The Circuit of the Americas is probably the best new track to appear on the F1 calendar since Sepang arrived in 1999.
It features several stunning corner sequences, magnificent elevation changes and more than one tribute to the classic European circuits. The first sector in particular has proved popular with the drivers.
On the downside, it looks extremely Tilke-y—which isn't surprising, as he had a hand in the design.
Let's take a moment to consider the name, "Circuit of the Americas."
The Americas stretch from the vicinity of Tierra del Fuego at the bottom of Argentina all the way to Ellesmere Island in the far north of Canada.
The 14,000 kilometre long pair of continents contain 35 countries (and a tiny bit of France), over 900 million people and more than a quarter of the world's landmass.
It's a nice track and everything, but isn't calling it the circuit of the Americas just a little bit grand?
By the way, I'm writing this article from my newly christened home, the House of Eurasia.
Turns 1 and 2
The lap begins on the pit straight, with the drivers heading towards a very steep hill—the circuit rises a staggering 134 feet between the start line and the first corner. As elevation changes go, this one is bettered only by Eau Rouge at Spa.
Turn 1 is a left-hand hairpin perched right on top of the hill, and—because the slope is so steep—as the drivers approach they won't be able to see it. They have to brake knowing the corner is there without being able to see it.
The entry is extremely wide, but there's only one optimal line. There was concern the blind nature and tightness might cause problems on the opening lap last year, but everything went relatively smoothly.
This year? Let's see.
This is the second-best overtaking spot on the circuit, but passing drivers must be wary of a counter-attack on the exit.
As soon as Turn 1 is out of the way, the track drops sharply down the other side of the hill. This can unbalance the rear end so watch out for drivers having to fight the car a little.
The track shoots downhill in perhaps the most roller coaster-like section of track on the calendar, and then sweeps through the flat-out right of Turn 2.
Turns 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9
Fans will recognise the next section, as it's very similar to the Maggots-Becketts-Chapel complex at Silverstone. A fast, undulating series of corners in alternating directions, it's one of the highlights of the year.
Turn 3 (left) is taken flat, with a brief lift for Turn 4 (right). A tiny touch of the brakes is required for Turn 5 (left) and another at the start of the longer Turn 6 (right).
The rest of the sequence is slightly slower, starting with Turn 7 (left). Turn 8 (right) is the slowest of the lot with the drivers dropping down into third gear and hugging the inside line for a good exit through Turn 9 (left).
Turns 10 and 11
The track again drops quite steeply downhill. Turn 10 is taken flat out and a short straight follows.
As the circuit levels out, the drivers brake hard for the hairpin left of Turn 11, one of the circuit's slowest corners.
Next up is the usual long, long, long, long straight. It curves slightly to the right all the way along and has some quite aesthetically pleasing undulations.
This is the best overtaking opportunity COTA has to offer, but the rev-limiter is quite easy to hit. On Sebastian Vettel's qualifying lap last year, he reached the limiter (doing 308 kilometres per hour) a little over halfway down—if you want to overtake, a longer seventh gear may be needed.
At the end of the long straight is the usual tight hairpin, this one a left-hander. The braking zone is slightly downhill, so the drivers have to brake a little bit earlier than they otherwise would.
It's extremely wide with plenty of room for drivers to get alongside each other under braking.
Turns 13, 14 and 15
Next up is a section that draws more than a little inspiration from the stadium section at Hockenheim.
In F1, "stadium" means a set of slow, fiddly corners in close proximity, normally inserted on quicker circuits for the sole purpose of increasing lap time and to allow the promoters to say "Hey look, we have some slow corners."
First up is a tight right-hander (Turn 13), followed by a more open right (Turn 14). The exit of this corner has to be compromised slightly to allow a better entry to the next corner, Turn 15.
This is a long, theoretically double-apex left which starts out wide and tightens significantly into the circuit's slowest corner. The drivers ignore the first of the apexes in order to get a better run through the second.
Turns 16, 17 and 18
Out of here is a short run down to a very nice looking corner, which has been modelled on the wonderful Turn 8 at Istanbul Park. Accounting for Turns 16, 17 and 18, this is a multi-apex right, which looks fast and interesting to drive.
It's a little bit squeezed in and not quite in the same league as its older brother, but still a really nice-looking corner.
Drivers enter in fifth gear and keep their feet to the floor throughout (or at least, those driving last year's Red Bull did), exiting with an up-shift into seventh six seconds later.
Turns 19 and 20
Turn 19 is a slightly downhill medium-speed left, and the final corner (Turn 20) is a tighter, quite slow left.
The exit out of here is very important, as it sends the cars back onto the pit straight to end the lap.
The pit lane entrance is on the inside of Turn 20, and the exit is on the pit straight before Turn 1.