Video: Onboard with Lotus F1 Team third driver Jérôme D’Ambrosio, the first man to drive the brand new Circuit of the Americas…
Formula 1 track designer Hermann Tilke believes the spectacular layout of the new United States Grand Prix track could provide one of the biggest challenges of the season for drivers and teams.
As F1 prepares for its first race at the new Circuit of the Americas, Tilke thinks that the venue’s configuration – which includes the dramatic rising blind apex of Turn 1 and cambered high-speed sections – will not be easy to conquer.
“I think there are some real difficult parts of this track, and hopefully it will be one of the most challenging,” Tilke said in an exclusive interview with AUTOSPORT ahead of this weekend’s race.
“Turn 1 goes steeply uphill and then the elevation turns sharply into a downhill sector, so the drivers will not see the apex of the corner. It will be blind.
“I expect in first practice the drivers will make many mistakes, but they are so good they will learn it quickly because they are the best in the world.
“After Turn 1 there is a ‘snake’ section, which is very fast and orientation will be difficult for the drivers. The track also goes up and down, and there is also one corner which is banked the wrong way [adverse camber].
“For the drivers it will be hard, it will be difficult to set up the car and it will be tough to keep the tyres running correctly too. That could mean there are more problems with the tyres, which will be good for the race.”
Tilke’s layouts have often been criticised in the past for not producing good racing, despite efforts to improve overtaking opportunities.
COTAThat is why he is reluctant to predict how exciting the racing will be at the Austin venue until he has seen F1 cars in action there for the first time.
“I think this track is really good, but we have to see what the drivers will say about it,” he said. “That first statement will be important, and hopefully it will be a positive one. But you never know how it works.”
Tilke believes there are good passing places in Austin, although the lessons of Abu Dhabi – which in the past has produced boring races but recently delivered a thriller – shows how hard it can be to predict what will happen.
“This year they had a lot of overtaking at Abu Dhabi, and there are opportunities to overtake here,” he said.
“In the end overtaking is only possible when a faster driver is behind a slower driver. If it is the opposite then overtaking is not possible.
“If the faster driver is leading and the second driver is slower then overtaking will not happen. But that is the drama of a race and hopefully it will be interesting here.”
Read Kimi’s USA preview quotes here:
Q: How are you looking forward to racing at the Circuit of the Americas?
KR: It will be the third new circuit for me this year and most of all, a brand new place for every team and every driver as well. Korea and India were both new to me, but I had seen the previous races on TV. I don’t know anything about Austin, just the name Circuit of the Americas. I have always liked to go to new places as it adds a bit of additional excitement. I’m particularly looking forward to this one. I like the American atmosphere, it’s just a relaxed environment; they know how to have fun and, most of all, they love racing.
Q: What’s your previous experience of racing in the US?
KR: I competed in seven Grands Prix at Indianapolis. Unfortunately the one time I felt I had a really strong car there was in 2005 when only six cars raced and I wasn’t one of them. I did get pole position in 2003, but none of the races are ones I remember well. Last year I tried NASCAR. I did two races on the Charlotte oval and I really liked it a lot. That was probably the experience I needed to open my eyes for racing again. After that I really wanted to come back to Formula 1, while it was a tempting idea to do more NASCAR, too. After seeing the excitement of the American NASCAR fans I hope Formula 1 gets people as eager to enjoy our racing in Texas, too.