The old adage that “everything is bigger in Texas” rings true when it comes to Formula 1. A bigger track, a bigger facility, a bigger event – and for this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, bigger stakes.
For on Sunday, Lewis Hamilton could become the first British driver to successfully defend his drivers’ title and become a three-time world champion in the process, emulate his hero Ayrton Senna, and firmly establish himself as one of F1’s all-time greats.
The Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas is yet to have witnessed an F1 title victory, but should Hamilton outscore nearest rival Sebastian Vettel by nine points and Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg by six, the championship will be settled with three races remaining.
Beyond the title battle, though, COTA is embarking on its biggest weekend of the year with a bumper crowd expected across the three days of on-track action.
The presence of Alexander Rossi, the first American driver at the US GP for the first time since 2007, and excitement surrounding the arrival of Haas F1 Team in 2016 is sure to only gee up home interest in the US GP.
F1’s relationship with America has been turbulent throughout the 65-year history of the sport, but this weekend is set to be a new high point.
2015 United States Grand Prix – Talking Points
Lewis looks to wrap up the title
Lewis Hamilton’s third championship victory has been something of a formality for some time, but after seeing teammate Nico Rosberg retire in Russia and his lead over the pack swell to 66 points, the Briton will know that Austin is where it could be settled.
Hamilton knows that winning at COTA with Rosberg second and Sebastian Vettel third (the ‘norm’ in 2015) would be enough to clinch him a third world title. Doing so in Austin would be all the more important for Lewis, who has fostered a real affinity for the USA in recent years, and it would only aid the sport’s profile in America.
Rain? In Austin?
Those travelling to Austin for the US GP may have seen little need to pack a coat or umbrella heading into the weekend, given that it hasn’t rained in the city since August.
But naturally, when F1 rocks up in town, things change. The forecast for the entire weekend is rather miserable, with some predicting heavy rain across all three days of on-track action. It could set the stage for a classic race – something Austin has arguably lacked thus far – and really spice up the fight at the front.
Rossi flies the star-spangled banner at home
Alexander Rossi will realise a life-long dream this weekend in Austin when he becomes the first American driver since 2007 to race in the US GP, returning to his Manor seat after missing the Russian Grand Prix due to GP2 commitments.
As Rossi detailed in his latest NBC Sports blog, his schedule has been hectic in recent days due to the massive media focus on his appearance at COTA, proving just how far F1 has come in the USA.
Rossi may stand little chance of scoring points, but simply seeing an American driver lining up on the grid to start his home grand prix must go down as a momentous achievement.
The Mexico effect
COTA’s crowd figures in all of its past three US GP weekends have been highly impressive, but undoubtedly boosted by the presence of a large Mexican contingency that has made the trip across to cheer on home heroes Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez.
However, with the Mexican Grand Prix returning to the calendar next weekend, it will be interesting to see what kind of impact this has on Austin’s crowd figures. The race in Mexico City does pose a threat to the US GP – that should not be understated – and the initial reaction and effect will be important to gauge.
Red Bull’s engine saga continues
Red Bull’s lack of an engine supplier continues to concern the F1 paddock, with the fear of losing two of the teams on the grid becoming more and more real.
The team has said before that it wanted a decision made by the US GP, so perhaps this weekend will bring some kind of news, be it Renault or Ferrari who is bailing the fallen champions out.
2015 United States Grand Prix – Facts and Figures
Track: Circuit of The Americas Laps: 56 Corners: 20 Lap Record: Valtteri Bottas 1:40.896 (Williams, 2014) Tire Compounds: Soft (Option); Medium (Prime) 2014 Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 2014 Pole Position: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:36.067 2014 Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1:41.379 DRS Zone: Main Straight (T20 to T1); T11 to T12
2015 United States Grand Prix – TV Times
Free Practice 1: NBCSN 11am ET 10/23 Free Practice 2: NBCSN 3pm ET 10/23 Free Practice 3 and Qualifying: NBCSN 12:30pm ET 10/24 Race: NBC 2:30pm ET 10/25
INDIANAPOLIS – Few drivers in Indy 500 history have been as popular as Tony Kanaan.
Throughout his career at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that began with his first Indy 500 in 2002, the fans loved his aggressiveness on the track and his engaging personality with the fans.
The Brazilian always got the loudest cheers from the fans during driver introductions before the Indy 500.
Sunday’s 107th Indianapolis 500 would be his last time to walk up the steps for driver introductions. Kanaan announced earlier this year that it would be his final race of his IndyCar career, but not the final race as a race driver.
He will continue to compete in stock cars in Brazil and in Tony Stewart’s summer series known as the “Superstar Racing Experience” – an IROC-type series that competes at legendary short tracks around the country beginning in June.
Kanaan was the extra driver at Arrow McLaren for this year’s Indy 500 joining NTT IndyCar Series regulars Pato O’Ward of Mexico, Felix Rosenqvist of Sweden, and Alexander Rossi of northern California.
He had a sporty ride, the No. 66 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet that paid homage to McLaren’s first Indianapolis 500 victory by the late Mark Donohue for Team Penske in 1972.
Because Kanaan has meant so much to the Indianapolis 500 and the NTT IndyCar Series, the 2013 Indy 500 winner was honored before the start of the race with a special video.
It featured Kanaan sitting in the Grandstand A seats writing a love letter to the fans of this great event. Kanaan narrated the video, reciting the words in the letter and it finished with the driver putting it in an envelope and leaving it at the Yard of Bricks.
Many in the huge crowd of 330,000 fans watched the video on the large screens around the speedway. On the starting grid, Kanaan’s wife, Lauren, who bears a striking resemblance to actress Kate Beckinsale, watched with their four children.
Kanaan’s wife is an Indiana girl who was a high school basketball star in Cambridge City, Indiana.
Kanaan proposed to Lauren in 2010, and after a three-year engagement, they were married in 2013 – the year he won his only Indianapolis 500.
She has been Kanaan’s rock, and this was a moment for the family to share.
After receiving an ovation and the accolades from the crowd, Kanaan walked to his car on the starting grid and exchanged hugs with people who were important in his career.
One of those was Takuma Sato’s engineer at Chip Ganassi Racing, Eric Cowdin.
Kanaan and Cowdin shared a longtime relationship dating all the way back to the Andretti Green Racing days when Kanaan was a series champion in 2004. This combination stayed together when Kanaan moved to KV Racing in 2011, then Chip Ganassi Racing from 2014-2018 followed by two years at AJ Foyt Racing.
Kanaan returned to run the four oval races for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2021 in the No. 48 Honda that was shared with seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson.
In 2022, Johnson ran the full IndyCar Series schedule, and Kanaan drove the No. 1 American Legion entry to a third-place finish in his only IndyCar race of the season.
Kanaan knew that 2023 would be his last Indy 500 and properly prepared himself mentally and emotionally for his long goodbye.
But one could sense the heartfelt love, gratitude, and most of all respect for this tenacious driver in the moments leading up to the start of the race.
“The emotions are just there,” Kanaan said. “I cried 400 times. This guy came to hug me, and I made Rocket (IndyCar Technical Director Kevin Blanch) cry. I mean, that is something.
“Yeah, it was emotional.”
Kanaan started ninth and finished 18th in a race that was very clean for the first two thirds of the race before ending in disjointed fashion with three red flags to stop the race over the final 15 laps.
“Yellows breed yellows and when you are talking about the Indianapolis 500 and a field that is so tough to pass, that happens,” Kanaan said. “It’s the Indy 500. Come on. We’ve got to leave it out there.
“Every red flag, everybody goes, I’m going to pass everybody. It’s tough to pass. It’s the toughest field, the tightest field we ever had here. It was going to happen. We knew it was going to happen.
“I wouldn’t want it any different. We left it all out there. Everybody that was out left it out.”
On the final lap, it was Kanaan battling his boyhood friend from Brazil, four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, for a mid-pack finish.
“Helio and I battling for 15th and 16th on the last lap like we’re going for the lead,” Kanaan said. “It was like, who’s playing pranks with us.
“We both went side by side on the backstretch after the checker and we saluted with each other, and I just told him actually I dropped a tear because of that, and he said, ‘I did, too.’
“We went side by side like twice. A lot of memories came to my mind, and I even said how ironic it is that we started it together and I get to battle him on the last lap of my last race.
“It’s pretty neat. It’s a pretty cool story. He’s a great friend. My reference, a guy that I love and hate a lot throughout my career, and like he just told me — I was coming up here and he just said, who am I going to look on the time sheet when I come into the pits now, because we always said that it didn’t matter if I was — if I was 22nd and he was 23rd, my day was okay. And vice versa.
“It was a good day for me, man. What can I say? We cried on the grid.
“Not the result that we wanted. I went really aggressive on the downforce to start the race. It was wrong. Then I added downforce towards the end of the race, and it was wrong. It was just one of those days.”
After the race was over, Kanaan drove his No. 66 Honda back to the Arrow McLaren pit area and climbed out of the car to cheers of the fans that could see him. Others were focused on Josef Newgarden’s wild celebration after the Team Penske driver had won his first Indianapolis 500.
There were no tears, though, only smiles from Kanaan who closes an IndyCar career with 389 starts, 17 wins including the 2013 Indianapolis 500, 79 podiums, 13 poles, and 4,077 laps led in a 26-year career.
Kanaan came, he raced, and he raced hard.
“That’s what we did, we raced as hard as we could,” Kanaan told NBC Sports.com. “It wasn’t enough.
“The win was the only thing that mattered. If we were second or 16th, we were going to celebrate regardless.
“In a way, being 16th will stop people wondering if I’m going to come back.
“I’m ready to go. I’m ready to enjoy the time with my family, with my team and doing other things as well.”
Kanaan’s face will forever be part of the Borg-Warner Trophy as the winner of the Indianapolis 500.
“I won one and that is there, and it will always be there,” Kanaan said. “It was an awesome day.
“The way this crowd made me feel was unbelievable. I don’t regret a bit.”
Kanaan actually announced the 2020 Indianapolis 500 would be TK’s last ride because he wanted to say goodbye to the fans.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 hit, the Indianapolis 500 was moved from Memorial Day Weekend to August 23 and because of COVID restrictions, fans were not allowed to attend the Indianapolis 500.
Three years later, Kanaan was finally able to say goodbye to this fans that were part of the largest crowd to see the Indianapolis 500 since the sold-out gathering for 350,000 that attended the 100th running in 2016.
“That’s it, that’s what I wanted, and I got what I wanted,” Kanaan said. “This moment was so special; I don’t want to ever spoil it again.
“We’ve been building and growing this series as much as we can. I’m really glad and proud that I was able to be part of building something big and this year’s race was one of the biggest ones.”
Kanaan walked off pit lane and rejoined his family. He will always be part of the glorious history of the Indianapolis 500 and fans will be talking about Tony Kanaan years from now, not by what he did, but the way he did it.
“This is what it is all about,” Kanaan said on pit lane. “Having kids, be a good person. Even if you don’t win, it’s fine if you don’t, as long as you make a difference.
“Hopefully, I made a difference in this sport.
“I will always be an IndyCar driver. I will always be an Indy 500 winner and I will always make people aware of IndyCar in the way it deserves.”