Reports

USA F1 Grand Prix

2017 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX – SET UP

The United States Grand Prix has a long and varied history. The race has been staged at 10 different venues since it was first included on the World Championship calendar in 1959, but the Circuit of The Americas (COTA) is the first purpose-built track for Formula 1. McLaren’s founder, Bruce McLaren, won the country’s inaugural race in ’59, since when popularity of the sport in the US has been boosted by its two American world champions, Phil Hill in 1961 and Mario Andretti in 1978

NEED TO KNOW

Race title 2017 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix
Circuit name Circuit of The Americas
First race 2012

TRAVEL

City Austin
Time zone CET-7 / BST-6
Population 800,000
Surprising fact Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America. During late summer bat numbers peak at 1.5 million
Local speciality Austin is as cosmopolitan as it gets in Texas, with food staples from around the world. But if you want to try a local speciality, look no further than Texas-style barbecue – beef cooked on a wood-based barbecue and eaten with lots of spices and sauces. Texas toast is a delicious side dish – grilled white bread with butter and garlic
Weather The temperature swing is quite extreme at this time of year. There are cold nights, when the temperature regularly drops into single figures, and warm days of up to 25 degrees Celsius

Track

Track length 5.513km / 3.427 miles
2016 pole position Lewis Hamilton - 1:34.999s
2016 winner Lewis Hamilton, 56 laps - 1:38:12.618ss
2016 fastest lap Sebastian Vettel - 1:39.877s (lap 55)
Lap record 1:39.347s (Sebastian Vettel, 2012)
Tyre choice Pink Ultrasoft | Red Supersoft | Yellow Soft
Distance to Turn One 280m / 0.174 miles
Longest straight 1090m / 0.677 miles (on the approach to Turn 12)
Top speed 320kmh / 199mph (on the approach to Turn 12)
Full throttle 63 per cent
Brake wear Medium. There are 10 braking zones, but only four of them are significant
Fuel consumption 1.8kg per lap, which is average
ERS demands Medium. ERS is deployed for around 35 per cent of the lap
Gear changes 54 per lap / 3024 per race

RACE

Laps 56 laps
Start time 14:00hrs local / 20:00hrs BST / 21:00hrs CET
Grid advantage Pole position is on the right-hand side of the grid, on the racing line. There’s more grip available here, but Turn One is a left-hander and it’s important to cover off the inside line after the start
DRS There are two DRS zones, on the approaches to Turns One and 12
Don't put the kettle on... This race has traditionally been won using a two-stop strategy, with the winner pitting on or around laps 11 and 31. But Pirelli have gone one step softer with their compound choices this year, which could result in more pitstops if there are no Safety Cars
Pitlane length/Pitstops 385m/0.239 miles (It takes 20s to make a stop)
Safety Car 50 per cent. There’s been plenty of incident and accident over the years, but wide run-off areas and efficient marshalling reduces the need for a Safety Car
Watch out for... Alterations to the pre-race build-up. The pitlane will open 15 minutes earlier than usual to allow time for legendary announcer Michael Buffer to introduce all 20 drivers on the grid

THE DRIVERS

FERNANDO ALONSO

“After a couple of frustrating races where we haven’t been able to show the improving pace we know we have in our package, I’m excited to head back to the United States. I had a great time over summer there this year with everything going on around the Indy 500, and I know the fans are incredibly passionate and enthusiastic, so I’m expecting a really good atmosphere around Austin. 

“The COTA track is a really fun track to race on – every sector is different and achieving the perfect compromise with set-up to suit the constantly-changing characteristics of the lap is what makes the challenge there so unique. COTA is also wider than a lot of the circuits we’ve been to recently so there are usually some good chances to overtake, which hopefully we can make the most of on Sunday. 

“I really enjoy spending time in the States and I have lots of happy memories there. I hope in Austin we can build on the momentum we know we’ve been gathering behind the scenes, despite not being able to show the results on the final timesheets, and I think there’s the potential to score points if we can pull everything together. There are a lot of factors to take into account and anything can happen at this race – we’ve seen quite a lot of drama both on-track and off it over the last few years – but I’m optimistic we can have a positive weekend if we can maximise every opportunity.”

STOFFEL VANDOORNE

“I’m really looking forward to this double-header in the USA and Mexico and discovering two new tracks that I’ve never experienced before. I’ve heard a lot of good things about COTA and it’s a circuit a lot of drivers love racing on as it has a bit of everything. Austin is a really cool place to visit too – I’ve been going there with the team for a couple of years now in my former role as reserve driver – and it’s always nice to make the most of our downtown location and sample the local restaurants. 

“Going to a new track doesn’t make me any more nervous than going to a circuit I’ve raced on before – the opposite, actually. We prepare for each grand prix with our engineers in the same way for every race weekend, and although I’ve never driven on this track in the real world, I’ve done many laps in the virtual world in our simulator, so I’m keen to get going with set-up work straight away on Friday and get the car dialled-in to the track as soon as possible. 

“After a couple of positive races for me, Japan was trickier for us and we struggled to make up any ground on Sunday after an unfortunate start. Austin should be a bit better for us in terms of power sensitivity, although there’s a wide range of corners which each give us a different challenge, so the key will be to balance the set-up all the way around the lap. There should be more overtaking opportunities there too and I’m hopeful we can have a more positive weekend.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“The United States Grand Prix has built an impressive reputation since COTA hosted its first race there in 2012, and it’s fast becoming one of the flagship events on the Formula 1 calendar. Austin is a buzzing host city, with plenty going on for fans and teams to enjoy, and a great atmosphere thanks to the Austinites that really embrace the Formula 1 circus coming to town every year. 

“For the drivers, it’s a fantastic circuit, and one on which I – along with thousands of fans, I’m sure – am intrigued to see the speeds the new cars can reach down the long straights and through the sweeping bends. Watching the drivers tackle the steep uphill climb to the first corner is becoming one of the iconic sights of the US Grand Prix and the complexities of the circuit make for great racing. To top it off, the weather is notoriously changeable which means the form book can often be ripped up from one day to the next. 

“Given that our sport’s organisers are from the US, I’m really looking forward to seeing the show they put on at their ‘home’ venue and I think we can expect a pretty exciting spectacle. The atmosphere there is always great, we get a huge welcome from the American fans – more and more of whom seem to be falling in love with our sport year after year – and the whole team loves returning to the USA. We are all ‘gearheads’ and racers at heart, and there’s no better place to go racing than at COTA.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“After the very busy few weeks in Asia, we’re now on the home stretch of the 2017 season and heading to The Americas. 

“At our final home grand prix as McLaren Honda at Suzuka we did not achieve the results we were looking for, but despite not collecting any points we were encouraged by our competitiveness. 

“The Circuit of The Americas is a very different challenge in its configuration. It’s a technical track with plenty of variation including great hard-braking corners, an undulating ‘S’ curve inspired by the famous Silverstone corners, and slow twisting turns. It will be important to us to refine and tune the power unit properly for each of these sectors to ensure good drivability.

“We think this track suits our package and gives us the best chance out of the remaining four rounds. McLaren Honda had a good race here last year with a double-points finish, and we hope we can do the same and cross the line inside the top ten.”

2017 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX – FREE PRACTICE

“WE LOOK TO BE IN GOOD SHAPE GOING INTO SATURDAY”

Friday at the Circuit of The Americas ended productively for both drivers despite a challenging start. The morning session began under cloudy skies with drizzle in the air, making track conditions difficult to read and data gathering tricky. 

On his first run after the installation lap, the team detected a hydraulic issue on Fernando’s car, and his session was aborted while the team investigated the issue and endeavoured to fix it. The team managed to get him back out on track 10 minutes before the end of the session, but weren’t satisfied with the fix, and despite a total of four installation laps did not set a time. 

The team opted to flip Fernando’s test programme to Stoffel’s car in an effort to gather as much data as possible, which meant a very busy but productive session for him. His run plan consisted of aero correlation, set-up changes with new components and tyre tests, which were completed successfully and he finished the first session in fifth place after 26 laps. 

Both drivers had a more productive second session, completing longer runs and making various set-up changes during a number of practice pit stops. Fernando completed 28 laps, Stoffel 31, and they finished seventh and 15th respectively on the timesheets.

FERNANDO ALONSO

#FA14 MCL32-05
FP1 No time set 4 laps 20th
FP2 1:36.304s (+1.636s) 28 laps 7th
FP3 1:36.239s (+1.761) 15 laps 13th

“We lost the first session this morning because of an hydraulic issue, which was quite painful because we had several items to test, including for next year. We tried to catch up in the second session but it was difficult, so I think we’ll try them again in Mexico.

“I believe there’s still quite a bit to get out of the car – still some tenths to find, which I think probably everyone will find. 

“We know Verstappen and Hulkenberg have penalties, so if we manage to get into Q3 tomorrow, we’ll be able to start from an even better position. But if we don’t make it into Q3, and we can start eighth or ninth on new tyres, it could be very good too. 

“It’s nice to drive on this track with this year’s cars. It’s much more fun, especially through the fast corners in the first sector. There are many more bumps than last year, so we’re holding tight on the steering wheel and with the seatbelt tightly fastened. But it’s fun!”

STOFFEL VANDOORNE

#SV2 MCL32-04
FP1 1:37.352s (+1.017s) 26 laps 5th
FP2 1:37.463s (+2.795s) 31 laps 15th
FP3 1:36.599s (+2.121s) 14 laps 14th

“Today was a reasonable Friday overall. This morning we faced tricky conditions to start with, but in the end it dried up and we had a really busy first practice session trying out some new aero parts. I feel that I put in a good performance, especially considering it was my first time driving on this circuit. 

“FP2 was a bit more difficult for me. We struggled during the session with some traffic and I wasn’t 100 per cent happy with the car balance, but the long-run pace looked reasonable – I was a bit happier with our long-run pace than qualifying set-up.

“All in all, tomorrow we have a lot of margin to improve, but we know what we have to do and hopefully we should be lot closer."

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“After a tricky start to the morning thanks to the mixed conditions, we’ve managed to make good headway with our run programme despite a compromised first session for Fernando, leading us to swap the test plan between our two cars. Both the team and drivers adapted very well and pushed hard to complete a lot of useful running in both sessions. 

“Much of our running today was spent evaluating various components and conducting run plans to set us up for race day. This is a track that suits our car better than most, so it’s important that we prepare ourselves as best we can to maximise every opportunity on Sunday. Stoffel’s pace in the first session was encouraging and both drivers collected a good amount of data from their longer runs this afternoon, so we look to be in good shape going into Saturday. 

“We still have a lot of work to do before both drivers are happy with the set-up of the car, but, providing we can maintain good reliability, we hope we can have another productive day tomorrow where we can put ourselves in the best possible position in qualifying. Although Stoffel has a five-place grid penalty, Q3 has to be our aim for both cars and we’ll see what we can do from there.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“The first day of the United States Grand Prix began with unstable, damp weather making for tricky practice conditions. Nevertheless, Stoffel was able to run though his programme as scheduled. Fernando lost some time in FP1 after the team detected a hydraulic issue, but recovered enough track time in FP2 to gather sufficient data. 

“There is definitely more room to improve in terms of the set-up in FP3 for both cars, and I still think we are capable of reaching Q3 in tomorrow's qualifying. 

“This weekend we have introduced a new ICE in Stoffel’s car, and as a result he will incur a five-place grid penalty for the race on Sunday. Despite this we have a positive feeling about our PU after today’s session and we think our package will be quite competitive here.”

2017 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX – QUALIFYING

"A GREAT CHANCE TO SCORE POINTS"

FP3 went to plan on both sides of the garage this morning in Austin. Fernando and Stoffel completed two trouble-free runs in dry and sunny but blustery conditions, finishing the session in 13th and 14th respectively. 

In qualifying, the field faced similarly windy conditions out on the circuit, but with track temperatures five degrees Celsius higher than in the morning session. 

Q1 was a straightforward session for both cars – Fernando opting for one run and Stoffel two. Both cars comfortably passed through into Q2, Fernando in eighth and Stoffel in 13th. Q2 was also drama-free for both drivers, but the differences in the handling between the two cars due to new components became more apparent as the session progressed, Stoffel struggling more with the balance of his car than his teammate. He finished the session in 13th, while Fernando slipped through into Q3 in ninth place.

Fernando started Q3 with a few tweaks to the set-up, and found good track position between cars to post the eighth-fastest time. After a second run and a slightly improved time to stay P8, he eventually finished the session in ninth on the timesheets. 

Fernando will ultimately start tomorrow’s race in eighth place due to [Max] Verstappen’s penalty. Stoffel will start 14th due to his own five-place grid penalty, but benefits from penalties for Verstappen, [Lance] Stroll, [Nico] Hulkenberg and [Brendon] Hartley.

FERNANDO ALONSO

#FA14 MCL32-05
Q1 1:33.712s (12th) Option tyre
Q2 1:35.046s (9th) Option tyre
Q3 1:35.007s (9th - will start 8th due to penalties for VER) Option tyre

“We had some concerns before coming here about how competitive we could be, but we put the car on track and immediately performed quite well, being in the top 10 in every single session, and that was a nice surprise. We also brought some updates here and they are working fine. 

“The car felt great today. We had difficult conditions out there – it was very hot and windy in qualifying and the grip level was lower than we expected. In those conditions our car performs extremely well, so our lap in Q2 was good and we were able to make it into Q3, with ninth place overall. 

“Tomorrow we’ll start eighth, due to Verstappen’s penalty, so I think it’s a great chance to score points. 

“We know we still have a deficit on the straights compared to other teams and we’ll probably be a little exposed on the first lap because we’re in a group, but after the first lap has settled I think we could open up the gap in the high-speed section and maybe defend a little bit better. 

“We’re definitely happy to race here in front of the US fans and I think they’ll see a great race tomorrow!”

STOFFEL VANDOORNE

#SV2 MCL32-04
Q1 1:36.286s (10th) Option tyre
Q2 1:35.641s (13th - will start 14th due to five-place PU penalty and penalties for VER, STR, HUL and HAR) Option tyre

“The result is probably as much as we could have expected today, as I’ve been struggling a bit this weekend. From FP2 I haven’t really felt comfortable in the car and it was quite difficult today. FP1 was good – I had a busy aero programme with a new front wing and I finished fifth in that session. We then swapped it to the other car after that, and ever since we returned to the previous spec we’ve been on the back foot a bit and struggling with the car balance, which has continued up to qualifying. 

“I haven’t really found the right balance across the corners or been able to get the car together as I’ve wanted it, but as I have a five-place penalty it made sense to give the front wing to Fernando as he has a better chance to finish in the points. With the penalty we’re not really in an ideal position, but that’s the way it is, and hopefully we can have a better day tomorrow. It’s a challenging track and a long race, and hopefully with the degradation there are some opportunities to get back some positions. 

"It’s reassuring to see Fernando through to Q3 with the new front wing and it looks like it’s performing very well. For tomorrow, we need to analyse carefully how things are developing, but I think our long-run pace is probably a bit better than our short-run pace. If you look back at the whole season it’s been pretty difficult for us to overtake, but we’ll have to wait and see. The start has always been quite tricky here with the wide first corner and steep uphill section, but if we have a good start we can wrestle ourselves into a better position. 

“The fans are amazing here and wherever we go for the events we do they are cheering us on – it’s really good to see and hopefully we can put on a good show for them tomorrow.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“Today both drivers did well to maximise everything they had in their armoury for qualifying. Fernando ran a newer-spec front wing than Stoffel – since he won’t be penalised by grid penalties, unlike his team-mate – and we knew that on this track there was the potential in our package for him to get into Q3. He put in some great laps and pushed the car to the limit of what was possible, so we’re pleased he was able to get through and qualify in ninth. 

“Stoffel had a more difficult session than Fernando and he and his engineers had hoped to find a better balance in the car. From FP2 onwards he wasn’t able to find the sweet spot that he found in FP1 with the updated components, but drove well under the circumstances to qualify 13th. 

"Fortunately, both drivers will benefit from the penalties of others in tomorrow’s race, which has mixed up the starting grid and promises a dramatic first few laps at the very least. Stoffel will only lose one place on the grid rather than five, starting 14th, and Fernando will start eighth. Although it will be more difficult for Stoffel, we’ll focus our attention and preparation on the strategy for tomorrow’s race in an effort to maximise every opportunity for a points-scoring result at COTA for both drivers.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“The second day of the United States Grand Prix took place under Texas bright sunshine and boiling hot temperatures. Despite the tough conditions, our qualifying was rather positive for the team. 

“As both drivers felt there was more room for improvement in terms of the set-up after yesterday's sessions, we focused on finding the best balance of the car in FP3. 

“Thanks to the team’s hard work, Fernando managed to advance into Q3 in qualifying once again, showing a fantastic run. It was disappointing that Stoffel missed out on Q3 but I think both drivers showed decent improvement compared to yesterday’s performance. 

“Our PU performance this weekend is as we expected, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow's race and hopefully scoring some points.”

2017 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX – RACE

“WE REALLY DESERVED TO COLLECT SOME POINTS”

Reliability issues have plagued the McLaren Honda team all weekend, the result of which was a disappointing race day at the United States Grand Prix that finished outside the points. 

This morning the team identified an issue with Stoffel’s MGU-H, but without sufficient time to change that element before the pit lane opened, the decision was made to change entire power unit. This inflicted a further 25-place grid penalty on his starting position in addition to the original five-place drop for changing the ICE on Friday morning. 

Starting from the back, Stoffel made a great start, gaining three places on the first lap, and began to make good progress through the field. He put up an impressive fight on a track that he’d never raced on before, overtaking [Marcus] Ericsson, [Kevin] Magnussen, [Romain] Grosjean and [Lance] Stroll (who later re-passed him on the final lap). Despite a valiant effort, he finished in 12th position just outside the points and with little reward for the difficulties faced here since Friday. 

Although Fernando didn’t incur any penalties before the race started, he too wasn’t exempt from reliability issues. Like Stoffel, he made a strong start, protecting the gap to the cars around him and showing solid pace up to and through the first round of pit stops. Unfortunately, on lap 24 while running in eighth place (a net seventh as [Felipe] Massa hadn’t pitted), he lost power – later diagnosed as an MGU-H problem – and was forced to retire the car.

FERNANDO ALONSO

#FA14 MCL32-05
Started 8th
Finished DNF - PU issue (lap 24)
Fastest lap 1:41.537s (lap 21) +3.771s (18th)
Pit stops One - lap 17 (2.67s) Option > Backup

“Today I think we really deserved to collect some points. We did a good qualifying, a good race, and made a good start, but with no reward. From our side I think it was an amazing performance. 

“On the straight I lost power – I felt some vibrations in the engine and some really weird things were going on. It’s such a pity. In the last few races we have lost so many points – possibly 15 or 20 – which probably could have helped our position in the championship for myself and also the team. It’s painful, especially because today we were seventh on merit and we had fought for that. 

“There are only three races remaining and we really want to do well, because the boys in the garage work really hard day and night to prepare the cars properly. Even this morning they had to change Stoffel’s engine and both crews were working together on that, then they prepared for the race and performed some perfect pitstops.

“Today really was a missed opportunity.”

STOFFEL VANDOORNE

#SV2 MCL32-04
Started 20th
Finished 12th
Fastest lap 1:40.349s (lap 27) +2.583s (11th)
Pit stops One - lap 30 (2.55s) Prime > Option

“Today was actually a pretty exciting race for me! Even though it wasn’t for any points, I think I put in a very good performance after a difficult qualifying starting from the back. We made a lot of overtakes on merit in the corners, which maybe weren’t really expected considering the lack of straight line speed we have. We had a good strategy and some good fights on track, so I’m happy with my pace and I think we maximised our potential today. It was a shame to get so close to the points, but we were always going to struggle starting so far back today with the penalty. 

“It’s always satisfying when you can overtake on track and we were reasonably competitive, which is encouraging, but we’ll have to wait and see for the next few races. We know that some tracks suit us a bit better than others and this one should have been one where we scored points.

“We can’t guarantee that we won’t have to take more penalties in Mexico, but we’ll wait and see and hopefully can make the most of every chance we get.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“Today was another race where we witnessed the talent of both our drivers but came home bitterly disappointed and with little to show for it. 

“Fernando started brilliantly and was maintaining pace with the pack around him through the first stint and initial round of pit stops. He had the capability to secure seventh or even sixth place and score valuable points for the team, but was denied due to an MGU-H issue which has compounded the problems we’ve faced all weekend, albeit on the other car. It would seem that despite huge potential, luck hasn’t been on Fernando’s side in the USA this year, which has been heart-breaking for all of us. 

“Stoffel was the unfortunate recipient of 25 further grid drops to add to his existing five-place penalty, owing to an MGU-H problem found this morning which required a full PU change in order to get him out on track in time for the race. This dropped him to the back of the grid at the start, rendering any hopes of points almost impossible. Still, Stoffel drove impressively well here – his first time racing at COTA – with no less than four bold overtaking manoeuvres that went unseen on our TV screens. 

“It’s a huge shame that these issues robbed us of a strong result at one of the few tracks left this season where we were hopeful of a more positive outcome. The problem encountered on Fernando’s car means that Mexico will be another tough race for us, but we’ll keep on fighting.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“Today was an incredibly frustrating day for everybody in the team. We came to the United States Grand Prix with high hopes of being able to score some much-needed points, and unfortunately reliability issues across both cars cost us a top-ten finish. 

“This morning we detected an issue with Stoffel’s MGU-H and made the decision to switch his power unit. This meant he started the race from the back of grid, giving him a tough task for the afternoon. Despite this, Stoffel drove an excellent race today. He overtook cars on track and maintained a good pace throughout. It was unfortunate he couldn’t quite score a point to reward his efforts. 

“Fernando started today from eighth on the grid and was up into seventh at the start. He maintained his position and kept his rivals behind him, until his race came to a premature end because of an MGU-H issue. 

“It’s very disappointing that we faced more issues with our PU – particularly because the reliability has been relatively stable in recent races. We will immediately investigate the issue with the Sakura team and work towards a countermeasure for Mexico next weekend.”