In the heart of Austin, Texas, lies a marvel of modern motorsport engineering: the Circuit of The Americas (COTA). Since its introduction to the F1 calendar, COTA has become one of the most anticipated races of the season, offering a unique blend of high-speed thrills and American charm.
History of COTA
The idea for COTA began in 2010 to bring the F1 Grand Prix back to the USA. Former racer Tavo Hellmund and motorcycling world champion Kevin Schwantz were at the forefront. They found an 890-acre spot in Travis County, and with the help of investors like Red McCombs and Bobby Epstein, the journey began.
The track layout borrowed elements from world-famous circuits, and the building started at the end of 2010, with a plan to wrap up by June 2012. But not everything went smoothly. There were financial hitches and disputes, causing some delays.
Despite these challenges, the track was ready by October 2012, and Mario Andretti took the first laps. The track received a thumbs-up from the FIA, and the inaugural F1 race was a hit.
Facing the Bumps
With time, the track faced some wear and tear. Heavy rains in 2015 caused drainage issues, making the surface bumpy. By 2019, it was evident that repairs were needed. After some fixes, reactions were mixed. Some felt improvements, while others noticed new issues.
Then came the Covid pandemic, which halted racing. When racing resumed in 2021, problems with the track surface were evident. Many racers, including Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo, voiced their concerns. There were even calls to boycott the 2022 MotoGP race if the track wasn’t fixed. Even the Formula 1 race faced issues.
In response, COTA got to work in January 2022. They hired experts, used advanced equipment, and repaved certain turns to make the track even and smooth.
Track Design & Technical Details
Spanning 5.513 kilometers and boasting 20 challenging turns, COTA has a unique set of challenges for the drivers.
One of its most iconic features is the steep uphill run to Turn 1, a blind left-hander that often becomes a hot spot for overtaking maneuvers. Following this is the intricate series of esses, reminiscent of the Maggotts-Becketts sequence at Silverstone, testing the car’s aerodynamic capabilities to the fullest.
The track’s design is not only about high-speed straights and challenging corners; it also poses significant technical challenges.
Due to the track’s abrasive surface, tire wear is a prominent issue, and the heavy braking zones, especially Turn 12 of the long back straight, push the car’s braking systems to their limits.
Changes Ahead of the 2023 GP
- Reduced gravel trap and adjusted the guardrail at Turn 2.
- Full makeover of turn 12 with a new track surface.
- Fresh surface at Turns 14 to 16.
Over the years, COTA has witnessed a plethora of iconic F1 moments.
Dramatic overtakes, especially in the twisty first sector and the long back straight, have become synonymous with races at COTA. Unexpected race results, often spurred by changing weather conditions or strategic masterstrokes, have left indelible marks in the annals of F1 history. – Watch here
15 Fun Facts About COTA And Texas
- COTA is the first US track built just for Formula 1, costing $300 million.
- The name Texas comes from “tejas”, which means “friends” in the language of the native Caddo Indians.
- COTA has a super cool 77-meter observation tower that looks like a snake when viewed from the side.
- The Texas flag colors are white for purity, blue for loyalty, and red for bravery. The star represents Texas’ freedom from Mexico.
- The name Austin honors Stephen F. Austin, the state’s first Secretary of State.
- Some parts of COTA remind people of iconic European tracks.
- Every Formula 1 winner at COTA since 2012 began the race from the front row.
- Speaking of winners, here’s a list: Lewis Hamilton’s won multiple times, along with Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas, and Max Verstappen.
- If Texas stood alone, its economy would rank 9th globally.
- In 2023, Lando Norris and George Russell will race their 100th Formula One Grand Prix in Austin.
- Austin’s got bats – a lot of them! Every evening, 1.5 million bats fly out from under the Congress Avenue Bridge.
- Lewis Hamilton clinched the world championship twice at COTA, in 2015 and 2019.
- 10% of Austin’s folks have German roots.
- Austin has 17 moonlight towers from the 1890s to light up the city.