Racing with F1 in the USA

Formula One Race Car Drivers

Formula One racing is heading back to the United States this month.  November 18th will be the inaugural race for Austin, Texas and their newly built “Circuit of the Americas.”  Formula One drivers have not raced in the United States since 2007 when Indianapolis last hosted the event.  The Circuit of the Americas is different not only because it is a dedicated F1 track, but also because this will be the first race held at this Hermann Tilke designed track.  Many drivers are looking forward to the challenge of racing a track that has never been used.  Rookies and old timers are finally on the same field when it comes to experience on the Circuit of the Americas.  Many of the drivers will “walk” the track to get a feel for it... literally they will walk the track 30-50 times until they feel they have memorized each of it’s twists and turns.  Practice runs will not be allowed on the until Friday, November 16th, barely 24 hours before the first qualifying run.

Drivers in Formula One have an incredible amount of stress on their bodies, as well as their cars.  Driving the straightaway is usually all about the power of the engine.  The real skill comes in with the driver and his ability to corner... his ability to oversteer or understeer at high speeds with no ABS anti-skid system.  Understeering can cause the car to run too wide as the front end loses “grip” with the track... oversteering causes the back end of the car to lose it’s grip and goes faster than the front.  

On top of controlling the car (under great centrifugal force), the driver has a steering wheel that is approximately half the diameter of a normal steering wheel and has multiple electronic controls.  A typical F1 car has all the controls (with the exception of the throttle and the brake pedals), located in the steering wheel.  The steering wheel does not even turn in a full rotation and it must house all the electronics for communications, instrumentation, a full LCD screen for car control, and a “boost” button.  All of these items have to connect electronically to the car via the steering column, which must have a “quick-release.”  FIA technical regulations stipulate a driver must be able to get out of the car (removing only the steering wheel) in under 5 seconds. 

The Formula 1 race “boost” sounds like it is something out of a James Bond movie, but it is actually a Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) that has been in use since the 2009 season.  It allows the car to store energy and lets the driver release that energy all at once, or at intervals around the track.  KERS is not required on any F1 car, but regulations do permit its use.

So who’s racing on November 18th?  Twelve Forumla One Teams will bring their cars and two drivers to Austin for the American race.  They are:

Team Red Bull with drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber

Team McLaren with drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton

Team Ferrari with drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa

Team Mercedes with drivers Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg

Team Lotus with drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean

Team India with drivers Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg

Team Sauber with drivers Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez

Team Rosso with drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne

Team Williams with drivers Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna

Team Caterham with drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov

Team HRT with drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan

Team Marussia with drivers Timo Glock and Charles Pic

Who’s the driver to watch?  There are several...  Driver Sebastian Vettel has won 5 races in this Grand Prix season... Lewis Hamilton has won three.  Kimi Raikkonen came in with the checkered flag at the last Grand Prix race in Abu Dhabi, but don’t count out Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso or Michael Schumacher who holds the track record of five wins (2000-2006) at the US Grand Prix track at Indianapolis.

Formula 1 racers have a point system.  Currently Sebastian Vettel is ranked No. 1 with 255 points.  He’s followed closely by Fernando Alonso at 245 points, Kimi Rakkonen with 198 points and fellow Red Bull Driver Mark Webber at 167 points.  All of the drivers await the chance to inaugurate the Circuit of the Americas.