It may have only hosted one F1 race, but already Austin’s Circuit of the Americas has become one of the most respected tracks in motorsport.
With it’s challenging layout, great facilities and unique location this track is one of the best additions in recent F1 history - but could it be the new ultimate circuit?
Certainly it would be a bold statement to put the Circuit of the Americas in the same breath as Spa Francorchamps or Suzuka after just one year, but of all the venues added to the schedule in the last ten years, COTA is the first to get that mix of classic and modern right.
It asks all the right questions of the cars and drivers but allows close, exciting racing where you can overtake. It also learnt from Yas Marina how to make a modern track look good despite the run-off areas and visually watching an F1 car around this circuit is just as good as some of the classic venues of Silverstone and Spa.
Of course, you can argue that the only reason the Circuit of the Americas works better than most is because it copies other tracks and certainly that’s true.
It’s hard to look at the high speed sequence at the start of the lap and not think ‘well that’s just Maggotts and Becketts from Silverstone’, but the objective from the start of the COTA project was to create an ‘ultimate’ F1 circuit.
Very few tracks of the ‘Tilkedroms’ as they are called have really captured the F1 fans because of the rather dull layouts, that is where Abu Dhabi fails – great venue, terrible track.
Indeed of all of Hermann Tilke’s creations only Istanbul’s Otodrom managed to not copy other tracks and be exciting for both drivers and fans.
But overall the reason why Austin could be the new number 1 track is because it works for modern F1, other circuits which 10-20 years ago were seen as dull have come alive since the cars have more downforce. Hungary’s Hungaroring is the perfect example, before it’s selection of chicanes were dull, now with the higher cornering speeds it’s exciting.
Other tracks have also become easier, Spa Francorchamps is still a very challenging and fun circuit, but the corners that characterised it are now non-existent, Eau Rouge is easy-flat as is Blanchimont, now Pouhon is the ‘big challenge’ but it’s not worthy of the reputation those prior corners had, you look at COTA and there is nothing on that track that resembles Spa.
Instead the high speed changes of direction works, the elevation change upto a blind turn one works, the twisty section following the long straight works, they all demand different things from the car and driver and that is what an ultimate circuit should.
What is even better for F1 is that this track is in the USA, a country where petrol runs in the veins and while F1 hasn’t been able to capture the same enthusiasm as NASCAR or IndyCar, finally the sport has a venue in the country where it can showcase itself.
You also get the feeling that COTA can become a modern cathedral of racing, that is what great tracks have, the atmosphere from the crowds, the buzz when you pull up at the circuit gates.
Hockenheim lost that to an extent when the track what shortened, it’s certainly something other modern F1 tracks lack but when you pull up at COTA you see the tower, the high-rised turn one stands out like Eau Rouge at Spa and even the name ‘Circuit of the Americas’ you know you’re somewhere special.
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