The condition of the track surface at the Circuit of the Americas has been heavily criticised by motorcycling stars taking part in this weekend’s MotoGP Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas.
Formula 1 is scheduled to head to the venue in Austin, Texas in six months time for the United States Grand Prix. The race has been held at COTA every year since the track opened in 2012. Lewis Hamilton has won five out of the six races at the venue.
The organisers have tried to smooth out the circuit using diamond-grinder equipment after complaints from the motorcycle contingent about the surface being too bumpy last year. But this seems only to have made matters worse.
“It’s a disaster,” said Valentino Rossi. “For me it’s the worst situation during all the season. You have three or four bumps that are very big.
“Last year we asked to do some improvements. They did something, but unfortunately it didn’t work.”
MotoGP drivers have previously suggested that the bumps have been made worse by the powerful downforce effect of Formula 1 cars ‘sucking up’ the surface while racing at the venue.
The worst parts of the circuit were identified as turns 2, 10 and 18. Dust has also been a serious issue for competitors in practice sessions.
“It was like being at the ranch!” Rossi complained. “You don’t see anything in front, and it’s very strange … Maybe coming from the asphalt, but I don’t know.”
The bumps have previously been blamed for both Williams cars retiring from the 2015 F1 Grand Prix with rear suspension failures.
Rossi’s comments were echoed by British star Cal Crutchlow, the winner of the most recent race on the MotoGP calendar in Argentina.
“I think they’ve made a terrible job,” he said. “They tried to make it better but they made it worse. I know last year was bad, and now it’s even worse.
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“I don’t understand how we can come to a GP and it’s worse than last year,” he fumed. “I love this circuit, but it’s bad. It’s honestly bad that we now come to GPs and the circuit be in this shape.”
“I think it’s not safe to race on a track like this,” contributed Danilo Petrucci. “We are in the world championship and a track like this I never found even in a national championship.”
Australia’s Jack Miller complained that his windscreen has been broken by the rocks that were scattered on the track on Friday.
“We’ve broken a windscreen already with the rocks and the dust,” he said. “It’s so bad down that back straight, it’s ridiculous.
“It was like big old rocks hitting me at 300km/h,” he added. “They felt like bullets. I wasn’t too keen on that.”
Forecasts of rain and thunderstorms have also left riders worried for their safety at COTA this weekend.
“From my past experience, and my theory, dirt and water on top of a normal track normally don’t combine too well,” said Miller.
This weekend’s event is the sixth time that MotoGP has raced at COTA. The circuit’s contract with rights holder Dorna expires after this year. But promoter Bobby Epstein insists that they want to renew the agreement.
“MotoGP is easily our second most popular [weekend] to Formula 1,” he said.
“This event is a priority,” Epstein added. “I think the MotoGP Grand Prix of the Americas will be here for many years to come.”
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