Learn more about the chequered history of the United States Grand Prix and its new home at Circuit of The Americas.
The US Grand Prix dates back to the early 1900s, when it was known as The Grand Prize and run on tracks in Long Island (New York) and Savannah (Georgia). America’s other big motor race, The Indianapolis 500, also traces its history back to this period. The Indy 500 was also one of the inaugural races during the first 11 years of the modern Formula 1 World Championship (1950-60). After, the Watkins Glen circuit near New York established a solid place on the F1 calendar for 20 consecutive years, from 1961-80.
The F1 circus also visited other stateside venues in the 1980s, although none of the races held were referred to as the US Grand Prix. A street circuit in Long Beach, California, hosted the United States Grand Prix West between 1975-83 (read a historic trip report here), Las Vegas joined the fray with the Caesers Palace Grand Prix in the car park of the casino of the same name (1981-1984) and a city-center street circuit hosted the Detroit Grand Prix (1982-1988). The US Grand Prix returned in 1989, this time to a street circuit in Phoenix, Arizona. After three poorly attended races, F1 disappeared from the US for almost 10 years. It returned in 2000 to a modified version of the famous Indianapolis oval, which included a series of infield corners. Although initially successful and a big draw for fans, the race was marred by controversy, including the 2005 race when only six cars took the start due to a tire dispute. After the last race in 2007, the US was once again without a Grand Prix.
Circuit of The Americas
In 2010, Tavo Hellmund, an Austin native and former racing driver, first announced plans to build a new purpose-built F1 circuit (designed by Hermann Tilke, of course) on the outskirts of Austin. Bernie Ecclestone threw his weight behind the project, awarding Hellmund and his investors a ten-year contract to stage the US Grand Prix from 2012. Despite some delays and contractual disputes, the circuit was completed at a cost of around $400m USD and welcomed 117,429 race-day fans for its inaugural F1 race in November 2012.
The 3.427-mile (5.515 km) circuit is situated on 890 acres (3.6 km2) and is located 14 miles (22km) southeast of central Austin. It has a challenging, undulating layout with a high point on the apex of the opening corner. Features of the circuit include a distinctive 77m observation tower, the landscaped ‘Grand Plaza’ area, Austin360 Amphitheater and the permanent main grandstand, which holds 9000 fans. As well as hosting the US Formula 1 Grand Prix, the Circuit of the Americas also stages annual MotoGP and FIA World Endurance Championship races.
United States Grand Prix: Did you know?
- Lewis Hamilton is the most successful driver in the United States Grand Prix, with six victories, including five out of the eight races held at Circuit of the Americas! He recently overtook Michael Schumacher, who recorded five victories at Indianapolis between 2000-2006.
- In 2019, Lewis Hamilton became the first driver to clinch the Drivers’ Championship in the United States twice. He previous won the 2015 title at the Circuit of the Americas.
- Ferrari is the most successful constructor at the US Grand Prix, with 9 US Grand Prix wins.
- Mercedes is the only team to have won more than once at Circuit of the Americas. They’ve won five of the past six races here.
- No American driver has won the US Grand Prix when it was part of the F1 World Championship, though Mario Andretti did win the 1977 US Grand Prix West in Long Beach, California.
- Sebastian Vettel made his F1 debut at the US Grand Prix (Indianapolis) in 2007. He has recorded one victory stateside.
- Circuit of the Americas is one of only five anti-clockwise tracks on the current F1 calendar (the others are Baku, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Brazil). It’s also one of the hilliest tracks, with a difference of 30.9 meters between the lowest and highest points.
- Kimi Raikkonen won the 2018 US Grand Prix after a 114-race win drought; the longest such drought in F1 history!
- Lewis Hamilton has the opportunity to equal Ayrton Senna’s record tally of US Grand Prix poles in 2020. Senna set five poles at the event during his career.
Memorable Formula 1 Moments in the USA
- 2002: Separated by 0.011: Ferrari recorded their eighth 1-2 finish of the 2002 season – but Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello finished in a different order to what had been expected. Schumacher led almost all of the race until the final metres, when he slowed in an attempt to stage a photo finish with his team-mate. It failed, and Barrichello was awarded the win. It is thought that Schumacher was repaying Barrichello after the Brazilian had moved aside for him at the final corner in Austria earlier in the season. At 0.011 seconds, this is the closest margin since the introduction of timing to the nearest thousandth of a second!
- 2005: A day to forget: The 2005 United States Grand Prix was far from Formula 1’s finest hour. Several Michelin tyre failures had caused major accidents for both Ralf Schumacher and Ricardo Zonta, and the tyre manufacturer advised that without slowing in the banked section of track, they could not guarantee that the tyres would stay intact for a race distance. With the FIA unwilling to compromise by adding a chicane, the Michelin-tyred teams had no option but to withdraw from the race. As the cars peeled in to the pit-lane, only the Bridgestone runners – the Ferraris, Jordans and Minardis – lined up on the grid. The race passed, unsurprisingly, without incident– although the Ferrari pair did nearly collide at the pit exit. Michael Schumacher was booed by the remaining fans as he crossed the finish line, while Tiago Monteiro claimed his only podium finish.
- 2015: A wet weekend: A very wet weekend in 2015 saw limited running at the Circuit of the Americas. Free Practice 3 had already been run with no spectators in the grandstands as a safety precaution. The qualifying session was delayed numerous times before being rescheduled for Sunday morning. The drivers made sure that the fans didn’t go without some entertainment though, and Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat even participated in a ballroom dancing routine. Even Sunday morning was still wet, and the qualifying hour was shortened following heavy rainfall.
- 2018: Kimi’s final Ferrari win: Kimi Raikkonen took his final Ferrari win at the 2018 United States Grand Prix. Max Verstappen had been forced to start near the back of the grid after a car failure in Q1, while Lewis Hamilton started from pole. Raikkonen, who started on the front row, overtook Hamilton at the first turn. As Verstappen made his way up from 18th on the grid to 6th in the first seven laps, his team-mate came to a halt with engine issues, causing a Virtual Safety Car period. Hamilton pitted while Raikkonen stayed out. It wasn’t long before the Mercedes driver was right behind the Finn once again and, as Hamilton attempted an overtake, Raikkonen came into the pits for his one and only stop of the afternoon. Verstappen followed a similar strategy, while Hamilton pitted again. This led to the top three being separated by 1.5 seconds with three laps to run. No one stopped Raikkonen ending a record-breaking 114-race win drought and scoring a popular victory.
United States Grand Prix Facts
|Circuit Name||Circuit of the Americas|
|Race first held||2012|
|Track Length||5.513km (20 turns)|
|Race Distance||56 laps (308.405km)|
|Lap Record||1:36.169, Charles Leclerc (Ferrari, 2019)|
|2019 Result||1st Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 1:33:55.653|
|2nd Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +4.148s|
|3rd Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +5.002s|