United States Grand Prix

United States Grand Prix

The United States Grand Prix has had a chequered history since its beginning in 1908 when it was known as the American Grand Prize. The first Formula One Grand Prix was held in 1959 on the initiative of Alec Ulmann. New Zealand’s Bruce McLaren won the inaugural race to register his first Grand Prix win. McLaren, in a Cooper, was also the youngest winner of a Grand Prix at the time.

When is the United States Grand Prix held?

The 2020 United States Grand Prix was scheduled to be held on October 23-25. It has unfortunately been cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic and is unlikely to be rescheduled. This post and the information therein will be updated as soon as the dates for the 2021 United States Grand Prix are announced.

Schedule of the United States Grand Prix weekend

This schedule was followed at the 2019 United States Grand Prix and will be updated when the dates for the 2021 United States Grand Prix are announced.

Friday             11:00-12:30     Practice 1

                        15:00-16:30     Practice 2

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                        19:00               Concert

Saturday         13:00-14:00     Practice 3

                        16:00-17:00     Qualifying

                        19:00               Concert          

Sunday           13:10-15:10     Race

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History of the United States Grand Prix

The 1959 US Grand Prix was held at Sebring and Riverside in 1959 and in 1960 respectively. Watkins Glen hosted the US Grand Prix from 1961 to 1980 whence the race was discontinued for want of funds as well as lack of proper facilities and security.

Since 1959 the United States Grand Prix has been staged only 39 times with disruptions in 1981-88, 1992-99 and 2008-2011. No US citizen has won the United States Grand Prix since it has been a part of the F1 calendar.

After 2012 the United States Grand Prix has been held annually at Austin, Texas, on the circuit named as the Circuit of the Americas (COTA). In 2016, the Circuit of the Americas saw record attendance in a United States Grand Prix. Good weather and a Saturday night concert from Taylor Swift saw 270,00 fans swarming into the circuit over the weekend.

Lewis Hamilton won the inaugural United States Grand Prix held at the Circuit of the Americas in 2012. Hamilton came fifth in Mercedes in the 2019 United States Grand Prix which was won by his teammate Valtteri Botas. But Hamilton did clinch his sixth World Drivers’ Championship at the race that year.

US Grand Prix Facts at COTA

Lap Length:                 5.513 kilometres (3.426 miles)

No of Laps:                 56

Race Distance:           308.728 kilometres (191.835 miles)

Direction:                     Anticlockwise

Lap record:                  1’39.347 Sebastian Vettel 2012 driving the Red Bull RB8

Longest straight:         1090 metres (0.6 miles), the back straight

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Circuit of The Americas (COTA)

The plans to build the track were announced in the middle of 2010 at Travis County, Austin, Texas. It was named as the Circuit of the Americas at a press conference in 2011 and was scheduled to hold the first Grand Prix in November 2012.

There were many hiccups between the mooting of the idea of an F1 circuit in 2010 and its completion. After several lawsuits and disagreements between the sponsors of the track and the FIA, the laying of the track was completed on September 21, 2012.

On 12 October 2012, Mario Andretti ran the ceremonial first laps on the track just 27 days before the scheduled race. The Lotus 79 he drove was the car in which he became the last American to win the World Driver’s Championship.

The first US Grand Prix was held at COTA on November 18 2012, after a gap of four years. Lewis Hamilton won the race in a McLaren Mercedes while Sebastian Vettel came second. The race was watched by 117, 429 spectators.

The COTA Circuit

The track was conceived by Tavo Helmund and motorcycling world champion Kevin Shwantz. It was designed by Tilke Engineers & Architects who also designed F1 Tracks in Bahrain, Shanghai, Istanbul, Spain, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and India.

One of the handful anti clockwise F1 tracks in the world, the track has an elevation change of 41 meters (133 feet) between its highest and lowest points. Drivers face a gradient of about 6.55° (more than 11%) to Turn 1.

They then race down through Silverstone’s Maggots-Bekkets-Chapel inspired turns to the hairpin Turn 11 at the other end of the circuit. After following the 1 km (0.6 miles) long back straight back they reach Turn 12,

Negotiating a further series of turns forming an ‘S’ they go further downhill through multi apex corners with limited run-off before hitting the last two turns and the pit lane before hitting the steep main straight.

The deliberate widening of the track at the corners prompts drivers to follow multiple racing lanes just as at the Buddh International Budh Circuit in India.

Tickets for United States Grand Prix

Note: These are the prices of tickets as sold at the 2019 US. the prices will be updated as soon as the prices for the 2021 US Grand Prix tickets are announced.

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TypeLevelPrice in USD
Main Premium                        GrandstandClub Mezzanine Lower Trackside$1295 $1095 $695 $595
Turn 1 Premium                    GrandstandTop Mid Lower$675 $565 $455
Turn 15 Premium                    GrandstandTop Mid Lower$675 $565 $455
Turn 12                                           BleachersHigher Rows Lower Rows$395 $345
Turn 9 Bleachers $295
Turn 4 Bleachers $295
General Admission $175 Early Bird (Regular $195)
  • Children below two years are allowed free inside the circuit
  • Three year olds and above need a full ticket for entry
  • You cannot carry and food or drinks inside the circuit except sealed bottles
  • All ticket holders are allowed for the concerts

Best views at COTA

Turn 12 Grandstand

This stand along with stand 15 is the most popular stands among the spectators. Turn 12 stands allow the spectators to see the cars racing across the back straight and braking to negotiate Turn 12. You can follow the action through turns 13 through to turn 17. In the distance, one gets to see the action on the far side of the track.

Turn 15 Grandstand

Turn 15 stands are located at the end of the last set of turns before the cars head towards the main straight. The wider track on the turns 12 through to turn 16 make this an exciting place to watch the race.

Main Grandstand

If you are more interested in the start and finish of the race and can afford the tickets to this grandstand, this is the place for you. The spectators also get to see the podium celebrations at the end of the Grand Prix. You will see the cars appear out of the last turn on the circuit and race past you as they attain top speed uphill towards Turn 1.

The Main Stand has four levels. They are the Lower Boxes level, Mezzanine Level, Club Level and the Velocity Lounge. All the levels except the lowest level have overhead covering protecting you from sun and rain.

There are bleachers on either side of the Main Grandstand. You do of course get the views of the start and finish of the race and the podium celebrations but there are no covers overhead.

Turn 1 Grandstand

The stand, as its name suggests is off Turn 1 at the highest point of the track. The spectators get to watch the cars as they race past the starting line uphill the hill and past the stand. The cars then accelerate again to negotiate turns through to Turn 6.

A seat high up in the stands will give you a view of the cars till they go well past Turn 7. The elevation of the stand gives one a good albeit distant view of the whole track. A pair of binoculars is a great way to keep track of the action from here.

Turn 4 Grandstand

This stand gives you an opportunity to watch the cars negotiate the Silverstone inspired Maggots-Bekkets-Chapel Turns 3, 4, 5 and 6. Although you will not witness a lot of overtaking, you will see what Formula 1 cars can do on shallow left-right-left-right turn sequences.

Although it is not the best stand you can be in on the circuit, that is only because the quality of the views from the other stands in COTA is very high.

Turn 9 Grandstand

Located on the outside of Turn 9 the cars appear out of turn 7 and negotiate the turns before careening downhill towards hairpin Turn 11. You can watch the cars go across the entire back straight through towards Turn 12.

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General Admission

There are some great views to be had from general admission areas at the COTA. It is a great idea for fans on a budget to take a walk around the circuit on pre-race days and choose their spots,

The undulating topography of the circuit means that fans will get a view of almost the entire circuit from some elevated spots. Although viewed through the fence, these spots are preferable to some of the lower places in the grandstands.

A great plan would be to watch the race start from the spot at Turn 1 and stroll around the circuit watching the race from the various spots around the circuit. Try and be back in about 75 minutes to watch the finish of the race and to watch podium celebrations from the spot at Turn 1.

How to get there

The circuit of the Americas is slightly less than 19 kilometres (11.5miles) from Austin. It is only 16 kilometres (10 miles) from Austin-Bergstrom airport. Many flights connect the airport to the two major Texan hubs, Huston and Fort Dallas.

Located on the Circuit of the Americas Boulevard your ticket will indicate the parking lot closest to your seating area and you can access the circuit from Highway 130. Please note that the traffic in Austin is notoriously congested and getting to the venue on race weekends could take even up to two hours.

Park and ride services are available from the centre of the city during the Grand Prix weekend and on other major events. Shuttle busses leave from outside the Austin Convention Centre and drop passengers off at COTA’s bus shuttle depot. From there it is less than a kilometres walk to the Grand Plaza.

Where to stay in Austin

As is the case at all Grands Prix, hotels are a bit costlier during the racing weekends. But with Austin hosting the SXSW (South by Southwest) festival every spring, accommodations are available in plenty. You will find accommodation for all budgets and tastes.

Throughout the city hotels, motels and even apartments on rent are available. There is some accommodation available close to COTA but unless you have a car, conveyance will be a problem.

The off-track atmosphere in downtown Austin is much better and you can easily move about as public transportation is readily available.

Winners of the United States Grand Prix

YearDriverCountryConstructorVenue
1959Bruce McLarenNew ZealandCooper-ClimaxSebring
1960Stirling MossGreat BritainLotus-ClimaxRiverside
1961Innes IrelandGreat BritainLotus-ClimaxWatkins Glen
1962Jim ClarkGreat BritainLotus-ClimaxWatkins Glen
1963Graham HillGreat BritainBRMWatkins Glen
1964Graham HillGreat BritainBRMWatkins Glen
1965Graham HillGreat BritainBRMWatkins Glen
1966Jim ClarkGreat BritainLotus-BRMWatkins Glen
1967Jim ClarkGreat BritainLotus-FordWatkins Glen
1968Jackie StewartGreat BritainMatra-FordWatkins Glen
1969Jochen RindtAustriaLotus-FordWatkins Glen
1970Emersn FitipaldiBrazilLotus-FordWatkins Glen
1971François CevertFranceTyrrell-FordWatkins Glen
1972Jackie StewartGreat BritainTyrrell-FordWatkins Glen
1973Rinnie PetersonSwedenLotus-FordWatkins Glen
1974Carlos ReutemannArgentinaBrabham-FordWatkins Glen
1975Niki LaudaAustriaFerrariWatkins Glen
1976James HuntGreat BritainMcLaren-FordWatkins Glen
1977James HuntGreat BritainMcLaren-FordWatkins Glen
1978Carlos ReutemannArgentinaBrabham-FordWatkins Glen
1979Gilles VilleneuveCanadaFerrariWatkins Glen
1980Alan JonesAustraliaWilliams-FordWatkins Glen
1981- 88NOT HELD
1989Michael SchumacherGermanyFerrariPhoenix
1990Ayrton SennaBrazilMcLaren-HondaPhoenix
1991Ayrton SennaBrazilMcLaren-HondaPhoenix
1992-99NOT HELD
2000Michael SchumacherGermanyFerrariIndianapolis
2001Mika HakinnenFinlandMcLaren-MercedesIndianapolis
2002Rubens BarrichelloBrazilFerrariIndianapolis
2003Michael SchumacherGermanyFerrariIndianapolis
2004Michael SchumacherGermanyFerrariIndianapolis
2005Michael SchumacherGermanyFerrariIndianapolis
2006Michael SchumacherGermanyFerrariIndianapolis
2007Lwis HamiltonGreat BritainMcLaren-MercedesIndianapolis
2008-11NOT HELD
2012Lewis HamiltonGreat BritainMcLaren-MercedesCOTA-Austin
2013Sebastian VettelGermanyRed Bull-RenaultCOTA-Austin
2014Lewis HamiltonGreat BritainMercedesCOTA-Austin
2015Lewis HamiltonGreat BritainMercedesCOTA-Austin
2016Lewis HamiltonGreat BritainMercedesCOTA-Austin
2017Lewis HamiltonGreat BritainMercedesCOTA-Austin
2018Kimi RäikkönenFinlandFerrariCOTA-Austin
2019Valtteri BottasFinlandMercedesCOTA-Austin
2020CANCELLEDCOTA-Austin
     
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