The next race featured in our greatest races guide is the United States Grand Prix, the setting for the next round of the 2013 Formula 1 World Championship in Texas. The Circuit of the Americas in Austin has hosted only 1 race to date last year, but it was a spectacular event. The United States of America have in fact hosted 60 Formula 1 races, with only 34 of those titled as the United States Grand Prix. During the 1970's & 80's there were so many potential circuits and locations to race at across the states that there was often several races a season within the country.
For the fresher Formula 1 fan, the United States Grand Prix brings back memories of one year in particular - 2005. The race was held at the Indianapolis Speedway for the 6th year running, but a number of changes lead to unforeseen issues with the Michelin tyres. Firstly the regulations were changed ahead of the 2005 season, banning the changing of tyres during the race. Secondly, the Indianapolis track was resurfaced ahead of the Grand Prix, increasing the tyre wear greatly. The result was a serious of crashes for Michelin shod cars, the most spectacular belonging to Ralf Schumacher in the Toyota having crashed at the same Turn 13 in 2004. There were many meetings to try to find a resolution, with talks of chicanes being placed on the banked corner, speed limits imposed, compulsory pitstops for Michelin running teams, and Michelin even had another batch of tyres (discovered to suffer the same failures) flown over ahead of the race. No solution was found however, and instead all of the cars on Michelin tyres retired at the end of the formation lap, leaving just the 6 Bridgestone teams (Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi) to race. It was an utter disaster, with the distraught fans fashioning messages and banners hastily, and even launching bottles onto the track dangerously. The race ran its course however, and Michael Schumacher recorded his and Ferrari's only win in 2005.
The race in 2005 was not the only Grand Prix in the United States to raise controversy. In both 1979 at Watkins Glen, and in 1982 at the United States Grand Prix West there were times where there was too many cars on the track. In incidents similar to those seen in Korea earlier this year, recovery vehicles were sent out onto the circuit whilst the race cars passed by at full racing speed. At the Dallas Grand Prix in 1984 there was nearly a controversy even larger than in 2005, when all of the drivers threatened to boycott the race due to the excessive temperatures, the lack of run-off areas, and the track surface which was breaking up badly in places. Niki Lauda and Alain Prost tried to arrange the boycott, whilst Keke Rosberg pleaded with them to allow the race to start. Rosberg got his way, and the race started at 11am (3 hours earlier than scheduled) to battle the midday heat.
When the race did start, we were treated to one of the greatest Grand Prix in America. Having already impressed in the lowly Toleman-Hart at Monaco, Ayrton Senna once again showed glimpses of his brilliance as he instantly leapt from an already impressive 6th on the grid up to 3rd. It was short lived however, as he spun on the 3rd lap, and later retired of clutch issues. Nigel Mansell in the Lotus lead the way, but had to fend off intense pressure as he did. At the half distance, he still had the lead, but there were 4 cars behind putting him under pressure and all trading places on a corner by corner basis. Eventually his front tyres gave, and Mansell had to pit for new rubber. The race at the front turned from aggression to attrition, as mechanical retirements began to set in for some of the front runners. The heat got to some of the runners as well, with the narrow walls claiming some more drivers in the expensive car park forming at turn 9. Having been instrumental in getting the race started, it was only right that Keke Rosberg would survive the heat and pressure to win his only race of the 1984 season. Nigel Mansell suffered gearbox issues on the last lap, and coasted to a stop on the final straight. Within seconds though, Mansell jumped out of his Lotus and began to push it towards the finish line in one of the most iconic scenes of 1980's Formula 1. Before he could cross the line, exhaustion and the intense heat took over, and he fainted. His efforts were not in vain though, as he salvaged 6th place and a World Championship point with it.
There are 2 Grand Prix from the United States that all McLaren fans will remember fondly, firstly the Detroit Grand Prix in 1982, and the United States Grand Prix West of 1983. The Detroit Grand Prix presented another chaotic start, with the fans unaware of what was occurring as a number of cars collided on lap 7. The race was red flagged for over an hour and when it got underway again, it was announced that the final result would be calculated by taking each drivers times from the 2 race halves added together. John Watson started the race down in 17th on the grid, but showed great resilience and racing prowess to pass his way through the entire field. On lap 33 alone, he managed to overtake 3 cars including the McLaren of team mate Niki Lauda. It was a brilliant performance, and sensationally the feat was repeated less than 12 months later. At Long Beach in 1983, the Michelin tyre compounds once again played a role as their qualifying tyre could not match the performance of main tyre supplier rival at the time, Goodyear. The Michelin running McLaren's of John Watson and Niki Lauda could only qualify 22nd and 23rd respectively, but would benefit from greater race tyre performance. The 2 embarked on another recovery through the field, whilst also battling one another, and went on to record one of the finest 1-2's for a team in the history of Formula 1.
With such a rich history of Grand Prix racing in the United States, we hope that the 2013 US Grand Prix can also be remembered in years to come - for all of the right reasons! You can watch all of the action live from America with us in the centre across the weekend. With the race start set for 7:00pm on Sunday, the later start means you have more time to try out the Austin circuit for yourselves in our F1 simulators!