TRACK GUIDE Circuit of the Americas (COTA)
General sim-racing tips:
Learn the layout – drive lap after lap, trying different racing lines and different braking points.
Reference points – Find different marks on the track working as a braking reference.
Learn the techniques of every corner – Some corners need a “U style” approach, meaning a faster entry and more reliance on car rotation. Other corners are best taken with a “V style” approach. In this case, you are going slower into the corner, but with a sharp line towards the apex, meaning a fast exit.
Look at videos from the past – Focus on racestarts and onboards both from sim-racing and real racing. By doing so, you have an advantage when the lights go out, as you know how different scenarios often play out.
Never just look at the driver ahead – Like on the road you should never just focus on the next few metres ahead. By looking further than the driver or the apex ahead, you will be able to react more smoothly giving you the edge in close racing and improving your laptime.
Setup – When you have mastered all the above, you are ready to tweak the setup to match your driving style. The setup is a complex part of racing, but it is crucial to get it right. You should get familiar with the basic set-up before slowly changing different aspects of the set-up and see how the car reacts on track. Otherwise, you will quickly get lost in the complexity of the set-up.
General circuit info:
Circuit of the Americas (COTA) was built in 2010 and first introduced to endurance racing. It features 20 turns and had its F1 debut in 2012. Despite some long straights and high-speed corners, the average speed is not extremely high due to some slow and technical sections.
The track is bumpy, has plenty of elevation changes, and is extremely hard on brakes and tires. The prime overtaking spots are turns 1 and 12.
Turn 1: The run to turn 1 is steep, bumpy, and uphill with a completely blind apex. It is quite easy to lock up because you are braking before seeing the apex, meaning you must rely on instinct rather than vision. It is crucial to get on power as early as possible as it leads into the next “S Section” turns 3,4 and 5
Turn 2: Flat out
Turns 3,4,5: In these corners it is important with high downforce. Formula cars really show their strengths here. The sector is reminiscent of the first sector of Suzuka or Maggotts, Becketts and Chapel at Silverstone. Like these corners, you need a great flow through the corners, keeping the overall speed as high as possible and using as much curb as possible. This means you must constantly prepare each line for the next upcoming corner. If you fail turn 3, you fail turn 5 and 6.
Turns 6,7,8,9: Leading into the next corners where you throw the car into 6, taking off speed before trying to rotate the car. From turn 8 to 9 you must slow down much more than you may like as you will run too wide otherwise. Watch out for track limits at the end of turn 9 and front locking.
Turn 11: Straightforward braking zone and great for preparing an overtake down the back straight using DRS.
Turn 12: Heavy braking zone and sharp turn in. Look out for locking up on the bumpy surface and keep within track limits on the exit. If you have prepared an overtake you must keep in mind that the outside becomes inside for turn 13, why you could consider diving down on the right side of the car in front. If you choose to do so, be prepared for the car trying to force you off the road as there is a big tarmac runoff next to you.
Turns 13, 14, 15: The slowest part of the track and very technical. You will feel like you are driving in the wet, as the car tends to dance on the edge of grip as you turn and brake simultaneously. At the same time your tires are overheating at this point, only to make things even more difficult.
In turn 15 you will find it hard to rotate the car and hit the apex, yet doing so helps you gain a ton of lap time.
Turns 16, 17, 18: This section shows why you cannot just take off all downforce on the car. If you are racing in a Formula car, you will be able to take the corners flat out, given you have the downforce level to do so.
Turn 19: Second to last corner. On rare occasions this corner works as a last-minute overtake attempt as we saw with Sebastian Vettel who attacked Kevin Magnussen on the last lap in 2022. As the corner goes downhill at apex, you will be able to carry more speed than you might think, as the floor of the car gets pushed down. Track limits are once again a concern for drivers, as you are tempted to keep the line as wide as possible to keep the highest speed possible.
Turn 20: You are now quickly approaching the last corner of the track at high speed. It is particularly important to get the braking right, as it is the last corner of the track, and you do not want to mess up your lap. A great tip is to keep a lot of speed on entry, making the line wide and using a lot of curb on the corner exit.