JEAN-ERIC VERGNE (25): “I really enjoyed going to Texas, I love the place and on top of that, the Circuit of the Americas itself is a great track to drive…”
DANIIL KVYAT (26): “…I have very good memories of Austin last year. It was a very exciting time for me and now it’s hard to believe that already one year has gone by since that weekend in America…”
MAX VERSTAPPEN (38): “I’m looking forward to being back in the STR9 for the first time since Japan…”
Some countries have regarded the opportunity to build a race track suitable for Formula One as a flag waving exercise in excess, with giant buildings, lavish pit garages and over-the-top facilities. However, “the most powerful nation on earth” to use a popular description of the USA, went for a simpler approach when building COTA, the Circuit of the Americas, home to this weekend’s United States Grand Prix. The result of that is that the paddock has a friendly atmosphere, which old hands say captures the feeling of Formula One racing in the States several decades ago. This race became an instant classic when it first appeared on the calendar in 2012 and is now a very popular fixture with the Formula One family and fans alike. On the subject of fans, the numbers are boosted by a large contingent making the trip from nearby Mexico and it will be interesting to see if they will still come to Texas next year when Mexico will host its own Grand Prix for the first time since 1992. The circuit runs anti-clockwise and after the track’s signature first corner, at the top of a steep uphill run past the pits, the other corners are all meant to have something in common with famous venues on the Formula One calendar. Turns three to six have similarities with Silverstone’s high-speed Maggotts to Becketts section; turns 12 to 15 can remind you of the Motodrom section in Hockenheim and turns 16 through 18 are reckoned to recreate the infamous turn eight at Istanbul Park. The mix of high speed corners and a more technical section towards the end of the lap means that Pirelli is wheeling out its most frequently used combination this season, the Medium and Soft compound tyres.
I really enjoyed going to Texas, I love the place and on top of that, the Circuit of the Americas itself is a great track to drive. There’s a special feel about racing in America and the paddock has a good atmosphere to it. The fans are enthusiastic and there is always plenty of support from all the Mexicans who come to follow this race to boost the local crowd numbers. I’m not sure how our car will perform there, but hopefully we will have a good pace and enjoy a successful weekend. I know the first corner is visually impressive when you look up at it from the pits, but in the car it doesn’t feel particularly special. To be competitive here you need all the usual things, good aero downforce and a powerful engine as there is a long straight. There are no special secrets to doing well at this track.
I have very good memories of Austin last year. It was a very exciting time for me and now it’s hard to believe that already one year has gone by since that weekend in America. I feel like a veteran now! It’s a special place for me because that’s where I first was part of a Formula One Grand Prix weekend, even if it was only driving the Friday morning session. I was reasonably quick there, maybe a couple of tenths off Daniel (Ricciardo) although I wouldn’t be happy with that this time round. It will be good to go back there therefore. The track itself is very nice, fast with lots of challenging high speed corners, which I like. The track has plenty of up and downs with the first section featuring some corners that remind me of Silverstone. I enjoyed going to America last year and I’m looking forward to eating some steak!
I’m looking forward to being back in the STR9 for the first time since Japan. I missed Sochi because I was in Imola, competing in the penultimate round of the European Formula 3 Championship that weekend. In Hockenheim, the following week, I got one win out of the three races and that meant I ended up third in the championship standings. I still have one more go in an F3 car, as I am taking part in the Macau F3 Grand Prix. It’s a really special race, a special track and it is a race I would really like to win, especially as earlier this year I won the Zandvoort Masters, the other “classic” on the F3 calendar. So before coming out to Austin, I was in the simulator for Macau and I also spent some time looking at the Circuit of the Americas. It looks like a fun track to drive with interesting corners like the first one that you have to go into blind. I’ve never been to Austin, although I’ve raced karts in the States and been there on holiday. After taking part in FP1 in Suzuka, I had to rush back to Europe, but this time, I will be staying with the team all the way through to Brazil, so I’ll be able to learn a lot more, taking part in all the briefings and generally getting to know the team.