The F1 machine will make its first appearance in the USA since 2019.
The American Grand Prix was skipped last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even the famous Monaco Grand Prix was axed for the first time in 66 years. Now it's finally back, spectators and all. Red Bull already started drumming up some support earlier this week by doing donuts in Dallas and Daniel Ricciardo has begun posting selfies with the flag of the Lone Star state.
Yes, the F1 machine has a poor reputation in the States. Back in 2005, they disappointed thousands of people by running a six-car race. But the drama that will unfold at this race will more than patch things up for the massive snafu at the aforementioned Indianapolis Grand Prix. The race is on and much closer than it has been in several years, with just six points separating title contenders Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.
Here are five other things to look out for this weekend.
COTA is a relatively new track, first opening its doors in 2012. Lewis Hamilton won the first race in a McLaren, while his current teammate Valtteri Bottas won the 2019 Grand Prix.
It's a beautiful track, inspired by a few of the oldest circuits on the F1 calendar. There are almost exact replicas of Silverstone's famous Maggotts and Becketts corners, not to mention the S Curves as Suzuka. There's a little bit of Hockenheim in there as well. It's like a European track, just bigger.
The race will consist of 56 laps around the 3,43-mile track, where Charles Leclerc currently holds the fastest lap record with a 1:36.169.
What we love most about this track is that it's a perfect mix of high-speed and technical driving. Tracks are usually either-or, but COTA offers both. There's a long straight between turn 20 and turn 1 and an even longer straight between turns 11 and 12, while corners 12 to 19 and 7 to 10 are prime real estate for overtaking.
Verstappen was in charge at the Turkish Grand Prix, but COTA undoubtedly favors the Mercs. Since the recent engine upgrades, the two Mercs have been significantly faster than any other car out there. Christian Horner, team boss at Red Bull, has stated that there is something strange going on there.
At the Turkish Grand Prix, the Mercs were between 9 to 12.5 mph faster in specific sectors than the Red Bulls. In a sport where the gold and silver medal are often divided by split seconds, that kind of top-end speed matters, especially considering COTA has two long straights to deal with.
Horner has not gone as far as accusing Mercedes of cheating, which is good sportsmanship. Instead, he has stated that Red Bull needs to find some speed if they want to compete.
What the Red Bulls lose in the straights, they might make up in the technical bits. Sergio Perez recently schooled Lewis Hamilton in a glorious side-by-side battle at the Turkish Grand Prix.
As we've stated before, Mercedes-Benz does not perform well under pressure. Over the last week, we've seen various statements from former F1 drivers who agree. David Coulthard says Hamilton is making many minor mistakes which show that he's under pressure and Mark Webber highlighted Hamilton's tire mistake at the Turkish GP. F1's ex bad boy Jacques Villeneuve didn't mince his words so much, saying that he sees fatigue and disunity in the Merc ranks, which might cost them the title.
Red Bull has never been in better shape, however. Both drivers have a seat for 2022 and seem to be getting on well. Sergio Perez knows his place, but Red Bull has never asked him to back off or not fight for position. Max Verstappen is the Golden Boy, and rightly so. The way he battled from last to second place at the Russian Grand Prix was arguably the best bit of driving we've seen this year.
Meanwhile, Valtteri Bottas appears to be in a team of one. He's still employed by Mercedes, but he's already in that great position of having a new job lined up for next year and no pressure to perform. We think this newfound, no-effs-given approach helped him win in Turkey.
How can you not love McLaren? The team is 100% an underdog competing against giants like Red Bull and Mercedes-Benz. In addition to that, it employs the two most lovable drivers out there. Lando Norris is cute as a button and fast as lightning, and Danny Ric has a genuine love for American culture.
The duo scored an epic one-two earlier this year, but the heavens have denied them a victory since. That victory was so rare and special that the automaker created a limited-edition 720S to celebrate.
Daniel Ricciardo seems to have trouble gelling with his car. Still, his poor performance during qualifying at the Turkish GP allowed McLaren to make some engine upgrades. We know the McLarens are good in dry conditions, and the team will be happy to learn that there's only a 20% chance of rain this weekend in Austin.
Both drivers need to put on their big boy pants, forget about the last three races, and drive their hearts out.
"A goldfish is the happiest animal because it only has a 10-second memory," said Ted Lasso. McLaren needs to remember Lasso's wise words.
The two Ferrari drivers took turns taking penalties for a recent power unit upgrade. Charles Leclerc took the penalty in Russia, while Carlos Sainz waited for the Turkish GP.
Armed with the new, improved powertrain, Leclerc took his Ferrari to fourth place in Turkey. If not for a poorly timed pit stop, he would likely have claimed a podium position.
Sainz battled from the back of the grid to eighth place. There's no doubt that the engine updates make a big difference, and we hope to see what they can do in qualifying without any penalties hanging over the drivers' heads.
Ferrari also employs two young drivers who still have a lot to learn; their performances in the recent rainy races were perhaps not as good as they should have been.
As mentioned earlier, there's little chance of rain this weekend, so we hope Ferrari makes the most of the favorable conditions to see what the updated cars are all about.
Despite all of the above, this is what we tune in to see every weekend. It has been ages since an F1 season has been this good. The dullest race so far was the Turkish GP, and even that delivered excellent moments.
Including the US GP, there are six races left over. It's still too soon to call a victory for either side, but unless Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen both crash out of every single race, one of them will be the next champion.
After every incident, both have made the right PR noises saying that they learned from their mistakes and hoped to do better. But let's not kid around. Both of them are after the championship title, and once the visors come down and the lights go out, the red mist descends.
Hamilton is chasing a record eighth world championship, and if he manages it, he'll surpass the great Michael Schumacher.
But Hamilton is under pressure and he's not coping well. His performance in Turkey was disappointing. Sure, he received a grid penalty and managed to end in fifth place. And one race before that, Verstappen started at the back of the grid and managed to get all the way to second place.
Verstappen and his team are on point. They're as in tune as the New York Philharmonic. We're willing to bet Christian Horner even dreams about Verstappen at night.
We also know Verstappen can handle the pressure. Even in a slower car, both Verstappen and Perez prove to be a permanent thorn in Merc's side.
But Verstappen is hot-headed. He races in the moment and will go for a gap if he sees one. This could cost him dearly like it did in Monza. Whatever happens, we have an epic Texan Grand Prix to look forward to.