Sky Sports F1 team believe new Circuit of the Americas has a 'little bit of everything'
Challenge produced by new circuit earns early plaudits
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 16/11/12 7:04pm
The first ever purpose-built facility for F1 in America opened its doors to track action on Friday to officially end the sport's uncomfortable five-year absence from the country.
With the undulating layout on paper having already whetted the appetite for the paddock in the build-up to the weekend, the drivers had their first taste of the track in reality during Practice One with the initially slippery 20-corner configuration clearly immediately proving a tough challenge.
Speaking during Sky Sports F1's exclusively coverage of the opening session, commentator David Croft enthused: "I have to say I'm really impressed with it thus far.
"I want to see overtaking in the race and I'll keep my fingers crossed for it, but to actually sit and watch Formula 1 cars in action, I'd take this any day of the week. It's got a little bit of everything. I love the first turn and I love the Esses as well."
Practice co-commentator Anthony Davidson was particularly pleased to discover that the track was far from a straightforward one for the drivers, with the racing line for certain corners not immediately obvious.
"I think it's a winner already and I like the way it's catching drivers out," the former Super Aguri driver observed.
"They're really having to think about it, and although there's low grip at the moment, the nature of the circuit is still going to catch drivers out. It makes you think when you're inside the car where to place the car."
Anthony added: "Sacrificing corners to gain speed around another one is what it's all about round this track. I think visually it looks brilliant. The flow of the place is spectacular and it's got a good mix of everything. I'm sure if the recipe's right we're going to see overtaking."
Sky F1 colleague Johnny Herbert was particularly intrigued by the layout at what has already proved the circuit's signature corner, the uphill first hairpin, ahead of Sunday's race.
"The line [drivers are taking into the corner] is so, so wide so you've either got to defend it - which makes it difficult then on the drive out - or you've got to say 'yeah, come up the inside' and then cut back out on the exit. So it'll be fascinating to see who's going to do what."
Indeed, Anthony generally reckons the circuit as a whole gives F1 more potential to finally infiltrate the wider American sports market than was the case at the grand prix's previous home at Indianapolis.
"I'm sure their minds are going to be blown because Indianapolis didn't do Formula 1 justice," he said.
"It's hard to make a great circuit out of an oval using the infield. You can't really use any elevation - there was no elevation change at all there - so this is really going to show them something else."
As with any new circuit, however, the Sky F1 team felt there were weaker areas, with Davidson suggesting that the amount of run-off was overly generous.
"The thing I like about it, it's very tricky for the drivers to get right, it's forcing them into mistakes, but then they get out of jail free," Anthony said.
"They've designed it in a way that's going to catch them out but it's easy to get back on the circuit without losing much time.
"We see this over and over again now on the modern circuits. But it's not all [F1 circuit designer] Hermann Tilke's fault because he's got his hands tied in many ways because the FIA and Charlie Whiting in particular are always conscious of the safety elements of cars rolling through gravel traps so it's not an easy one for them to figure out."
Indeed, Martin Brundle admitted he had been astonished to be told by Jenson Button that Race Director Charlie Whiting had given drivers the green light to put four wheels off the circuit without penalty at certain points of the lap during the weekend.
"Jenson told me yesterday that in qualifying if they go all four wheels off on the outside, that's fine here, which amazed me," Martin revealed.
"We're renting the race track for the weekend which is inside the white lines and that's where they should stay."
Fellow ex-F1 driver Herbert agreed: "That totally amazes me because at the end of the day it's all about keeping inside those lines and Charlie has been harder in certain situations at certain race tracks of staying to the guys 'you will get a penalty if you go off the race track'."