Drafting the Circuits

Formula 1 Report

United States Grand Prix Preview

By Steve Aibel/Drafting The Circuits/F1 Racing Plus


Engines (or Power Units) fire up today at 10 AM Austin time as the United States Grand Prix begins and cars hit the track. Mercedes, having won the Constructors Championship in Sochi, Russia, will look to add a 3rd Drivers Championship (2nd in a row) for Lewis Hamilton to their dominant season.

Hamilton leads the championship by 66 points over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and by 73 points over Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg. To clinch the championship, Hamilton needs to score 2 more points than Vettel and 9 more then Rosberg in the Austin race.

Hamilton's chances of wrapping up the Drivers Championship in Texas

Hamilton’s chances of wrapping up the Drivers Championship in Texas

The real story this weekend may be a new one for the Texas based US Grand Prix. RAIN!

All of the sessions have the potential of wet weather with the heaviest rain forecast for Friday and Saturday. The forecast for the weekend is auspicious.

The United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas has been contested in good weather, however the morning sessions have been notoriously cold and getting tires to maintain temperature has been a challenge. This becomes less of a problem in the warmer afternoon sessions.

With a cooler weekend forecast, the combination of wet, cooler weather will certainly make Circuit of the Americas a much larger challenge. With many off camber turns and changes of elevation, there will be some turns that will affect a Formula 1 car more so than in dry conditions. Some parts of the track will be particularly treacherous and sections that have not been difficult may possess some bite.

Turn 1 and Turn 2 in wet conditions could be interesting while the carousel between turns 16-18 and Turn 19 may be places that could wind up shuffling the regular order this year more so than in the previous years.

Carousel between Turns 16-18

Carousel between Turns 16-18

The Formula 1 paddock will get a strong taste of the fickle Texas weather. South Texas weather comes in fast and furiously and it is often difficult to pin down an accurate forecast. It will be a challenge to predict conditions for the three days that make up a Grand Prix weekend and the team that adapts best will walk away with the Stetson.

And they also may delay, only delay, the championship that is sure to land in the hands of Lewis Hamilton.

The paddock is in Coronation and testing mode with Mercedes ready to celebrate two years running of massive, dominant success and the other teams using the remaining races to test for 2016.

Ferrari, for example, will take grid penalties for using a 5th engine in a planned upgrade, which focuses on improving the power unit moving forward. Sebastian Vettel explained the choice, stating that it was “no surprise for us.”

McLaren are taking a similar approach but instead of both drivers using the upgrade, only Fernando Alonso will use the new engine in Austin. Jenson Button will use the upgrade in Mexico the following week.

Alonso will use a new engine package in Austin

Alonso will use a new engine package in Austin

Button remarked that he hopes Alonso “annihilates” him in Austin as that will show the Honda engine is making the necessary progress. Although Honda may make progress on their ICE, their primary deficiency is in sustained energy deployment. There are enough long straights at COTA where even an improved engine might still be hidden by weak deployment at the end of the full power segments.

Red Bull and Toro Rosso have also been offered upgraded Renault engines for the US Grand Prix, but at this point they have elected to use the older package and not take the penalty associated with the new engine. Toro Rosso is looking to use year old Ferrari engines in 2016 while Red Bull is still without an engine deal to speak of.

Manor Racing continues to rise above the ashes of administration. With Mercedes engines and a technical partnership with Williams on the horizon, Manor is resurrecting their program in a proof positive direction. They have received a huge amount of attention with American Alexander Rossi driving the car in Austin. Rossi will have a rear wing adorned with the American flag, which is sure to be a crowd favorite. Rossi is the first American on an F1 grid in 8 years and is angling for a full time ride in 2016.

American rear end plates for Alexander Rossi and Manor

American rear end plates for Alexander Rossi and Manor

Drivers’ Championship

  1. Lewis Hamilton 302
  2. Sebastian Vettel 236
  3. Nico Rosberg 229
  4. Kimi Raikkonen 123
  5. Valtteri Bottas 111
  6. Felipe Massa 109
  7. Daniil Kvyat 76
  8. Daniel Ricciardo 73
  9. Sergio Perez 54
  10. Romain Grosjean 44
  11. Nico Hulkenberg 38
  12. Max Verstappen 33
  13. Felipe Nasr 25
  14. Pastor Maldonado 22
  15. Carlos Sainz Jr. 12
  16. Fernando Alonso 11
  17. Marcus Ericsson 9
  18. Jenson Button 8


Constructors’ Championship

  1. Mercedes 531
  2. Ferrari 359
  3. Williams 220
  4. Red Bull 149
  5. Force India 92
  6. Lotus  66
  7. Toro Rosso 45
  8. Sauber 34
  9. McLaren 19
  10. Manor/Marussia 0