Scuderia Ferrari and the whole Formula 1 circus has now crossed the Atlantic for the third time this season.
It’s the American triple-header, which over the next three weekends features races in the United States, Mexico and Brazil. The Circuit Of The Americas outside Austin, Texas hosts the first of these with a Grand Prix that has attracted record crowds every year.
The Circuit of the Americas, generally known as COTA, is 5.513 kilometres long, featuring a mix of high, medium and low speed corners with two DRS zones and several significant climbs and drops, starting with the vertiginous climb to turn 1, a tricky sharp left hand hairpin, often the scene of collisions immediately after the start, before plunging into a sequence of corners reminiscent of the first sector at Japan’s Suzuka circuit. Overtaking is possible on the main straight and into turns 12 and 13. The final sector features several slow changes of direction which can be particularly hard on tyres. Aerodynamically it is a medium to high downforce track.
The COTA timetable will be busier than usual as, for a second race in a row after Qatar, the weekend runs to the Sprint format, with just one free practice session to sort out settings before qualifying for Sunday’s race. Saturday is once again entirely given over to the Sprint, with the Shootout at lunchtime and the 19 lap race in the late afternoon, (midnight CEST). The Grand Prix gets underway at 14 local, (21 CEST) on Sunday.
Frederic Vasseur – Team Principal: We are about to tackle a very demanding Grand Prix triple-header, which actually involves five races in three weekends, as there are two Sprints. All team members, including the drivers, will have to be on top of their game throughout, in order to make the most of any opportunities that present themselves. We come to Austin off the back of a race where we paid a high price for a reliability problem on Carlos’ car, which meant there was only one SF-23 on the grid.
Since then, we have been working hard to ensure that a similar situation does not reoccur. We must return to the level of execution demonstrated in Singapore and Japan, because that’s the only way to optimise our package so that Charles and Carlos can get the most out of it.
Ferrari in the United States
Races contested 61
Debut Indianapolis 500 Miles 1952 (A. Ascari ret.)
Wins 13 (21.31%)
Pole positions 16 (26.23%)
Fastest race laps 16 (26.23%)
Total podiums 41 (22.40%)
Three questions to Tito Amato, Vehicle Performance Innovation.
Describe the characteristics of the Austin track
Tito Amato: The Austin circuit has a variety of corner types from slow ones taken at around 70 to 80 km/h to very fast ones where speeds can reach 270 km/h. There are only two straights, both featuring DRS zones and the main one is actually rather short, at around 500 metres. This means that in terms of aero configuration it is medium to high downforce. The drivers and engineers therefore have to find the right compromise to suit both the high speed corners in the first section and the slow speed ones in the final part of the lap. It is particularly important to have good traction out of the slow and medium speed corners, while ensuring sufficient stability in the high-speed sections.
How does the Sprint format, with just one free practice session, affect the job sheet for the weekend?
TA: The single free practice session means that the work done back home prior to the event takes on even greater importance, because when on track there isn’t much time to make major set-up changes. The main focus in FP1 will be on tyre behaviour, especially with the Medium and Soft compounds in order to plan their use over the rest of the weekend, especially in Saturday’s Sprint race and the Grand Prix on Sunday.
And what about you: what’s been your career path and what’s the most interesting aspect of your work with Scuderia Ferrari?
TA: I joined the Vehicle Performance group as a Vehicle Dynamics specialist and bit by bit I started to look after innovation, first of all in terms of concepts, meaning finding innovative components that increase car performance and then in a more broader sense, looking at methodology, from data analysis to simulations. It means I can express my creativity and my desire to always learn and do something new, to have an eye on the future and on things that might seem impossible to achieve today.
United States Grand Prix – Facts & Figures
1.5. The number of millions of Mexican free-tailed bats that live under the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, explaining why Austin is also known as Bat City.
9. The years Texas was an independent state, from 17 March 1836, after it broke away from being part of Mexico, after the Texan Revolution and prior to its annexation into the United States of America on December 29, 1845. Back then, it was much larger than today, including land that is now part of the states of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming. At the time, its surface area exceeded a million square kilometres, with a population of 70,000 and its own currency, the Texan dollar. The Texas flag, with a single star and the colours white, red and blue reflects its name of the “Lone Star State”.
34. The racing number forever associated with Texan motorcyclist Kevin Shwantz, who was involved in the initial design of the COTA layout, along with promoter Tavo Hellmund and German designer Hermann Tilke. Kevin, from Houston, was the 1993 world champion with Suzuki, in the highest category of motorcycle racing, which back then was known as 500, based on the cubic capacity of the two stroke machines in use, and now known as MotoGP since the switch to four strokes. He competed at this level from 1986 to 1995, taking 25 Grand Prix wins.
132. The average number of tornados that hit Texas each year, by a long way, more than any other state in the country.
1883. The year the first professional rodeo, a national sport in Texas, was held. It took place on 4 July at Pecos in the Lone Star State. It was the first time prizes were presented to the winners. Its origins date back to a few years after the arrival in America of settlers from Spain, whose “vaqueros” introduced the skill of efficiently rounding up cattle with a lasso.