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Bottas shows his class and so does his team. Different class.

Publication: 
Bryan Edwards
chiefofficersnet

When Valtteri Bottas pulled his car up to the pole position sign in the middle of the track at the Circuit of the Americas yesterday at the end of Qualifying for the 2019 US Grand Prix, there was no celebration as his crew walked around his car and prepared to push it away. After the interviews, he was left to walk back to the garage as an entirely solitary figure. Today, wasn't any better, despite him winning the race.

It hadn't gone as expected. The track was in a desperate condition, a triumph of poor engineering has resulted in a track which is plainly not fit for purpose.

In April 2018 - MotoGP riders said that the increasing bumpiness of the Circuit of the Americas was dangerous. In November that year, F1 drivers complained that the bumps made it difficult to control the cars. In April 2019, MotoGP riders said that remedial work(scraping the top layer off the "high" parts of the track) had not solved the problems. Some reportedly talk about boycott in 2020. Yesterday, as F1 cars came out, there were even more, bigger, scraped areas but, still, the track has major problems. As they were thrown off-line; ultra-low cars smashed into the ground; Lewis Hamilton said "I don't think this is safe." A combination of subsidence (in places as much as 1.5 metres says Sky Sports) and rippling (that's what happens in the braking and acceleration zones when the tarmac is pushed up) has created a circuit where, for example, low front wings can hit the floor in the pit lane exit.

It's a fantastic design, a real racer's track, using the natural contours of the land and with some fine features. It has several big, wide corners where multiple lines are possible. It's a track with many overtaking places. But there was insufficient attention paid to the sub-surface, it was far behind schedule when it was built and there was frantic work to get it finished; its final inspection was in the hours before the F1 cars were unloaded at the airport for its first event. (see https://www.pleasebeinformed.c...).

Now, seven years on, the effects of the dash to get it finished have resulted in a track that needs a major overhaul. The owners say that they will close it for the winter so they can resurface it. But that's not going to solve the underlying problem that it hsd been built on, for want of a better expression, shifting sand.

The state of the track is such that the race officials said that, for one corner, they would not be strict on track limits (that's where a car puts all four wheels outside the white lines) because there is a large bump: some drivers, it was accepted, would drive around it and that would take them out of bounds. Others might find that their car was destabilised and they were bounced over the line.

It was into this that the drivers turned up for qualifying in conditions that were windy and warmer than at any time during practice. Bottas excelled, Hamilton came in fifth, a very unaccustomed position. Between them were the two Ferraris and Max Verstappen. Bottas, despite his outstanding lap, was glum, almost leaden. Maybe that's why people were staying away from him.

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