After a week’s break, Formula 1 returns with the American GP in the Circuit of the Americas. This will be the first of five races over the next six weeks, all on the same continent- excluding the final round in Abu Dhabi. With the World Championship officially in the hands of Max Verstappen and Red Bull, the focus shifts further back.
The battle for second place in the Constructors’ championship between Mercedes (with 326 points) and Ferrari (with 298 points) continues. The W14 recently showed excellent performance in Qatar, although it did not optimise the points available.
It will be tricky for them to maximise their updates in a Sprint weekend format, with McLaren once again expected to be second-fastest. They will aim to overtake Aston Martin in the standings. Red Bull and Haas will race slightly modified liveries for the weekend.
Austin: More set-up compromises and bumpier asphalt, Ferrari could defend itself better
The American track extends for 5513 meters and is made up of 20 corners, which vary greatly across different sectors.
In the first part, the large radius and high speed curves will reward highly charged and stable cars such as the McLaren MCL60 and Red Bull RB19.
In the second sector, the long straight means that top-speed will count, an area where the Woking team has improved a lot thanks to their most recent updates. McLaren can be expected to defend themselves better than in recent months.
The last sector is the most technical, with several medium and low-speed corners where it will be important not to overheat the tyres, even in Friday and Saturday qualifying.
Once again, the engineers will only have one session to optimise their baseline set-up. Compared to to Qatar, this circuit requires more compromises – given the different types of corners, but also the changes in altitude and a more bumpy asphalt.
Once again, Ferrari is aiming to gain an advantage over their rivals in the Sprint race format. The contribution of the Power Unit will count a lot, with the first straight being shorter but steeply ascending towards turn one, and the long straight between turns 11 and 12.
In both, it will also be possible to exploit the contribution of the mobile wing, so we should see medium and high load settings.
The electrical component of the Power Units will be equally fundamental, as we have often observed with the new generation of cars, while fuel consumption should not be a limiting factor.
The brakes will be used a lot during the lap, according to Brembo for 17 seconds out of the 94 total of the lap. Four of the circuit’s braking zones are considered demanding, including the braking for turn 12, where we will see the majority of overtaking in the two races. The other seven are of medium or low intensity.
Pirelli opted for the intermediate range of compounds for the weekend in Texas, the C2, C3 and C4: Mario Isola described the circuit as demanding for the “lateral forces, moreover in a well-balanced manner between the two axles, front and rear.”
He then explained the singularities of the Circuit of the Americas, which will influence the Austin GP weekend:
“The asphalt, despite the renovations, remains rather bumpy. This generates micro-slips in the tires, which can lead to anomalous overheating.”
The degradation on this track is more of a thermal nature: last year the winning strategy was a two-stop strategy, using the C2 and C3 compounds.
In Austin, rather high temperatures are expected across all three days, with little chance of rain. This will only highlight the thermal degradation highlighted by Pirelli as one of the decisive factors of the weekend.
The maximum temperatures expected on Friday and Saturday even reach 35/36°C, while Sunday’s race should see slightly lower temperatures. There could be discrepancies in the degradation seen in tests and the actual one in competition.
Austin updates: Big updates for Mercedes, Aston and Haas
The long-awaited package of updates from Mercedes includes a new fund on the W14, as anticipated by James Allison over the past few weeks, and will be a step forward from a performance point of view.
However, it will also be important in a search for confirmations and data ahead of 2024. Next year will be especially important because the cars will also have a huge influence on 2025.
Mercedes has a good margin over Ferrari for second place in the constructors’ championship, but it will be a tough challenge for Totò Wolff’s men to maximise the result with only one test session available.
A new fund will also debut on the Aston Martin AMR23, always looking for corrections after having made some mistakes in the central phase of the season (think of the fund brought to Canada), which, according to Dan Fallows has “unbalanced the car.”
The Silverstone team technician continued: “We would like to have more time to study the updates (…), but it is a track where we should be quite competitive if we manage to put everything together.”
Haas presents itself at its home Grand Prix with a great revolution on the VF23, as Ferrari did in June in Barcelona; finally, updates are also expected in the bottom area at Alpha Tauri, awaiting a total revolution in 2024 with many more Red Bull parts on the Faenza car.
Author: Andrea Vergani
Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang