Promoted: Why F1 can't wait for its US visit to COTA

Formula 1 loves Circuit of The Americas. It has ever since the first US Grand Prix in Austin back in 2012 - and over the course of the past six years, the race has become a firm favourite for drivers, teams, the media and fans alike

Promoted: Why F1 can't wait for its US visit to COTA

Why? First of all, they got the track layout just right when asphalt was first laid in the summer of 2012. COTA's designers openly and proudly took direct inspiration from some of the world's great race circuits: the heady climb to Turn 1, a gradient ascent of 11%, pays homage to the old Osterreichring (in reverse direction); the flowing esses at Turns 3, 4 and 5 mirror Silverstone's fabulous Maggotts/Becketts/Chapel section; while the following Turns 6, 7 and 8 take their cues from fast-flowing Suzuka. Even the final, slower section of the 3.427-mile circuit has something of Hockenheim's evocative stadium section about it.

F1's greatest hits compiled in Texas works brilliantly, combining dramatic elevation changes with wide-corner entries to challenge drivers and offer them a potential choice of lines to encourage overtaking. That it also offers fabulous views for spectators is no coincidence.

Book tickets for the US Grand Prix at COTA here

Four-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton will head to the 2018 US GP full of hope to be closing in on a fifth title. He clinched his third world crown at COTA in 2015 during a thrilling race in which he passed team-mate Nico Rosberg in the closing stages, and admits an affinity for the track. No surprise there, given he's won five of the six grands prix run at COTA so far! Only Sebastian Vettel has beaten him, in 2013.

"It is a circuit where you have to have a lot of confidence for high speed," says Hamilton. "The crucial part is from Turn 3 through 4, 5, 6 and 7. It's quite a long combination of corners, and you have to be very aggressive with the steering, and really throw the car around. That's where I try to make up my time over the others.

"The US Grand Prix is big for me; it's always been good to me and it is a place I love being."

Daniel Ricciardo, who will race for Red Bull one last time in the US before his headline-grabbing switch to Renault for 2019, is another paid-up fan of Austin. "I think they've nailed the circuit," he says. "For a modern-day track, for me, it's definitely the best there is. I love it.

"It has a lot of unique features like the wide apex to Turn 1, where you can fit about four cars side by side through there. There are loads of opportunities to overtake and have fun throughout the whole track. It has fast flowing sections and hairpins; pretty much everything I like in a track."

For spectators, a number of sections offer unforgettable viewing points, including the banking on the outside of that iconic Turn 1 climb. But for real height nothing can beat COTA's unique observation tower.

Standing at 221ft and situated on the infield, the tower offers views that simply cannot be missed by any COTA visitor. The partial glass floor is thrilling and unnerving all at the same time, as you survey a bird's eye view of the circuit and its surrounding area.

Away from the track action, the US GP at COTA also offers a genuine festival atmosphere and always a stunning line-up of extra attractions. Austin city is most famous around the world for its thriving music scene, so fittingly the US GP organisers always know how to throw the best parties - with some of the biggest acts in the world.

In 2016 Taylor Swift played her only show of the year at COTA over the US GP weekend, while last year Justin Timberlake and soul legend Stevie Wonder took to the stage. This time Bruno Mars plays on the Saturday night with his '24K Magic World' show, while on Sunday after the Grand Prix the one and only Britney Spears promises what will surely be an unmissable performance, as part of her 'Britney: Piece of Me' world tour, following her record-breaking Las Vegas residency.

The music is a reminder that the US GP at COTA is much more than just an F1 race. And the location, just outside one of the US's most vibrant cities, ensures visitors invariably want to come back for more.

"Everything's bigger in Texas and Austin is a city I love," says Ricciardo. "The city is awesome and I really like its character. It's raw and authentic which makes it cool without trying to be. The old-school bars and music venues are super-cool which makes it work. I'll be having fun in Austin no matter what."

The 2018 US Grand Prix at COTA takes place on October 19-21. You can't miss it.

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Author Damien Smith
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