-Benz 300 SE to victory in the Touring Car Grand Prix of Argentina once again. The Dieter Glemser/Martin Braungart and Ewy von Korff-Rosqvist/Ursula Falk pairings take second and third places respectively, also at the wheel of the 300 SE. Mercedes-Benz thus claims its fourth straight win in the world's toughest endurance race.
28 October 1994 – 20 Years Ago:
Mercedes-Benz presents its new concept for Formula One. The brand's new partner is Team McLaren International, whom Mercedes-Benz supplies with the new 3-litre V10 engine co-developed with British manufacturer Ilmor.
29 October 1889 – 125 Years Ago:
Panhard & Levassor delivers the first engine built under a Daimler licence in France to a customer in Barcelona. The second such engine follows on 12 December.
29 October 1989 – 25 Years Ago:
At the final race of the Sports Car World Championship in Mexico City, the driver pairing Jean-Louis Schlesser/Jochen Mass captures its fourth win of the season, which is the eighth win of the 1989 season for Sauber-Mercedes. Jean-Louis Schlesser wins the drivers' competition; runner-up is Jochen Mass. The constructors' title goes to Sauber-Mercedes by a large margin.
October 1889 – 125 Years Ago:
At the Paris World Exposition, at which a Benz Patent Motor Car is also exhibited, Daimler and Maybach present their V-engine and the motorised quadricycle (the wire-wheel car). This heralds the birth of the French automobile industry. The wire-wheel car is equipped with the four-speed, gear-only transmission invented by Maybach.
2012 United States Grand Prix – Two Years Ago:
Lewis Hamilton wins the inaugural Formula One Grand Prix to be held at the Circuit of the Americas