Mark Webber in the marquee Red Bull Photofiles

The Circuit of the Americas (COTA) is a brand new, purpose-built Formula One track near Austin, Texas. Its presence on the 2012 calendar gives America its first world championship grand prix since 2007, and the 5.5km layout looks challenging for the engineers and drivers alike.

The start of the lap is fast and undulating. The track rises steep uphill on the approach to Turn 1 and then enters a series of high-speed sweeps that mimick the Maggotts-Becketts complex at Silverstone. A 1km back straight follows, along which the DRS zone will be positioned, and it’s here that we can expect to see most overtaking manoeuvres in the race.

Another standout feature of the 20-corner layout is the long, triple-apex right-hander towards the end of the lap. The drivers will need to be very precise with their steering inputs through here and they’ll also need to be strong because their necks will have to endure lateral forces of up to 4g for three seconds.

“It’s a super layout,” says 1978 world champion Mario Andretti, who officially opened the track. “I think the drivers will love it because it’s fast and flowing, and you can get a good rhythm.”

The final layer of asphalt was laid at the end of September, so the teams expect the surface to be greasy and slippery early on in the weekend. As the cars lay more rubber on the racing line (they will each have an extra set of Pirelli’s hard compound tyre for Friday practice) grip levels will improve and lap times will drop. Expect qualifying times to be in the 1:37.000s marker.

COTA’s contract with Formula One Management is for the next 10 years, during which time it’s hoped that F1 can gain a strong foothold in the USA. A sell-out crowd is expected for Sunday’s inaugural race.

COTA STATISTICS

Round: 19
Laps: 56
Lap length: 5.516km
Race distance: 308.896km
Start time: 1300 (local)
Full throttle: 60%
Downforce level: medium
Gearchanges per lap: 58
Average lap speed: 200km/h
Top speed: 315km/h
Tyre compounds: medium / hard
Overtaking places: Turns 1, 11 & 12
Average Ambient Temperature: 22 degrees
2011 pole position: N/A
Predicted qualifying time: 1:37.000s
Predicted race lap time: 1:42.000s
Lap record: N/A
Mark Webber’s best result: N/A
Sebastian Vettel’s best result: N/A 
Daniel Ricciardo best result: N/A
Jean-Eric Vergne’s best result: N/A
 


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