Formula One

Austin GP track layout, turns and DRS zones analysed

F1 US GP layout Austin Circuit COTA
Moy / XPB Images – Photo by Icon sport

F1 makes its second visit to the US in 2023. The Circuit of the Americas will host the Austin Grand Prix this weekend. Join us for a guided tour around the 20-turn, 5.513 km Austin GP layout. You can also check out our F1 predictions and the odds available for the weekend.

Austin GP layout: Twisty, fast, and bumpy

A purpose-built track for F1, COTA joined the F1 schedule in 2012, marking the return of the US GP to the calendar. Designed by the ever controversial Herman Tilke, COTA is often regarded as one of the German’s architect’s good tracks, largely because of its clever usage of the natural elevation changes. Following what is already a tradition for American road courses, the Circuit of the Americas is a counter-clockwise layout, one of the nine in the current F1 schedule.

Speaking of them, the lap starts on the uphill front straight, leading to a very tricky braking zone into turn 1. Drivers exit the apex, which is right at the uphill crest, completely blind. The cars then plunge downhill into turn 2, a flat-out right-hander. Following a short straight, the drivers head into the turns 3-5 complex: a snake-like left-right-left sequence that only requires a minor lift off the throttle. Turn 6 comes right after that, completing the first sector with a long and fast right-hander that only requires a light tap on the brakes.

Shortly after exiting turn 6, the cars head straight into turn 7 – a short flick to the left that requires another light tap on the brakes. Drivers then brake hard for turn 8, another long right-hander that is followed by turn 9, a medium speed flick to the left that the cars can easily take almost flat out. A short straight connects it to turn 10, another left-hand flicker that drivers can take completely flat. It leads to a heavy braking zone into turn 11, a slow, but very crucial left-hander.

Carrying speed out of 11 is vital, as it leads into the long downhill backstraight, which is an important overtaking opportunity. And then it’s hard on the brakes again to take turn 12, a tight left-hander. From here on, the cars will ask a lot out of their brakes.

Turns 13 and 14 are essentially a single, double-apex and slow right-hander. Coming next is turn 15, which is another double-apex and very tight corner. The cars then head down another short straight, which leads to the turns 16-18 complex: a triple right sweeper that is taken flat out.

After another short straight, drivers tap the brakes to take turn 19, a short, medium speed, downhill left-hander that is slightly off-camber. And then, following another short straight, comes the final corner. Turn 20 is a slow left-hander that makes the car get slightly off-balance at the exit, leading back to the uphill front straight.

Circuit of the Americas DRS zones: two prime overtaking spots

Few DRS zones in the calendar will offer a better overtaking opportunity than the two at COTA. The first one is located on the backstraight, with its detection spot located at the short straight between turns 10 and 11. Not only does the backstraight itself provide a good overtaking opportunity for the chasing car, the braking zone into turn 12 completes the combo with the potential for a classic move down the inside.

COTA’s second DRS zone is located on the front straight, while the detection point sits right at the braking zone into turn 19. Drivers can set up a move into turn 1, although the corner’s nature does allow the driver on the outside a chance to defend into turn 2.

Circuit of the Americas racing history

2012Sebastian VettelLewis Hamilton
2013Sebastian VettelSebastian Vettel
2014Nico RosbergLewis Hamilton
2015Nico RosbergLewis Hamilton
2016Lewis HamiltonLewis Hamilton
2017Lewis HamiltonLewis Hamilton
2018Lewis HamiltonKimi Raikkonen
2019Valtteri BottasValtteri Bottas
2021Max VerstappenMax Verstappen
2022Carlos Sainz Jr.Max Verstappen

The inaugural race at COTA came down to an epic, race-long duel between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. The then McLaren driver pulled off the winning move with 15 laps to go, a pass down the inside of the backstraight. He then held off Vettel to take the checkered by just over six tenths.

Hamilton enjoyed great success at COTA, winning four in a row between 2014 and 2017. His 2015 victory was enough to secure the title with three races to go.

Kimi Raikkonen snapped Hamilton’s streak in 2018. Celebrating the 11th anniversary of his 2007 title, the Iceman undercut Hamilton in the pits, then held off a charging Max Verstappen to end a five-year drought. It marked Raikkonen’s 21st victory, putting him just one above his fellow Finn and mentor Mika Hakkinen. He also set the record for the longest interval between a driver’s first and last F1 win, at 15 years, six months and 28 days.

In 2021, Verstappen triumphed in another close fight against Hamilton, as the title showdown between the two continued late into the season. Following a slow start, the Dutchman managed to retake the top spot with an aggressive tyre strategy. But he then had to hold off a charging Hamilton, who was on much fresher rubber, over the last few laps. Thanks to his clever traffic management, Verstappen used the DRS zones to his advantage and claimed a crucial win on the way to his maiden championship.

The two rivals clashed again last year. After taking the lead from polesitter Sainz right at the start, Verstappen dropped down to third, behind Hamilton and Charles Leclerc, as the result of a slow pit stop by Red Bull. The Dutchman then went on a tear, and retook the lead with seven laps to go. He couldn’t quite shake off Hamilton, however, which led to a frantic final five laps – with both drivers on the verge of incurring a track limits penalty as well.

What lies ahead for 2023

Verstappen is the undeniable favorite to make it three in a row at COTA. The fast and downforce-reliant layout should be a good one for Red Bull, with McLaren likely set to be the closest challenger again.

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