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Commentary: Will we see more strategy mistakes in US Grand Prix at Austin?

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Commentary: Will we see more strategy mistakes in US Grand Prix at Austin?
Oct 18, 2016, 12:28 PM

The US Grand Prix at Austin returns this weekend and once again it should be a fascinating strategic battle, with unpredictable conditions and a wi...

The US Grand Prix at Austin returns this weekend and once again it should be a fascinating strategic battle, with unpredictable conditions and a wide range of options on how to run the race.

Recent races have seen a good mix of teams taking risks on strategy and also some poor decision making costing teams results; Ferrari and Haas both got on the wrong side of things in Suzuka, for example.

So what does the picture look like for Austin?

XPB.cc USGP 2015

Pirelli is bringing the Supersoft, Soft and Medium tyres for the 10th time this season. This combination has been the most common and the most versatile, but we have also seen some tyres simply not working depending on the conditions. The supersoft has been a tyre to avoid at some venues, like Spa for example, where it was only used for qualifying and a short first stint.

The key with Austin is the temperature, as the race takes place in late Autumn when temperatures at night are low; it's an unusual venue in that it can often by sunny in the day time, but the track becomes very cold overnight and takes a long time to warm up.

Austin is an odd circuit; sometimes the degradation is low and the race can be a one-stop. This year that is likely only for cars starting outside the top ten where a combination of the soft and medium might be possible for a one-stopper. There is a possibility that some of the after cars might be able to qualify in Q2 on a set of soft tyres, which gives them more strategic range and options for the race. Otherwise it's possible that if the soft doesn't work well due to low temperature, that a supersoft/medium/medium race will be the best way.

US GP 2015 Valtteri Bottas

The Circuit of the Americas, which runs anti clockwise, is a wonderful mixture of many of the most famous circuits on the F1 calendar; it has more corners at over 250 km/h than Spa and more below 100kph than Hungary, which is quite a combination!

It has a 1 kilometre long straight with a hairpin at either end. There are usually around 40 overtakes in a typical dry race, so it's a good racing circuit and strategy planning should factor in the ability to pass cars, therefore rewarding something more aggressive.

US Grand Prix in numbers:

Formula 1 makes its fifth visit to COTA, which has hosted the US Grand Prix since 2012. All four of the races held at the Austin track so far have been won from the front row of the grid, and in the history of the US GP the polesitter has finished first or second in every race since Ayrton Senna won for McLaren from pole in 1991 (except for the 2005 six-car race at Indianapolis).

US GP 2015 Lewis Hamilton Nico Rosberg

The drivers’ title has been settled in the US on seven previous occasions (in 1959, 1970, 1974, 1977, 1981, 1982 and 2015). On the last two occasions that has happened, the championship battle has featured a Rosberg. In 1982, Keke Rosberg secured the title at Las Vegas, and his son Nico lost out to Lewis Hamilton last year.

But this year, even if Rosberg wins the race on Sunday and Hamilton fails to finish, the title will continue to the next race in Mexico as the German driver would lead by 58 points with 75 still to play for.

Following on from 2014 and 2015, Mercedes can tie its own F1 record of 16 wins in a single season this weekend in Austin, an event that will be Rosberg and Hamilton’s 75th race as teammates.

Lewis Hamilton Nico Rosberg Australia 2013

Rosberg arrives in America after winning his ninth race of the season last time out in Japan – the same number as Nigel Mansell won in 1992, which is the current record for any driver in the year of their first world championship triumph. No F1 driver has ever won eight or more races in a season and not gone on to win the title.

Hamilton has won three of the four races held at Austin so far – the other was won by Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull in 2013 – and he has done so on each occasion from second on the grid. If he wins on Sunday, the world champion will tie with Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher as five-time F1 race winners in the USA. The only time Hamilton has failed to win when F1 has raced in the country during his career (including the 2007 race at Indianapolis) was Vettel’s 2013 triumph where he finished fourth.

Williams’ Felipe Massa can clinch the 150th points finish of his F1 career this weekend, and in doing so he would become the fifth driver in the sport’s history to reach that figure. But if he fails to finish in the top ten in Austin or Mexico he could yet be pipped by Hamilton, who currently has 148 F1 points finishes.

Felipe Nasr US GP 2015

This weekend’s race will mark a number of F1 anniversaries. Felipe Nasr finished ninth in Austin last year, which is his Sauber team’s last points finish to-date. This race will also be the 75th Grand Prix since Jenson Button took his most recent win for McLaren, which came at the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix.

The American squad Haas F1 will make its first appearance at its home race on the same weekend that Romain Grosjean will makes his 100th Grand Prix start.

Grosjean will become the ninth Frenchman to reach that total, and will do so at the venue where he tied the best result of his career by finishing second for Lotus in the 2013 US race.

 Romain Grosjean US GP 2013

What are you expecting from the 2016 US Grand Prix? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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