Circuit of The Americas’ unique Turn 1 is bound to play a role in the NTT IndyCar Series’ inaugural race at the purpose-built Formula One circuit Sunday, but, until then, focus is on the penultimate corner of the permanent road course.
INDYCAR has taken a lax approach to officiating track limits at Turn 19 of the 20-turn venue, allowing competitors to consider the vast, paved runoff area as much a part of the racetrack as the space between the curbs.
Not required to execute the corner as it was built, the 24-car IndyCar field spent Friday ignoring Turn 19’s outside curb and attacking the bend with a more wide-open approach than the track’s true design allows.
“Turn 19 is obviously just interesting,” Will Power said after setting the fastest time across Friday’s three sessions, adding, “You’ve got to use the rule to be fast.”
The track limits at this area of the track were officiated at February’s Open Test at COTA, during which the pace was 2 seconds faster than on day one of the INDYCAR Classic weekend just over a month later. While the off-track route does result in faster lap times, the loss of 2 seconds is due to the temperature increase from February to March.
Irrespective of speed, INDYCAR’s hands-off approach to regulating Turn 19 is a safety measure as the newly accepted line lessens the load on the right-front tire in this area of the already-taxing 20-turn, 3.41-mile circuit.
“It’s a bit different from when we were here testing, definitely,” said Friday’s second-fastest driver Felix Rosenqvist. “Also, Turn 19 opened up. It’s a pretty different kind of third sector going on there.
“I think main thing is the tires. The tires seem to go off quite a lot. Managing that is going to be the key.”
Driver Opinions Differ Over Track Limits
Power alluded to having no choice but to run wide at Turn 19 since it’s a faster route that all of his competitors are taking advantage of, but that doesn’t mean he agrees with INDYCAR’s decision.
“Personally, I think it would be better (to obey the traditional limits) because it’s harder then,” the reigning Indianapolis 500 winner commented. “I mean, you’ve still got to get the corner right, but I just think having a track limit would be better.”
As a veteran of North American open-wheel racing, Power had his opinion countered by Rosenqvist, a member of IndyCar’s 2019 rookie class who brings considerable experience in sports car racing and other open-wheel machines to his debut season with Chip Ganassi Racing.
Rosenqvist has already developed a fondness for the lighter governing seen in IndyCar relative to the other championships on his resume but knows COTA’s characteristics set it apart from other North American venues.
“I’m not a fan of track limits,” the Swedish driver said. “That’s why I like racing in America, because you don’t really have track limits. You go off in (IndyCar), it’s grass, gravel or wall. Here, we come into that problem where you have the track limit.
“I’m kind of a fan for opening it up. It’s going to be the same for everyone. They’re not going to look at if this guy was 1 millimeter over the line or not, which is a bit ridiculous.
“It looks pretty weird, but it is what it is. They said it’s like that for the weekend; that’s the way we’re going to run. It’s the same for everyone.”
Power, Rosenqvist and their 22 competitors will set their opinions on the matter aside and continue ignoring Turn 19’s technical limits from Saturday onward at COTA, beginning with Practice 3 at 10 a.m. CDT. Qualifying will be telecast live on NBCSN beginning at 3 p.m. EDT.