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F1: chomp, gulp, choke. That's the sound of a hat being eaten

Publication: 
Bryan Edwards
chiefofficersnet

When we've looked at The Circuit of the Americas (tweely known by its owners as COTA) in Austin, Texas, we've been a bit disparaging, largely, it has to be said, because there has been so much uncertainty over whether it would ever come into being or whether, if it did, it would be ready in time for its inaugural Formula One race. We didn't expressly say "if a decent track comes out of this mess, I'll eat my hat," but it was strongly implied. Pass the ketchup, please.

Mario Andretti is an icon - one of the few that have near global recognition and can still fit in an F1 car. He may be the only one that can still fit in the car he drove in F1 more than thirty years ago.

And in Formula One circles, there is little argument - the most iconic, and game-changing, F1 car was the Lotus 79 in which Andretti took the world championship and his team-mate, Ronnie Petersen, took second place, albeit posthumously after Petersen was killed in a crash in a late-season race.

What would happen if someone could get Andretti to get back into that 1978 car? Could he - could anyone - still drive such a monster? The answer is "yes" although it has to be said that he drove somewhat gingerly.

But cool as it is to see Andretti in that amazing car (pass the tissue: there's drool on the keyboard) the amazing thing about this video produced by COTA is that it's at COTA.

 

There is actually a track and it's not a mickey mouse track, it's a real open, flowing course. The Americans call them "road coarses" but for the most part they are nothing like roads. Places like Watkins Glen have been sidelined for the same reasons as Brands Hatch: they are too much like real roads.

The Circuit of the Americas is a mix of Silverstone and Brands Hatch or, for American readers, a mix of Senoma Raceway and Watkins Glen. It's big and wide but with huge, flowing corners, no silly little technical section like Abu Dhabi, no artificial steep climb out of a tight corner like Sepang, no tyre-shredding quadruple apexes (apeces? apices?) like Istanbul, , no tight 180 degree hairpins like Buddh or Shanghai. And all this despite the track, like those others, being designed by Hermann Tilke.

The Austin circuit passed its final FIA inspection a few days ago. Charlie Whiting - the man who has more power to say yes or no even than the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone - said "The track design is fantastic, the quality of the workmanship is excellent and I have no concerns at all,”  after the inspection. “This will be a very unique Grand Prix, a lot of types of corners that will provide a lot of overtaking opportunities." He said that only detail such as landscaping and painting remains to be done before F1 trundles up to the track in the week ending 16-18 November 2012.

And yes, Whiting did say "very unique." Come on Charlie: not paying attention in English classes?

The owners of COTA, Red McCombs and Bobby Epstein, who took back the circuit after a battle with other investors, will host the first F1 event in the USA since the series decided it would no longer race at the ridiculously unsuitable Indianapolis. Ironically, since the abandonment of the US event after the 2007 race, interest in Grand Prix racing has surged in the USA and the are plans for a street race in New Jersey. But it's the Austin event that will be named "The US Grand Prix."

The track is, quite simply amazing. For sure, the COTA website is full of razzamatazz worthy of those strange US racing series where cars just go round in circles until one crashes and they all have to bunch up to have a two lap sprint to the end. That's not going to be likely given the design of the track and the vast run-off areas.

Watch out USA: while a few months ago there was little hope or expectation that you'd get to see some top class racing on a proper circuit, now it's absolutely clear. You're in for a treat.

And we're steadily growing fat on a diet of hats.

 


 

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