Reports

United States F1 Grand Prix

2016 US GRAND PRIX – Preview

Circuit stats
2015 winner Lewis Hamilton, 56 laps, 1:50:52.703s
2015 pole position Nic Rosberg, 1m56.824s
2015 fastest lap Nico Rosberg, 1m40.666s (lap 49)
Nme Circuit of The Americas
First race 2012
Circuit length 5.515km/3.427 miles (9th longest of the season)
Distance to Turn One 280m/0.174 miles (longest of season: Barcelona 730m/0.454 miles)
Longest straight 1.09km/0.677 miles, on the approach to the Turn 12
Top speed 330km/h/205mph, on the approach to Turn 12
Pitlane length 385m/0.239 miles, estimated time loss 22s (longest of season: Silverstone, 489m/0.304 miles)
Full throttle 63 per cent
DRS Zones Two, on the approach to Turns One and 12
Key corner Turn One. The apex of this left-hander is the highest point on the lap and the steep uphill approach allows the drivers to brake very late. The corner is blind, requiring precision and commitment from the drivers, and a good exit is vital because a high-speed section follows
Fastest corner 260km/h (162mph), Turn 18
Slowest corner 80km/h (50mph), Turn 15
Major changes for 2016 None, except for maintenance work on kerbs and Astroturf
Fuel consumption 1.89kg per lap, which is average
ERS demands ERS is deployed for around 35 percent of the lap, which is average. There are several heavy braking areas in which to replenish the battery
Brake wear Medium. There are 10 braking zones, but only four of them are heavy. Just 14 per cent of the lap is spent on the brakes
Gear changes 54 per lap/3,024 per race
Circuit facts
History lesson COTA is the 10th grand prix venue in the United States, but the first purpose-built F1 facility. It staged its first grand prix in 2012, since when it has been a regular fixture on the calendar. Last year’s race was memorable for the monsoon-like weather conditions, which led to qualifying being abandoned.
What makes it unique Its eclectic mix of corners. COTA has more fast corners than Spa-Francorchamps and more slow corners than the Hungaroring – a combination that makes this track a huge challenge for both engineers and drivers.
Grip levels Medium. When F1 first visited COTA four years ago, the asphalt was new and slippery. Grip levels have improved as the surface has aged and the surface of the asphalt has opened up.
Run-off Good. The track is one of Hermann Tilke’s latest creations and it has ample run-off – as befits a modern grand prix circuit.
Watch out for The temperature. In October it gets quite cold at night, yet the midday sun pushes the temperature into the high-20s. This means the temperature swing is extreme, at least in a Formula 1 sense, and that makes it hard to balance the car from one on-track session to the next.

THE DRIVERS ON: THE CIRCUIT

#14 Fernando Alonso

“The Circuit of The Americas is a big challenge for every car – each sector offers something completely different. The first section requires a lot of precision, as it’s a big climb up to the first corner, which you go into blind. The elevation changes put a lot of pressure on the car and it’s important to get good traction out of each corner. It’s a really exhilarating circuit to drive and you need to work hard at every braking point to keep good momentum around the circuit, as the rhythm is constantly changing along with the elevation as you go around the lap.”

#22 Jenson Button

“COTA is one of the few anti-clockwise circuits on the calendar, and has a bit of everything: fast corners, slow corners and heavy braking zones, so you need a car with good balance, which tends to be one of the strengths of our car. There’s lots of fast, sweeping corners in the first sector, the long straight in the second sector, and then the infield section in the final sector which is tight and twisty with long apexes and high g-forces. You really need to prepare the car for everything! For a driver it’s great fun and I hope we enjoy a better result there than in Suzuka.”

Event stats
Start time 14:00hrs local/20:00hrs BST
Race distance 56 laps (full world championship points will be awarded after 75 per cent distance/42 laps)
Safety car likelihood Medium. There were only two Safety Car periods in the opening three races at COTA, but a chaotic grand prix last year saw two Safety Car deployments and two Virtual Safety Car periods
When to press record The start. It’s only a short run to Turn One, but the 40-metre climb to the apex invites drivers to brake very late. It’s possible to run side-by-side through the corner, so there’s usually plenty of excitement
Don't put the kettle on... Despite the mixed weather conditions and the high number of incidents last year, the race was won using a two-stop strategy. Lewis Hamilton started the race on Intermediates, then completed two stints on the Soft tyre. Sebastian Vettel, in third, was the highest-placed three-stopper
Weather conditions NOW 29 degrees
Race forecast 30 degrees
Tyre choices Supersoft/Soft/Medium. This is the 10th occasion that this combination has been used this year
Event facts
First United States Grand Prix 1959
Official slogan There’s no official slogan, but the international appeal of the event is summed up in the name: Circuit of The Americas.
United States' F 1 Heritage The Indianapolis 500 featured in the early seasons of the world championship, but it was only in ’59 that a US GP was introduced – a race won by McLaren founder Bruce McLaren. There have been two American world champions, Phil Hill and Mario Andretti, and several US teams, including the current Haas F1 Team.
Smallest winning margin 0.011s, in 2002. Ferrari dominated all weekend: they locked out the front row of the grid, Michael Schumacher ahead of Rubens Barrichello, and their cars had a private battle for the lead throughout the 73-lap race at Indianapolis. In sight of the chequered flag, Schumacher pulled aside to let Barrichello take the win by a very small margin.
Sporting legacy F1’s popularity is growing in the USA, but it faces stiff opposition from other sports. The IndyCar Championship attracts a lot of domestic attention, as do other national sports such as the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball.
Did you know? McLaren has won the United States Grand Prix 12 times and it has taken seven pole positions.
Don't forget COTA is one of only five tracks on this year’s calendar that runs in an anti-clockwise direction. The others? Azerbaijan, Singapore, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
Fan zone Jeff, aged 27, from New York, asks: Of the three sectors at COTA, which is the most important?” McLaren’s answer: “It’s rare that you find three such diverse sectors on the same racetrack. Sector One is fast and flowing; Sector Two has a long straight, along which top end speed is important; Sector Three has several slow corners, through which mechanical grip is at a premium. Which of these is the most important? Well, they’re all important!”

THE DRIVERS ON: THE EVENT

#14 Fernando Alonso

 

“It’s great to go back to North America – Austin is a really cool place and I’m pleased we’re returning there after a bit of uncertainty following last year’s event. It’s a grand prix in which you never really know what to expect, and I would say that last year I had one of my favourite races because, despite having a puncture on lap two, we were able to push and make progress through the field, which was hugely satisfying from behind the wheel. The weather can always give us a few surprises and the track temperature often changes a lot from session to session, so I hope we can find a good set-up early on and improve our pace as the weekend progresses.

#22 Jenson Button

“I’m looking forward to heading back to Austin. I’ve been spending more and more time in the States recently and Austin is a city with passionate fans that really love their racing. The atmosphere downtown is really relaxed and we usually take the opportunity to sample the famous Texan cuisine in one or two of the restaurants over the course of the weekend. I’ve always liked racing at this circuit and we managed to put up a good fight last year despite not having the best outright pace, so I’m hoping for more of the same and a bit of a boost after the disappointment of our result in Japan.”

HEAR FROM THE MANAGEMENT

Eric Boullier

“It’s no secret that we didn’t achieve the results we were looking for at Suzuka, and since returning from Japan we’ve been working hard to find the appropriate solutions to avoid a continuation of this in Austin. The Circuit of The Americas is a very different challenge in its configuration, so we hope we’ll be able to see improved performance there. However, we mustn’t be complacent, and instead keep fighting hard as we have been all year to get the best out of our package and its strengths as we head into the final back-to-back races of the season.

“Achieving a delicate compromise to suit the varying demands of this track – fast corners, slow corners, and a long straight – will be the key to maximising our performance, and we’ll be working hard to find the right balance and set-up as soon as we hit the track on Friday. The first few sessions are always unpredictable as we dial in the car to the ever-changing temperatures at different times of the day, and the autumn weather often gives us the opportunity to throw any dry-weather run plan out of the window!

“Everyone at McLaren-Honda is very pleased to be returning to Austin for the United States Grand Prix. It’s fast becoming a classic racetrack, there’s a great atmosphere, and the fans’ love of racing is palpable throughout the weekend. We always receive a very warm welcome from the Austinites and the US is a very important market for us to bring our show to every season. I hope we can provide more great racing for the crowd again this year and give our fans something to be proud of.”

Yusuke Hasegawa

"After an intense Asian round of races, we now head off to the Circuit of The Americas where the racing is tight and we see good overtaking on track, making for interesting racing. There is plenty of variation on track with great hard braking corners, an undulating ‘S’ curve and slow twisting turns, so it will be important to us to refine and tune the power unit properly for each of these sectors.

“McLaren-Honda had good race here last year, and we hope we can do the same to target finishing in the points."

2016 US GRAND PRIX – Practice

“We have some work ahead of us to be ready for tomorrow”

A productive day at the Circuit of The Americas, which was spent evaluating and comparing various aero components on both sides of the garage, and progressively adapting to the changing track conditions as the surface rubbered in.

Both drivers spent much of the first session dialing in the set-up of the MP4-31 to the circuit’s steep gradients and increasing track temperatures.

By the latter half of the second session, both drivers reported that the balance had improved, and were able to commence high-fuel running in preparation for Sunday’s race. 

Fernando Alonso MP4-31-04
FP1 1m40.362s (+2.934s) 26 laps 13th
FP2 1m38.801s (+1.443s) 30 laps 9th
It was a good day in the office

"We completed our programme and were able to put a good number of laps under our belt, which was very helpful.

“In the second session we also tried the different compounds and we will need to choose carefully, because the Supersoft seems to have quite a lot of degradation, as we expected. We’ll make our decision once we have gone through all the data we gathered today.

“We tested several items, aero parts and mechanical settings, and some things went better in FP1 and some in FP2, so we have some work ahead of us to be ready for tomorrow.”

Jenson Button MP4-31-03
FP1 1m41.663s (+4.235s) 26 laps 18th
FP2 1m38.713s (+1.355s) 29 laps 8th
I really enjoy driving around here but there’s definitely still some more work to do

"This track is always tough on tyres as there’s high degradation, but it’s the same for all of us, so I think we’ll be okay.

“The mid- and high-speed corners are always a challenge for us and the long Turn 17 is tough, especially on tyre wear. A few cars have been hitting the orange kerb in Turns Three, Four and Five, and it’s been breaking off parts of the floor, but luckily we haven’t had any issues on our car.

“When we bring a Supersoft compound to a circuit where we’re not used to running it, there’s degradation, but it’s pretty normal and we haven’t found it too bad. There’s degradation on all the compounds - even the Medium tyre overheats pretty quickly and isn’t as consistent as you would like it – so this circuit is definitely tough on tyres, but that’s part of what makes it interesting.”

Eric Boullier
Today we ran through all our planned programmes efficiently and successfully

“The track temperature was surprisingly low for FP1 this morning, but it had warmed considerably for FP2 this afternoon. That, and the set-up work we’d done between the sessions, led to both drivers reporting good handling balance by the time they’d completed their high-fuel runs at the end of the day.”

Yasuke Hasegawa
Today’s free practice ran smoothly

"The team performed many aero and mechanical tests and engine mode confirmations fitting to the circuit. At the end of FP1, one of the sensors on Jenson’s engine dropped, but it did not affect the run plan, and was a simple fix of parts to prepare for FP2.


“In the afternoon sun, the track conditions became more ideal for longer runs and tyre testing, so both sessions were very busy today. We haven’t found the perfect balance in the package yet, but we were able to gather tons of data to analyse and prepare for tomorrow’s qualifying.”

2016 US GRAND PRIX – Qualifying

“That’s not the true potential of the car”

Today’s was a frustrating qualifying session for the McLaren-Honda team, following more promising performances in the earlier practice sessions.

In Q1, on a track almost 10 degrees C hotter than in FP3, Jenson struggled heavily with traffic on both his runs. On his final lap he came up against a gaggle of four cars in Sector Three and was impeded by the last one in the final corner, which destroyed any chances of his progressing into Q2. He will duly start 19th on the grid for tomorrow’s race.

Fernando was more fortunate with traffic in Q1, and was able to build enough of a margin that he didn’t need to complete his final precautionary run. However, despite having delivered a very strong lap, he was not able to progress beyond Q2 and will start tomorrow’s race from P12.

Fernando Alonso, MP4-31-04
FP3 10th 1m38.452s (+1.686s) 13 laps
Q1 13th 1m37.913s On Options
Q2 12th 1m37.417s On Options
“If we want to score some points in the race tomorrow we need to raise our game"

“We weren’t quick enough to make it into Q3 today, and we were lacking some rhythm too. Having said that, getting the car into Q3 in ninth or tenth but then having to start the race on used Supersoft tyres would be a problem, as other cars would catch us easily after four or five laps owing to the degradation. So, let’s say that 11th for us would have been pole position and 12th is second-best. We’ll start on new tyres and we’ll be able to attack.

“It seems like all the Mercedes-powered teams here got an extra boost and are more competitive, which has made life a little more difficult for us.

Jenson Button MP4-31-03
FP3 9th 1m38.212s (+1.446s) 14 laps
Q1 19th 1m38.327s On Options
"Hopefully tomorrow we can make up some ground in the race but it’s going to be a tough day"

"It’s disappointing to be in P19 after qualifying. Our pace was good yesterday and this morning – eighth and ninth positions – so there’s definitely something not quite right there. I went out on the Softs to start with and we thought we’d have enough pace, but it was a tough lap and I hit a lot of traffic. If we’d judged it right at the end when we put the Supersofts on, it might have been fine, but it wasn’t.

"I had four cars to overtake in the last sector alone, and then the last one [Jolyon Palmer] didn’t move out of the way. He saw me really late and stayed on the racing line, so I had to outbrake into the last corner. It’s so important to brake late and carry speed into there and you can’t do that if you’re offline, it hurts the tyres a lot more. It’s disappointing."

Eric Boullioer
It’s irritating, but it happens

“Fernando drove a near-perfect Q2 lap here in Austin today – but, even so, he narrowly failed to go through to Q3, missing out by just 0.169s, ending up 12th.

“However, our car is more competitive relative to our principal rivals’ in terms of race pace than it is in terms of qualifying pace. So, while P12 is far from ideal, it nonetheless gives him a platform from which to attack tomorrow, in an effort to progress through the field to some extent and thereby score world championship points.

“By contrast, Jenson was very disappointed to be eliminated in Q1, having recorded only the 19th-fastest time. Unfortunately, he encountered traffic on what would otherwise have been a very good lap, and was baulked badly at the end of it by Palmer, the combination of those two issues scuppering JB’s chances to show what he could do. Our data shows that, without those problems, he’d have passed through to Q2 every bit as easily as did Fernando.

Yusuke Hasegawa
We firmly believe that’s not the true potential of the car

“We weren’t quite able to reach our target of getting into Q3, but, considering how quickly the tyres degrade at this circuit, we believe Fernando is in a good position to secure points by having the freedom of choosing his tyres and providing we can utilise good race strategy in tomorrow’s race.


“Unfortunately, Jenson was caught in traffic during his flying lap in Q1, where he lost a lot of time in Sector Three, but we firmly believe that’s not the true potential of the car. We hope that we can have a good race with him tomorrow.”

2016 US GRAND PRIX – Race

"Today was a solid and encouraging day at the office for McLaren-Honda"

Both cars had a trouble-free race, despite Fernando Alonso starting in 12th position and Jenson Button in 19th. Both drivers made up valuable places off the start-line, narrowly avoiding collisions, and were running in ninth and 11th positions respectively after only a few short laps.

As he did in Malaysia, Fernando lucked in to a free pit-stop during a Virtual Safety Car deployment, and was duly able to move his way up the field to seventh. Two sterling overtaking manouvres in the last five laps cemented a sensational drive for him, and he crossed the finish-line in fifth place. 

Jenson also had a very strong race, making up a number of places in the first few laps and spending much of the first half of the race on the fringes of the top 10. He was unlucky once again to miss out on the Virtual Safety Car window by one lap, dropping him back a place, but he drove faultlessly thereafter and maintained his position throughout the second half of the race, ultimately finishing in ninth for two points.

Fernando Alonso MP4-31-04
Started 12th Finished 5th
Fastest lap 1m43.502s Lap 36 +3.625s, 10th
Pit stops Two Lap 11 (2.38s) Lap 30 (4.58s)
Tyres Prime Back-Up Back-Up
It was good and interesting today, I enjoyed it

"Our tyres were in better condition than the Toro Rosso’s and we took advantage of that. The last couple of laps were very intense, as we had some extra speed so we tried hard to overtake. It was quite easy to overtake the Toro Rosso as they’re slow on the straights, so you just need to open the DRS. I was following Carlos for 45 laps and he drove very well, very consistently, zero mistakes – so we had a great battle."

Jenson Button MP4-31-03
Started 19th Finshed 9th
Fastest lap 1m44.468s Lap 37 +4.951s, 15th
Pit stops Two Lap 10 (2.12s) Lap 28 (4.43s)
Tyres Option Back-Up Back-Up
I’m pretty happy to get into the points after a frustrating day yesterday

"The start was a bit of a crazy mess – there was so much action. Starting 19th makes your race a little bit more difficult but I had a good first couple of laps which I really enjoyed. I made up a lot of places and then fought my way into the top 10, and then I fluffed up my second pit-stop a little bit where I lost a place to Checo [Perez], but I think he would have got past me anyway. 

“The second half of the race for me wasn’t as exciting – I was looking after the tyres, judging the gap behind me, and trying to save the tyres to the end of the race to attempt to catch Checo, but I think I was about three seconds off at the end. I came home ninth which isn’t too bad, and it’s great to get some good points for the team on both sides of the garage. Fernando did a fantastic job to get to P5. He was very quick today, and the Safety Car helped him a lot – one day we’ll get that luck too!"

Eric Boullier
I’m proud of both of them, as are all of us at McLaren-Honda

“It was gratifying to see that, despite our disappointing qualifying form yesterday, today, as we’d hoped and indeed predicted, our race pace was significantly more impressive, allowing our drivers to enjoy themselves enormously. You only had to look at the way our car changed direction to see how good its chassis is becoming. I also want to commend our partners Honda, whose power units ran flawlessly all afternoon. 

“So today was a good day, undoubtedly. And I hope it was enjoyed by not only the tens of thousands of race fans who packed the grandstands to the rafters, but also by the tens of millions of race fans who watched the race at home, presumably on the edges of their seats.”

Yusuke Hasegawa
Today, both of our drivers proved why they’re worthy world champions

"It was a good United States Grand Prix for us today. Before the start it was extremely difficult for us to predict where we would be at the end of the race based on the qualifying results yesterday, but we knew that our race pace would be better and stable. 

"Today, both of our drivers proved why they’re worthy world champions. It was good to see such strong driving, and undying racing spirit from both. Fernando pushed hard until the last lap, enabling him to finish in P5 behind the Ferrari, and a brilliant push from Jenson saw him gain 10 places to finish in P9. A double points finish is a great result to bring momentum back to the team."