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United States GP: Preview - McLaren


Following a three-week break, the 2014 Formula 1 World Championship bursts back into action this weekend in Austin, Texas. The United States Grand Prix is a hugely popular event; the Circuit of the Americas is a challenging racetrack and the vibrant city of Austin provides plenty of entertainment away from the main event.

The Circuit of the Americas has received universal praise since it made its Formula 1 debut in 2012. Its taxing 5.513km layout is a fascinating test of man and machine, and the atmosphere has been electric at the two grands prix staged at the circuit to date.

The track is situated on an 890-acre site, just a few miles south-east of Austin. It's the first purpose-built F1 track in North America, although it's the 10th different venue to stage an F1 race in the country and the second in the state of Texas, following a one-off street race in Dallas in 1984.

The most challenging sections of the lap have been inspired by some of the great corners around the world. Sector One contains some fast sweeping bends similar to the Maggotts-Becketts complex at Silverstone; Sector Two has a corner similar to the Senna 'S' at Interlagos; and the final sector has a long, multi-apex right-hander reminiscent of Turn Eight at Istanbul Park.

The track is one of only four circuits on this year's calendar to run in an anti-clockwise direction. It also has an elevation change of 41m, the highest point being the apex of Turn One, and many of the corners have blind entries and exits as a result. To be fast, a driver needs to be very precise.

Car set-up is the usual compromise between straight-line speed and cornering grip. The 1.0km back straight encourages engineers to reduce wing levels, but the need for grip in Sectors One and Three pushes set-up back towards maximum downforce, as has been the case at most racetracks this year.

Pirelli are taking their Soft (Option) and Medium (Prime) tyre compounds to the race, a combination that has already been used six times this year. The rubber needs enough durability to withstand the high lateral forces placed on it in Sector One, while providing sufficient traction and braking stability around the remainder of the lap.

Jenson Button has long had good memories of racing in the USA - it was at Indianapolis in 2003 that he led a Grand Prix for the first time. He also has a good record at the Circuit of the Americas, having finished in the points for the past two years. Kevin Magnussen will be driving at the track for the first time.

The stats you need

Race distance: 56 laps (308.405km/191.643 miles)
Circuit length: 5.513km/3.426 miles

First race: 2012
What makes it special: It's a fantastic track layout, with three very distinct sectors and lots of undulations. The drivers love it.
Wins from pole position: One
Track abrasiveness: Medium. The asphalt has a similar smoothness and texture to the Sochi Autodrom, scene of the last grand prix, but the lateral loads are much higher due to the greater number of fast corners.
Pirelli tyre choice: Soft (Option) / Medium (Prime), a combination that has already been used six times this year (Australia, Bahrain, China, Hungary, Belgium, Russia)
2013 winning strategy: One pitstop
Fuel consumption: High. The twisty first and last sectors, through which the drivers are constantly on and off the throttle, combined with a long back straight, make it one of the more demanding venues for fuel consumption.
Brake wear: Medium. There are two big stops around the lap, but there's plenty of time for the brakes to cool between each.
Weather: Although it's November, temperatures in Texas are often in the mid-20s at this time of year. The problem for the teams is that the days start cold, so you get wide temperature swings.
DRS zones: Two – the first is on the start-finish straight; the second is on the 1.0km straight approaching Turn 12
Turbo effect: Medium, due to the sharp bursts of acceleration in Sectors One and Three
Safety Car likelihood: Low. There were no Safety Car periods in either of the US GPs staged at COTA to date.
Grid advantage: The right-hand side is the racing line, so it holds an advantage up the very steep hill to Turn One.
Pitlane time: 22s

Jenson Button: "It'll be good to get to Austin after the three-week break. I really enjoy this circuit; a great mix of a high-speed straight and really fast, technical sections to get your teeth into. It's also one of the few circuits that run anti-clockwise, which makes it a little bit more of a challenge.

"Although this is only our third grand prix in Austin, it feels like we've been going there a lot longer. It's testament to the fans, who are fantastic and always provide a great welcome, and it's already a very popular track amongst the drivers.

"I've had positive results there over the past two years, and our performance in recent races has shown that our pace is improving as we move towards the end of the season, so I'm looking forward to this weekend. Perhaps this track won't suit us quite as well as Sochi did, but it's a similar circuit in terms of set-up so I'm hopeful we can take the fight to our closest rivals. As usual, we'll be pushing to get the maximum out of our car and secure a strong finish for the team in front of the passionate US fans."

Kevin Magnussen: "I'm really intrigued by this circuit; it's already become one of the drivers' favourites and the mix of high-speed corners and elevation changes makes it a really exciting challenge. Although this will be my first time driving on the track here in Austin, I've driven it in the simulator and many of the corners have similarities to corners on other great circuits. Turns Three, Four and Five are very like the fast Maggotts-Becketts section at Silverstone, for example, which I know well, so I'm really looking forward to getting out on track in the car.

"The track has a very long, fast back straight but also lots of complex, high-speed corners, so this weekend the focus will be on finding the best balance and set-up compromise with my engineers as soon as we get started. I've also heard a lot about the famous 'Austinite' welcome – the fans in the US are always really enthusiastic so there should be a great atmosphere.

"In Russia we battled hard and came away with a positive result, so despite the three-week break I'm determined to carry that momentum into Austin and hit the ground running, so that we can secure another decent performance for the team."

Eric Boullier, Racing Director: "Off the back of our improved pace in Russia, the whole team is looking forward to returning to Austin after a three-week break. It's a very popular track that's already made its mark on the Formula 1 calendar, and the drivers and team personnel alike really enjoy going there. The organisation of the event and the facilities at Austin are very impressive, and both races since its opening have been a success.

"As we move closer to the end of the season we're continuing the development of our car, working flat-out to extract the maximum performance from our package as each race goes by. Our result in Sochi gave us increased confidence, and we come to Austin with the firm intention of building on this recent form with a strong finish for the team and boosting our points buffer over Force India in the Constructors' standings.

"Of course, though, it goes without saying that, despite everything, our thoughts and prayers are firmly with Jules Bianchi and his family as we await news on his condition."


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