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
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