United States Grand Prix: Circuit of the Americas

COTA on a Race Day
COTA on a Race Day (Earl McGehee / Wikipedia.org)

The Circuit of the Americas (COTA) is the national circuit and host of the USA Grand Prix. It’s a relatively new circuit, being built in 2010, but with it the design has been hailed as one of the more exciting events on the calendar.

What’s great about the United States Grand Prix is that it’s done in typical Texas fashion, where bigger is better. The build-up and the anticipation around the race is like very few, making it a firm favourite for both fans and drivers. As a result, the winner of the race even gets their very own cowboy hat to wear, which is usually endorsed by the sponsors at the time.

As Texas see’s pretty consistent weather all year round, the October date means that conditions are usually perfect, averaging around the 25-degree mark and very rarely sees any rain. 


Swap Start/End

Circuit Info

Location Length Corners Capacity Year Opened
Austin, Texas 5.513km 20 120,000 2012

Circuit Layout

F1 Circuit of the Americas Track Map

The track was broken ground in December 201 and officially opened in October of 2012, hosting the USA Grand Prix no less. The track was purpose built for the F1 and is Grade 1 FIA registered design. In the build-up to the creation of COTA, the services of Hermann Tilke were enlisted. Tilke is the most famous circuit designer in the world and has played a major role in dozens of other F1 tracks, including the likes of Sepang, Shanghai, Istanbul, Bahrain and Dubai, to name just a few.

What’s been a massive success about the design of the track is that they’ve ben able to take some of the most exciting and iconic corners and layouts from other racetracks and combined them all into one with the COTA.

In total there are 20 corners, which make up the 5.5 km track, one of the longer ones in F1. The elevation changes of around 40m adds another element that the drivers need to negotiate, but it’s he build-up of the iconic corners that really makes the track what it is.

The intersection that includes the sequence of Maggots, Beckets and Chapel corners are from Silverstone. Hockenheim’s arena bend is also on offer, along with the famous ‘Turn 8’ taken from Istanbul. Other corners include ‘Senna S’ from Interlagos and wide corners, that were introduced at Buddh International Circuit in India. The wide corners have been designed to allow drivers to take different racing lines, with one line not necessarily being quicker than the others and in turn, increasing the ease in which drivers can overtake. 

Another interesting fact about COTA is that the race is run anti-clockwise, which means it’s one just a handful all season that operate this way. Whilst this may seem like a negligible thing to note, the majority of tracks have many more right-handed corners, whereas at COTA, the majority are left handers. Drivers are often much more accustomed to right handed bends, which means the left handers are often harder to handle, especially under significant G-Force which they will encounter throughout the racetrack. 

The elevation change is another interesting aspect of the racetrack, with the largest pulling being from the start line up to the first corner, which is an 11% incline and something that you don’t really appreciate watching on television. Whilst this is the highest point, the turn at the top of the bank becomes slightly blind as you head back down, meaning that finding the breaking point can be tough for drivers. 

A point that several drivers have made relates to this exact incline, with some stating that it’s actually an advantage to start second over first place, given that first is on a stepper incline from the offer. However, most drivers agree that there are few more exciting racing circuits than COTA, which is a credit to the work that’s gone into the design process of the track. 

Recent Winners

YearDriverCarFastest Lap
2017 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.38.776
2016 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.42.386
2015 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.40.738
2014 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.41.929
2013 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1.39.856

Other Races at the Circuit of the Americas

FIA World Endurance Championship at COTA
FIA World Endurance Championship at COTA (Luke Parker / Flickr.com)

Whilst the track was primarily designed to host Formula 1 racing, it will come as little surprise to hear the racing community within Austin have taken to it in a big way.

Whilst it’s only been open for around 6 years, the track has already played to host to the likes of the FIM Moto GP, World Endurance Championship, World Rally Cross, World Series Formula V8 3.5, Porsche Super Cup, V8 Supercars, American Le Mans Series, Rolex Sports Car Series, WeatherTech Sports Car Championship and the Summer X Games. 


Construction of COTA
Reconstruction at COTA (Larry D. Moore / Wikipedia.org)

The announcement of the track came about in 2010, when Tavo Hellmund stated they were going to build on a site of around 4 sq km. The site had already been outlined to include residential properties, but it was decided that they could better use the land to create one of the best motor racing facilities in the world. 

Red McCombs

One of the largest investors in the track was that of Red McCombs who is a Texas Billionaire. Whilst he didn’t have an awful lot to do with the actual layout, as this was tendered out to Hermann Tilke’s Architectural firm, he did originally want to call the location 'Speed City'. This name was later shunted in favour for selling the naming rights to sponsors in a deal worth around $7 million. 

Grand Prix Racing

Aside from a couple of funding issues that become apparent when money from the local council was initially refused, the building work went fairly straight forward. The then Race Director of Formula 1, Charlie Whiting, signed the track off in 2012 and just 60 days later they were able to host their first Grand Prix. 

The Grand Prix has been a great success ever since, which is a much to do with the city of Texas as it is the race itself. Fans are able to enjoy a unique atmosphere and many celebrities, movie stars and music starts regularly attend. Their record attendance came in 2016 when the crowd was reported to be just shy of 270,000, boosted by the fact that a thrilling world title battle between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, but also aided by that of Taylor Swift performing after the race.