The F1 paddock travels halfway around the world from Japan to the lone star state of Texas and the Circuit of the Americas for the 16th round of the season.
The Circuit of the Americas (COTA), designed by F1 architect Herman Tilke, hosted its first race in 2012. As one of the newest circuits on the calendar it doesn’t quite fit into the mold of a modern circuit. While it does have acres of run-off areas like its modern counterparts its in the layout where you can see a real throwback to old school circuit. The Esses section in Sector 1 is especially reminiscent of the Maggots-Becketts section at Silverstone with a hint of Suzuka bleeding into the combination.
“The track in Austin is sick, I love it. It has a lot of unique features like the wide apex at turn one, you could fit about four cars side by side through there. There are loads of opportunities to overtake and have fun throughout the whole track. It has fast flowing sections and hairpins, pretty much everything I like in a track,” says Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
In 2015 a colossal level or rain mired the Texas grand prix weekend and severely impacted the level of spectators in the stands. However, the weather forecast for the 2016 race weekend is lot sunnier, literally and figuratively. Twelve months ago Lewis Hamilton arrived in Texas with one hand on the driver’s title but one year later it’s a much different story for the Mercedes driver. He trails teammate Nico Rosberg by 33 points with a maximum of 100 points still available.
This means that even if Hamilton wins all four of the remaining races it does not ensure that he will win the title. Even if this situation eventuates Rosberg would still need to finish third in at least one of the races for Hamilton to be champion.
But in the dominant era of Mercedes there has never been a better chance for Lewis Hamilton to show a real champion’s courage. Not ever has any driver or champion been revered for winning from the front but rather for how they respond when the odds are against them. Grand prix in the United States have been an enormously rewarding for Hamilton. As a rookie he won in North America at Indianapolis in 2007 and has won three of the four races held in Texas. It stands to reason, barring unreliability, that the reigning world champion will be difficult to beat in Texas.
Let’s not diminish the performance of Nico Rosberg in 2016. The metronomic way he has been inching his way to the title has been extraordinary. Few could argue that he wouldn’t deserve the title at the end of it. And he’s, mostly, aced it off the start line this season. The beauty of the fight between Hamilton and Rosberg, despite the latter’s points lead, is that it is impossible to predict. There still hasn’t been a true wheel-to-wheel race between the two either. Perhaps Texas is primed for just such a battle.