United States Grand Prix preview

After a three-week break Formula One returns for round 17 of the 2014 Formula One World Championship. An important round for the sport as the battle for the drivers championship continues to near its end, but also as only nine teams will compete in Austin at the United States Grand Prix.

Throughout the 2014 season, 11 teams have competed with nine of which scoring points. However, for the United States Grand Prix and the Brazilian Grand Prix in a weeks time, both Marussia and Caterham will not be competing. There withdrawal from the two races follows both teams entering administration.

Caterham have publicly been struggling in the recent weeks with administrators taking control of the team and advising staff not to return to the factory until a new owner can be found. As for Marussia, the team appeared not to be facing similar struggles in a year featuring their first points in F1 and the tragic crash Jules Bianchi suffered. But it was announced by Bernie Ecclestone, the F1 commercial supremo, to Reuters that “Neither of those two teams is going to go to America.” This news also comes as a crushing blow to Alexander Rossi who would have been hoping for his Formula One debut for Marussia at his home Grand Prix.

For the nine teams and 18 drivers, who will be competing in Austin, they will be looking forward to one of the newer tracks on the calendar. But a track that is quickly becoming one of the favourites for drivers and fans.

Austin first appeared on the Formula One calendar in 2012 following a five-year break for Formula One in America. But in the two races since, it found its way into the hearts of many with its mixture of high-speed & technical corners along with long straights and plenty of elevation changes.

When speaking to Formula1.com ahead of this weekends race, Daniel Ricciardo said: “Hand on heart, this is probably the date on the calendar I look forward to the most. I’ve loved every minute of being in Austin: when they picked this place for the US Grand Prix, they absolutely nailed it. … And then, there’s the important bit. The Circuit of The Americas, in my opinion, is the best of the new breed of circuits. The nature of the corners is interesting.”

One of the major corners of the track is turn one. Straight after the red lights go out and the cars pull away from the grid they face a steep rise to reach the apex of the first corner. A vast change in elevation will see drivers breaking uphill and increasing the chance of a lock-up, but get a clean line and you will have a far greater run through the first sector.

Circuit of The Americas track guide - from Formula1.com

Circuit of The Americas track guide – from Formula1.com

When the 5.513 km track was designed by Hermann Tilke in collaboration with American architectural firm HKS, they took inspiration from numerous circuits from around the World in search of creating a truly magnificent track. For the first sector, the inspiration came from the Maggotts/Becketts corners at Silverstone. A string of fast sweeping corners that can make or brake a lap, as shown in 2012.

Sebastian Vettel had been holding Lewis Hamilton at bay, but with 14 laps to go Vettel was held up by a back marker through these corners before Hamilton seized the initiative and overtook the German down the back straight. The back straight being the next key part of the track with its long distance combining with a DRS section.

Moving on from the back straight, the drivers enter the final sector of the lap where the circuit tightens up and provides another challenging piece of tarmac. With inspiration for the sector taken from the stadium section at Hockenheim and the multi-apex Turn Eight at Istanbul Park.

As the drivers exit the back straight and enter the final sector, they immediately face a double right-handed corner. If a driver is looking to attack through here, turns 13 and 14 provide the perfect chance to close up before moving on to turns 16 to 18. If you are feeling brave, you could attempt to get your car down the inside of the opposing driver through here and try to run them out of track. But if the overtake is not on or does not stick, the end of the lap comes with a DRS section down the pit straight, providing another strong overtaking area and a great launch into the next lap.

For the win this weekend, it’s hard to look anywhere other than Mercedes. No matter the track and no matter the conditions, the Silver Arrows have been almighty all season with just the odd reliability issue and the drivers getting in the way of what could have been a perfect season for the team. However, splitting the Mercedes duo will be a tough task with Hamilton carrying the form from winning the last four races. But Rosberg knows he needs to stop dropping points to his championship rival if he is to win his first drivers championship.

As for Red Bull, Vettel won in Austin last year and would surely love to win again given his best result of the year was second in Singapore. Not forgetting Daniel Ricciardo, the Aussie is the only man with a mathematical chance of catching the Mercedes drivers in the championship hunt and a fourth win of the season for him would keep his name well and truly in the frame given the double points in Abu Dhabi.

Other teams who will be looking for a strong weekend include McLaren and Force India who continue their battle for fifth place in the constructor’s championship. The same goes for Ferrari as they look to close down Williams who sit in third. But the team looking to gain the most in the constructor’s championship this weekend will be Sauber.

Sauber are one of the two teams yet to score a point this season, but any result higher than ninth place will see them leap ahead of Marussia (who will not be competing this weekend).

Given the time zone differences between America and Europe, the United States Grand Prix will be evening entertainment in the EU and live exclusively on SkySportsF1 in the UK.

SkySportsF1’s coverage of the weekend is as follows:

Wednesday 29th October
21:00 – Classic F1 – 1987 United States GP

Thursday 30th October
16:00 – Drivers’ Press Conference – Live
21:00 – Classic F1 – 2007 United States GP

Friday 31st October
10:00 – Gear Up for the USA.
14:45 – United States GP Practice One – Live
16:50 – Classic F1 – 1981 United States GP
18:45 – United States GP Practice Two – Live
21:00 – Team Principals’ Press Conference – Live
23:00 – The F1 Show – Live

Saturday 1st November
13:45 – United States GP Practice Three – Live
17:00 – United States GP Qualifying – Live
23:30 – Ted’s Qualifying Notebook

Sunday 2nd November
18:30 – 2014 United States GP – Track Parade – Live
19:00 – 2014 United States GP – Race – Live
22:30 – 2014 United States GP – Paddock Live
00:45 – 2014 United States GP – Highlights
01:45 – Ted’s Race Notebook

As for the BBC’s scheduled coverage for the weekend:

Saturday 1st November
22:00 – United States GP Qualifying – Highlights – BBC2

Sunday 2nd November
22:30 – 2014 United States GP – Highlights – BBC1