F1 2014 United States Grand Prix qualifying: Hamilton battles for Austin pole position

Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the 2012 United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas [Picture: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes]

Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the 2012 United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas [Picture: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes]

HOCH ZWEI

Formula One world championship leader Lewis Hamilton battles for pole position in qualifying for the 2014 United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, today (Saturday).

Following a three-week break, the 2014 Formula 1 World Championship bursts back into action with Round 17 of the 2014 Formula One World Championship.

The United States Grand Prix is a hugely popular event. The Circuit of the Americas is a challenging race track and the vibrant city of Austin provides plenty of entertainment away from the main event.

Hamilton, the 29-year-old Mercedes AMG Petronas racer from Hertfordshire, won the first ever Formula One Grand Prix at the USA circuit back in 2012, for former team McLaren, and he was fastest in Friday’s two practice sessions.

He topped the timesheets in both practice sessions yesterday (Friday), but suffered mechanical gremlins in the last 18 minutes of FP2.

Circuit of the Americas – the stats you need

* Race distance: 56 laps (308.405km/191.643 miles)

* Start time: 13:00 (local)/19:00 (GMT)

* Circuit length: 5.513km/3.426 miles

* 2013 winner: Sebastian Vettel

* 2013 pole: Sebastian Vettel

* Lap record: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull RB8) 1m39.347s (199.772km/h)

Hamilton will be looking to secure a front-row grid position in qualifying today (Saturday) to keep the heat on Silver Arrows colleague and title rival Nico Rosberg after four straight wins.

The 2008 F1 world champion said: “I really enjoy going there and I’m looking forward to another great race – hopefully ending up with another Stetson hat on the top step of the podium!”

The US GP track’s taxing 5.513km layout is a fascinating test of man and machine, inspired by some of the most iconic elements of classic racing circuits from around the world.

There is a lot of high-speed content to start the lap with the ‘S’ curves through Turns 2-6, requiring good downforce, balance and high-speed stability from the car. Before even that, however, there is an uphill braking zone into the off-camber Turn 1, again requiring good balance.

Lewis Hamilton driving around the Circuit of the Americas in qualifying for the 2013 United States Grand Prix in Austin [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]Lewis Hamilton driving around the Circuit of the Americas in qualifying for the 2013 United States Grand Prix in Austin [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

There’s the long, sweeping, continuous right-hand curve of Turns 16-18, which is deceptively difficult to carry speed through and equally tricky to get absolutely right lap after lap.

The back straight is one of the longest on the current calendar – providing a prime overtaking opportunity due to the low-speed nature of the preceding hairpin coupled with a DRS zone.

Likewise, the start / finish straight which, while not as long, offers good possibilities for a DRS-assisted overtake into Turn 1, where multiple lines can be taken both into and out of the corner.

The circuit layout itself is not particularly demanding of one area of a car over another – it’s a good all-round test of performance, with a few unique characteristics.

2014 F1 World Drivers’ Championship

Championship standings after Russian Grand Prix:

1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 291

2 Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 274

3 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 199

4 Valtteri Bottas (Williams) 145

5 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 143

6 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 141

While there is a long straight, there is far more time to be found through the corners, making good downforce far more relevant. It is also a middle-of-the-road track in terms of demands on brakes and tyres.

On nailing the perfect lap around the Circuit of the Americas, Hamilton said: “Coming across the line, all you can see is this huge hill in front of you on the run up to Turn 1.

“As you’re braking you actually lose sight of the apex over the tyre. The corner itself is really tight and really low-grip so it’s tricky to get it right.

“But it’s important to get the best exit you can as you’re then flat out through Turn 2 and into the ‘S’ complex of Turns 3-6.”

2014 F1 World Constructors’ Championship

After Russian Grand Prix:

1 Mercedes 565

2 Red Bull 342

3 Williams 216

4 Ferrari 188

5 McLaren 143

6 Force India 123

Hamilton added: “This combination of corners is fast and flowing, needs good downforce and requires the driver to hit every apex to carry as much speed as possible.

“Positioning really is everything through here to ensure you set yourself up for the next corner with each turn.

“The next sequence through Turns 7-9 is a little tighter and you really have to take your time on entry to ensure the best possible exit through the kink of Turn 10 and downhill along the short straight to the hairpin.”

He continued: “The hairpin at Turn 11 is really tight. You want to brake as late as possible on the way in to defend from cars behind you – but a good exit is far more important as it’s followed by a long straight with a DRS zone.

“You then need good stability on the brakes into Turn 12, which is a heavy braking zone, before really attacking the apex and getting on the power early to launch you into the next sequence.

“Turns 13-15 form a really tight complex of corners with very low grip, so you’re waiting for what seems like ages for the car to turn in.

“Turn 15 in particular is quite tricky in terms of finding the right braking point and the best line.

“You have to go really wide on the way in, then come tight to the apex and keep left for the next corner.

“Turns 16-18 form one long, continuous right-hand bend that’s really high-speed. It’s flat-out through here but the car is constantly trying to snap away from you.

“You’ve then got to make sure you get back over to the right-hand side of the track as quickly as possible to carry the speed through the penultimate corner, Turn 19, using all of the kerb on exit.

“Finally, you’re braking into the last corner, Turn 20, where you don’t want to take too much angle on the way in before a short blast to the finish line.”


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