Formula One returns to the Circuit of the Americas, outside Austin, Texas, with a rookie American driver looking to get ahead of his learning curve and a legendary American racing family looking to work their way into the F1 clubhouse. For Logan Sargeant, the plan for the remaining five races on the 2023 calendar is to show his team, Williams, that he is progressing, not regressing. For Michael Andretti, son of 1978 F1 World Champion Mario Andretti and a champion (1991 CART) in his own right, it is to work the garages and paddock and try to build a coalition to gain approval for his team, Andretti Global, to join the grid in 2025 at the earliest.
Andretti has a sponsor in Cadillac and has already received acceptance from the FIA, who after an assessment of the team's capabilities and finances concluded that Andretti Global meets the required criteria. Now it must pass muster with Formula One Management, who noted the FIA's approval in a slightly curt statement while adding that it will conduct its own assessment.
Sargeant is already part of the grid and has received a vote of confidence from Williams team principal James Vowles, who stated the team wants Sargeant in their car for 2024. The lone American in the field, Sargeant has yet to score a point this campaign with an 11th at the British Grand Prix being his best finish on the season. Sargeant also has six DNFs, including two on the trot from Japan to Qatar, and it doesn't look like Circuit of the Americas is the sort of track that the car will be able to shine at.
"It's difficult to know if the track will suit our car, but we're always optimistic," Sargeant told formula1.com. "The biggest thing is that other teams are bringing upgrades and getting quicker and quicker, and we're not, which is making things a bit more difficult. But I feel like we should be OK in the high-speed Sector 1 and there are some straights where we can make up a bit of time, too. Turns 12 to 15 are going to be tricky for us, but we'll see.
"As long as I give everything I have every single weekend, and I know I have left it all on the table, I can live with that. I don't worry anymore, as I know I have the pace now – at certain points of the season I didn't, but now I do. I simply need to clean it up – I know I'm capable of doing it."
And Williams believe he can do it, too.
"The progress is there in certain forms but very clearly being marred by a number of other issues and accidents [that] have appeared as well," said Vowles, who added that Williams also is responsible for some of Sargeant's struggles. "We will continue to work with Logan and invest in Logan, as we want him to succeed as a result of the journey he is on."
How to watch the Formula One United States Grand Prix
- Date: Sunday, Oct. 22
- Location: 3.425 mile, 20-turn Circuit of the Americas; Austin, Texas
- Time: 3 p.m. ET
- TV: ABC
- Stream: fuboTV (try for free)
What to watch for
Former Renault F1 driver Jolyon Palmer told formula1.com that the uphill climb to the Turn 1 hard left-hander puts the drivers in a predicament of trying to beat the car beside them into the turn, then negotiate it while keeping the car's momentum up as the driver fights through the different loads the car is experiencing. The key here will be how the drivers are trying to set themselves up for exiting the Turn 2 right-hander and the 3-4-5 left-right-left complex (said to resemble Silverstone Circuit) through Sector 1. Similar to the Yas Marina Circuit at Abu Dhabi, drivers have a short straight after Turn 10 (the first of two DRS zones) to the Turn 11 hairpin (Sector 2) and then a longer straight to Turn 12 with an oblique left-hander into Turn 13 and the start of the third and final sector. This area of the track (Turns 13-15) is said to be an homage to Hockenheim and considered to be quite technical by the drivers as there is really only one driving line to use for an excellent lap. Turns 16-18 feature a weird four-corner turn sequence that brings the field to the second DRS zone midway between Turn 18 downhill to 19. Carry momentum through the hard left at 19 onto the final turn and repeat the sequence down the front straight and up the hill to Turn 1.
Pirelli is bringing the C2 white (hard), C3 yellow (medium compound) and C4 red (soft) to COTA, considered the middle of their range that starts with C0 being the hardest and C5 the softest. Last year's race featured the medium and hard compounds during the race, and Max Verstappen made a two-stop strategy work by starting on mediums, switching to hards and finishing back on mediums, but the 2022 event did not feature a sprint. This year's event does. Teams will only have one free practice before qualifying on Friday with a qualifying shootout and sprint on Saturday, so tire management will be key.
"Lateral forces dominate this track," Mario Isola, Pirelli's director of motorsports, told pirelli.com. "Good traction in the slow corners is important. Despite some resurfacing work carried out last year in some areas the asphalt remains rather uneven. That leads to minor tire sliding, potentially resulting in unusual tire overheating. Typically, thermal degradation occurs at this track while graining is a relatively rare phenomenon."