The Formula 1 World Championship now moves from the Far East to the Americas, for this weekend's United States Grand Prix at Austin's Circuit Of The Americas. For this the 19th race of the season Scuderia Ferrari will have three drivers on its books in Texas; Carlos Sainz, Charles Leclerc and Robert Shwartzman, the latter driving the Monegasque's car in Friday's first free practice session.
A new rule introduced this season means that each team must replace each of its drivers at least once in free practice, with a young driver who has previously taken part in no more than two Grands Prix. Robert Shwartzman has progressed though the Ferrari Driver Academy and this season, he is the Scuderia's Test Driver. This will be his debut in an official F1 session and also his first time at the wheel of an F1-75 sporting number 39. The last time the Scuderia ran three drivers was at the 1976 Italian Grand Prix. It was a different scenario, as it also entered three cars, with Carlos Reutemann actually taking part in the race on his debut with the team, alongside Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni.
The Circuit of the Americas is popular with the drivers because of its mix of long straights and complex corners which are great fun to drive in a Formula 1 car. The section between turns 3 and 6 takes its inspiration from the rapid sequence of direction changes through the Magotts-Becketts complex at Silverstone, or even the Suzuka esses, with the cars travelling at over 210 km/h. The part between turns 12 and 15 is reminiscent of Hockenheim's Motodrom and there is also a straight that is over a kilometre in length. There's a very steep 11% gradient climb off the start line to the first corner, which is a left hand hairpin with an apex at the very top of the climb that is hard to judge from the cockpit. Then comes a series of quick corners all the way to the blind turn 10 and then a hairpin at 11. The track is very wide in some places allowing for different lines. There are two DRS zones: one on the main straight, the other between turns 11 and 12.
Despite the fact COTA has several fast sections, when it comes to car set-up, the engineers will steer the drivers towards running medium-high downforce for maximum aerodynamic efficiency in the slower sections, rather than going for good top speed down the straights. In Austin you need a car that turns in precisely and is kind on tyres and one also needs to keep an eye on fuel consumption.
Three questions to Robert Schwartzman, Test Driver
Can you talk us through the roots of your passion for motorsport. Where does it come from and how did you come to be at Ferrari?
RS: "I have been a fan of racing and cars in general from a very early age. When my father realised how much I loved it he had me try karting at four years old. It was love at first sight. I then started participating in competitions when I was six and moved to Italy which is home to the most important worldwide karting competitions. From the age of nine I basically grew up and went to school there so I could continue racing. At the end of 2017 I was contacted by Ferrari and in 2018 I joined the Ferrari Driver Academy. As part of the Maranello young driver programme, I raced in Formula 3 and Formula 2 and at the end of last year I was appointed test driver for the Scuderia".
For the first time in 46 years the Scuderia will run three drivers on a race weekend. What work have you done this year? How does it feel to be driving in an official F1 session for the very first time?
RS: "2022 has been a very different year for me as it was planned that I would not race in any championships. Instead, I am working full-time for the Scuderia, doing a lot of work in the simulator and I am very happy to have been part of this year's team effort. The experience I have gained this year has taught me a lot, and helped me become a more complete racing driver. Debuting in an official F1 session with Scuderia Ferrari is first of all a great honour and to be the first driver to have this opportunity after so many years makes what I will do on Friday really special. I am obviously thrilled but at the same time I am also very keen to drive this car for the first time and see how close the work we've been doing in the simulator is to reality".
What's your impression of the COTA track and how have you prepared for a circuit that you have never actually driven?
RS: "The COTA track is a very interesting and quite challenging. I have never driven on this track so this will be my first time there. I have prepared for it mainly on the simulator and I am really looking forward to driving on it for real".
Ferrari at the United States Grand Prix
GP contested 59
Debut 1952 Indianapolis 500 Miles (A. Ascari ret.)
Wins 13 (22.03%)
Pole positions 14 (23.73%)
Fastest laps 16 (27.12%)
Total podiums 38 (21.47%)
United States GP - Facts & Figures
1. The number of animal species native to Austin. Eurycea Sosorum, more commonly known as the Barton Springs salamander, is an amphibian at risk of extinction. These animals grow to around 6.4 centimetres in length (less than the average salamander), with mottled colouration ranging from dark purple to bright yellow.
10. The number of rounds of the Formula 1 World Championship held in Texas, nine at the Circuit of the Americas and one at the Dallas street circuit in 1984. Two other states have hosted Grands Prix at two different locations: Florida, (one at Sebring, one in Miami) and California (Long Beach 8 and Riverside 1). The other states that have been home to world championship races are New York State with 20 races at Watkins Glen, Indiana (19 races at Indianapolis on either the oval or road course), Michigan (seven at Detroit), Arizona (three in Phoenix) and Nevada (two in Las Vegas).
36. The number of millions of Formula 1 fans in the United States (based on a study by Liberty Media), a figure which has increased drastically in recent years. American fans have an average age between 16 and 24, which is younger than the overall average of 37 and 40% of the fanbase are women.
300. The average number of days of sunshine per year in Austin, higher than in any other part of Texas. Average temperatures range from 5 degrees in winter to 35 in summer, with a wide range over the course of a day. On the Thursday of the 2019 race, it went from a minimum of 3 degrees to a maximum of 24.
1285. The number of radio stations in Texas. Austin claims to be the capital of live music, sometimes featuring 100 concerts on the same night. No surprise therefore that radio stations are extremely popular in the State. There is quite a variety, including three Vietnamese language, one Korean and another that plays Christmas songs all year round. KAMX-FM has the largest audience of over 13 million per day.
Ferrari 75 years ago
Ferrari's first racing season ends with a race in Turin on 12 October, won by Raymond Sommer. Enzo Ferrari starts work on the programme for 1948, a year which will bring further laurels to the Prancing Horse marque. Among other events, it will make its debut on the international stage, although the first race on the calendar for the team is the Targa Florio in Sicily. Development begins on the 166, which will become one of the most successful Ferraris of all time.