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US GP: what time does the race start? And when is the sprint race?

The one horse title race is over, but it’s all to play for behind Red Bull and Verstappen…

Published: 19 Oct 2023

Two weeks after Max Verstappen sealed his third straight world title, F1 rocks up in Austin, Texas for the first of five dead rubbers that will surely pass without incident.

Kidding. Although Red Bull remains on course for the most dominant season F1 has ever seen, the battle behind the all-conquering RB19 is shaping up very nicely indeed.

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Mercedes and Ferrari are separated by just 28 points (it might’ve been more had Hamilton and Russell not collided last time out) in the race for second in the constructors’ championship, while just 11 points separate Aston Martin and McLaren in their tussle for fourth.

Alpine are the only team with almost nothing to play for - embedded as they are in sixth - but Williams, Alfa Romeo and Haas all still have a shot at ‘Best of the backmarkers’ status. Not much of a brag, but remember it’s the difference in millions of dollars in prize money at the end of the season, which could make or break a team’s chances in 2024.

Some drivers are fighting for their careers too: Sergio Perez’s future looks uncertain thanks to a string of poor performances in what is undoubtedly the best car on the grid. Could Daniel Ricciardo be a shock replacement? The Aussie is back for AlphaTauri this weekend after recovering from the injuries he sustained at Zandvoort in August.

And what about Logan Sargeant? The rookie has had a tough time of it of late and his 2024 drive with Williams is still TBC. The US GP is his home race (well, one of three home races actually), and he could really do with a boost from the fans.

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Need more info on the US GP? We’ve got you covered…

What time is the US GP? And what time is qualifying?

The US Grand Prix starts at 8pm UK time on Sunday 22 October, while qualifying gets underway at 10pm on Friday 20 October. That can only mean one thing…

Yep, it’s a sprint weekend. The action on Saturday is entirely dedicated to the sprint race, with the sprint shootout beginning at 6.30pm and the sprint itself commencing at 11pm.

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McLaren’s Oscar Piastri took pole and won the last sprint race in Qatar, so Red Bull is beatable over the shorter format…

What’s the weather going to be like?

Not much to report here: the current weather forecast suggests it’s going to be hot (with peak temps reaching as high as 36 degrees Celsius over the weekend) and dry. The brollies and ponchos can probably stay at home, in other words.

Where is the US GP taking place?

The US Grand Prix is being held at Circuit of the Americas, or COTA for short. It took over from Indianapolis after a five-year absence in 2012 and has welcomed F1 back every year since, with the exception of 2020. Because of the pandemic, d’uh.

In its early days the circuit struggled to make ends meet, but thanks to Drive to Survive F1 is now in high demand in the US, and ticket sales are through the roof. Last year a record-breaking 440,000 people attended the race, and 2023 could raise the bar even higher.

How many laps is the US GP?

The US GP will consist of 56 laps of COTA, which amounts to just over the 300km that makes up a grand prix race distance these days.

The track features 20 corners, with several high-speed sections and a final sector that’s ripe for switchbacks and brilliant overtaking. Tyre degradation permitting, of course. We reckon it’s one of the best circuits on the F1 calendar right now.

Who’s going to win the US GP?

Well, Max Verstappen has only been beaten at three grands prix all season, and all of those were on street tracks… so the smart, boring money is on him.

If for whatever reason he DNFs, you’d usually expect his teammate Sergio Perez to be second in line, but his form has been erratic and he’s only scored five points in the last three races. Oops. The track should suit McLaren, so don’t be surprised if Oscar Piastri or Lando Norris appear on the podium on Sunday.

How can I watch the US GP?

In the UK you can either subscribe to Sky Sports, or get yourself a NowTV membership in order to stream Sky’s dedicated F1 channel that way. The third option of course is to buy a ticket and charter a last-minute flight to Texas…

Because of the time difference, Channel 4’s highlights show doesn’t actually air on the same day as the race: race highlights will be shown from 12.30am on Monday morning (you’re just going to go to bed, aren’t you?) while qualifying and sprint highlights will be shown at 8am on Sunday.

BBC Radio 5 Live and Radio 5 Sports Extra will have live commentary of all sessions this weekend. Just sayin’.

What’s the Top Gear view on the US GP?

COTA has been a great addition to the F1 calendar since it joined over a decade ago. The layout is a challenge for the drivers and the sequence of corners from turn 12 to turn 19 usually delivers some of the best wheel-to-wheel action we’ll see all season. It’s also great to see that F1 has finally clicked in America after literally decades of trying: it’s new-found popularity over there is healthy for the sport, and of the three races now taking place there (hello Miami and Vegas), COTA has the advantage of being the only one held on a purpose-built track…

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