Drivers quick to praise brand new Circuit of The Americas after U.S. GP Practice
5.513km layout described as "great", "brilliant" and "amazing"
By Mike Wise in Austin
Last Updated: 17/11/12 1:25pm
Adjectives like "great", "brilliant", "amazing" and even "beautiful" blew through the paddock like confetti after the opening two practice sessions, even though a lack of grip on the green 5.513km layout made the going particularly tricky during the morning.
The highlight, it seems, is the very fast sequence of bends running down the hill from CoTA's signature opening corner.
Turns 3, 4 and 5 in particular, a left-right-left combination similar in layout to the Becketts complex at Silverstone, appear mightily fast, with Lewis Hamilton for one giving them due respect.
"This is a great drivers' track - it's very tough to pull together three perfect sectors," said Hamilton, who ended the day fourth fastest - a second behind the table-topping Sebastian Vettel. "Personally, I find the final two sectors easier than the first; those high-speed changes of direction need a good set-up, and balancing that requirement against the demands of the slow-speed stuff is tricky."
McLaren team-mate Jenson Button labelled it "a brilliant and free-flowing section" and added: "It's quicker than Becketts".
Red Bull's Mark Webber, second fastest behind team-mate Sebastian Vettel, said that the first sector is "quite full-on" while, speaking to Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz, Michael Schumacher paid tribute to the track's designer Hermann Tilke.
"Compliments [to Tilke] he always does great stuff and again he managed to do a fantastic job," the seven-times World Champion said.
Like just about everyone, Schumacher struggled to stay in control during the morning session. Cars were on track at the early time of 9am and the combination of low temperatures, a new, dusty surface and Pirelli's hardest tyre compound produced plenty of hairy moments.
"It was slippery this morning and a bit like driving on ice," said Vettel, who nonetheless ended the day fastest of all by a margin of over seven-tenths-of-a-second. Caterham driver Heikki Kovalainen, meanwhile, reckoned the virgin track "probably had less grip than anywhere else I've ever driven".
Conditions improved markedly as the day progressed, although many drivers reported difficulty in getting their tyres up to temperature, which could well pose a headache during qualifying.
One potential fly in the ointment might prove a familiar one. "I don't think overtaking is going to be easy here," added Button, "because it'll be so tricky to stay close to the car in front of you".
Yet as F1 strives to impress the United States, it's clear that the hosts are reciprocating. A crowd of 65,360 filed through the turnstiles on Friday and although the grandstands were not full, the numbers were in sharp contrast to those witnessed at many races on the calendar.
It's surely the best start organisers could have wished for. Yet whilst most drivers seemed more than happy to wax lyrical, there was one slightly less effervescent response from a familiar quarter.
"It's not an awful lot different from any other circuit," said a matter-of-fact Kimi Raikkonen, 11th fastest on Friday. "It's a nice circuit to drive but if there's no grip then it doesn't give you a good feeling.
"If we get more grip then it will be more fun to drive. Right now it's just sliding around."