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Austin – The Inside Line

Austin – The Inside Line

Paddy's Perspective

"It was fantastic to secure the Constructors’ Championship at the very first Russian Grand Prix – and a great honour for me personally to be able to collect the race trophy on behalf of the team after such an amazing achievement. This is the result of many years of hard work from everybody involved at Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart and it was particularly satisfying to see the title clinched with a one-two finish. Lewis produced a flawless drive and Nico a fantastic recovery from the back of the pack, so it was a proud day all round. There have been plenty of celebrations at the factories, which is great to see. When you’re so focused on competing in a World Championship battle it can be difficult to take a step back and appreciate what has been achieved. Of course, with three races still to go it’s been straight back to business. The Drivers’ Championship has yet to be settled and it is still all to play for with the standings so close. We have the prospect of a dramatic finale with the double-points race in Abu Dhabi and it is unlikely to be decided before that point. Our focus has been very much on providing the drivers with the equipment to compete on equal terms so that the best man may win. Looking first to Austin, it’s only the third time we’ve been there as a sport and it’s an event the whole team enjoys. It’s an interesting city and we see fantastic support from the American fans. It’s also a great racetrack – a good all-round circuit which is demanding of all aspects of the car. As we saw in Russia, a new – or relatively new – track surface can give unpredictable results in terms of tyre performance, so we’ll be doing our best to prepare for all eventualities and produce another strong result."

Austin - On the Pit Wall

Circuit Layout
Austin has an interesting track layout, inspired by some of the most iconic elements of classic racing circuits from around the world. There is a lot of high-speed content to start the lap with the ‘S’ curves through Turns 2 – 6, requiring good downforce, balance and high-speed stability from the car. Before even that, however, there is an uphill braking zone into the off-camber Turn 1 – again requiring good balance. There’s the long, sweeping, continuous right-hand curve of Turns 16 – 18, which is deceptively difficult to carry speed through and equally tricky to get absolutely right lap after lap. The back straight is one of the longest on the current calendar – providing a prime overtaking opportunity due to the low-speed nature of the preceding hairpin coupled with a DRS zone. Likewise the start / finish straight which, while not as long, offers good possibilities for a DRS-assisted overtake into Turn 1, where multiple lines can be taken both into and out of the corner. The circuit layout itself is not particularly demanding of one area of a car over another – it’s a good all-round test of performance with a few unique characteristics. While there is a long straight, there is far more time to be found through the corners, making good downforce far more relevant. It is also a middle-of-the-road track in terms of demands on brakes and tyres.

Track Evolution
The Circuit of the Americas only made its debut on the Formula One calendar in 2012 and, as often seen with new circuits, track evolution has been radical between the first two seasons. The opening pair of races in Austin have seen marked differences between the performance of both cars and tyres. This can often be perceived as some drivers getting to grips with a circuit quicker than others – but that isn’t the case. Formula One drivers, particularly now with the aid of modern simulators, only take a few laps to get up to speed with a new track layout. Fundamentally, it’s then a matter of how well the car is set up and how well it is driven to suit the properties of that circuit rather than learning lines. As the years roll on, that variation inevitably becomes smaller. After three years, as is now the case with Austin, the track should have reached what the teams will treat as a stable state, where such radical changes as those seen previously are not anticipated. With two races worth of track experience under their belts and simulators as accurate as can be by this stage, teams should be fully optimised to tackle the weekend without too much consideration for track evolution.

Tyres
2013 saw a one-stop strategy adopted almost universally throughout the grid. This year, however, Pirelli have chosen a tyre allocation one step softer – medium and soft in lieu of the hard and medium nominated last time out in Austin. With a variety of racing formulae providing continued running on the circuit throughout the year, the surface will have stabilised and will therefore be as aggressive – if not more aggressive – than last season. A relative unknown quantity in the form of the soft compound will therefore provide a fresh challenge. Data gathered during running on the medium tyre will correlate – and this compound has performed well historically in Austin. However, the performance of the soft in these conditions will need to be determined. An argument might be made that the 2014 compounds are, overall, half a step harder than last year’s editions, thus rendering the change in allocation insignificant. While this statement in its essence is certainly true, the characteristics of the new V6 Hybrid engines with their increased torque and power – coupled with a reduction in rear end downforce – negates that half step. Evidence of this can be seen when comparing the average number of pit stops seen at each race this season to that of 2013, which closely correlate.

Climate
It can be very cold in Austin at this time of year. There have been mornings during race weekends where arrival at the track is greeted by temperatures of just five degrees. During the race week, temperatures can vary from as high as 27 – 28 right down to 18 – 19 degrees. This shift in climate tends to fall during the Grand Prix week, with the preceding week often relatively warm and the following week often relatively cold. This is far from guaranteed, of course, meaning that teams must be able to cater for all conditions. This doesn’t require any particular pre-planning – more an ability to adapt to conditions as they evolve during the course of the weekend.

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