The USA GP has had a somewhat peripatetic history. Forty races have gone by the name of the US Grand Prix, hosted at Watkins Glen twenty times, Indianapolis 8, Circuit of the Americas 7, Phoenix 3, Riverside and Sebring with one apiece. But that’s not the end of it, because F1 USA was a number plate sometimes seen on more than once car at the same time.
Apart from the USA GPs, there were also events in Dallas, Detroit, Las Vegas and Long Beach, from the 70s to the mid-80s. Even the Indianapolis 500 was part of the picture, counting for the F1 World Championship in its early years, but usually no European drivers took part and it dropped off the F1 calendar in 1961.
But let’s get up to date. After a five-year hiatus, Formula One made a much-anticipated return to the United States in 2012, with Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, known as COTA providing a new home for the event.
It’s seen a good mix of F1 tradition and the modern delights of the Texan capital city. Inspired by some of grand prix racing’s great venues, the 5.5km circuit features sections that take their cues from Silverstone’s Becketts-Maggots complex, Hockenheim’s stadium section and Istanbul’s long multi-apex Turn 8.
The signature stretch, however, might just be the run from the start-finish line up a steep incline to an almost blind hairpin. Praised by drivers and attended by massive crowds, COTA looks set to be a superb long-term home for F1 in the US.
As for Austin, it’s a really fun and interesting place, with iconic glimpses of Texas, be it a giant pick-up truck burbling at the lights, a bar with a mechanical bull, corals of horses kicking up the dust and chromed caravans selling the city’s famous street food and Texan barbeque and cars with giant bullhorns on the radiator grilles. Above all, Austin lives up to its reputation as the capital of live music and there are bands playing every night somewhere.
The Austin GP came on the calendar in time for the final two seasons of F1 running normally aspirated 2400cc V8s, which saw the wins go to Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes and then Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull Racing.
In the hybrid age, the Englishman and his three pointed star have been unbeatable over the next four years of the USA GP. But in 2018 Austin GP, the win went to Kimi Raikkonen, his first victory since the 2013 Australian GP, and it was also Ferrari’s first win at COTA.
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