COTA. Circuit of the Americas is one of the best road layouts around and it’s the host venue for Sunday’s Formula 1 Aramco United States Grand Prix. Even though Max Verstappen has already locked up the 2022 World Championship, there is still plenty of excitement for F1 DFS in Round 19 of the schedule.


COTA Track Layout

The 3.42-mile, 20-turn layout located southeast of Austin, Texas is a challenging circuit to say the least. For us NASCAR fans, we watched those drivers hustle the stock cars around this track earlier in the year; it won’t get easier for F1 drivers. The track was purpose-built for Formula 1 racing and takes it’s different components from the track designers’ favorite pieces of other renowned tracks around the world. COTA has a bit of everything over the course of the lap. It has high-speed straights, high-speed corners, big braking zones, and low-speed corners all mixed up to create the out-and-back circuit. Oh yeah, and there’s elevation change on the front stretch with a rise of 130 feet between the start finish line and the beyond-90-degree Turn 1.


F1 U.S. Grand Prix DFS Strategy

With as tricky as this track is, it requires the best from drivers throughout a lap. However, they rarely put down a perfect lap. That leaves room for mistakes and passing chances to happen throughout the field. Not only will the DRS zones shown above help, but the braking zones as well as the different lines through corners will assist in overtaking as well. Tire degradation is also a factor here. The track, though recently repaved, isn’t smooth and in practice and qualifying the soft tires were only really lasting one lap before falling off. What does that mean for us? Pit stops will be a factor in shifting up the field and teams that maximize the tire life will be at the front of the pack at the end of the race. There were a couple of drivers who got hit with grid penalties for Sunday with Charles Leclerc receiving a 10-spot penalty and Fernando Alonso, Sergio Perez, Guanyu Zhou all receiving 5-spot penalties for changes in equipment. Keep that in mind when building lineups that they all qualified several spots better than they’ll start the race.


F1 DFS Captain Plays

Drivers listed as captain options can also be played in the driver spots as well.

Max Verstappen

He’s going to be the most popular play for captain and it likely won’t be close. And why shouldn’t he be? He’s trying to set the all-time single-season wins mark for F1 and has had a car that’s been either the fastest or second-fastest basically all weekend. With his teammate starting several spots behind him, he’s also practically guaranteed the defeated teammate bonus points as well.

Charles Leclerc

Leclerc has been mighty quick this weekend, qualifying P2. That was before the 10-spot grid penalty came into play to have him roll off P12 instead. All that means for us is a shot for nice Spot vs. Grid Position points and good finishing position points. I don’t expect him to be a factor in terms of leading laps or even passing his teammate, who’s been faster than him all weekend, but there is still enough points upside to consider him for captain.

Carlos Sainz

Sainz is on the pole. That’s usually a great spot to be for an F1 race, especially when you’re in a car as fast as Sainz has had this weekend. He’s been the fastest car on the track in each practice session, even including for the Pirelli tire test in FP2. He should be able to get the hole shot heading into Turn 1 and lead laps early on. If Ferrari’s pit strategy and managing the tire deg is good this weekend, he should be able to hold onto the lead all afternoon. Not only should he be in line for nice laps led points but also a defeated teammate bonus starting 11 spots better than Leclerc.

Fernando Alonso

Alonso has pretty much been in the top-six all weekend on the speed charts. That’s where he finished FP1 and FP3 with much of FP2 not mattering for this weekend. He then went out and qualified P9 before getting the 5-spot grid penalty for the start of the race. That gives us not only some nice Spot vs. Grid Position upside but also hope that he can wheel the Alpine into a top-seven spot by race’s end for nice finishing points. He also has an advantage of Esteban Ocon starting P17 after a bad qualifying session on Saturday evening giving him breathing room for the defeated teammate bonus.

Valtteri Bottas

It’s been a rejuvenating weekend for Alfa Romeo as the cars have looked fast on track once again. Especially Bottas. While he did’t run FP1, the beginning laps of FP2, when he wasn’t doing the Pirelli tire test program, saw him post a race pace time that would’ve put him P6 on the speed charts in FP1. He then nearly ran inside the top-10 in FP3. He qualified P10 but will start P7 with a few drivers in front of him receiving grid penalties. There is a chance that he moves back a few spots but he should still be a top-8 car when all is said and done and he also shouldn’t have trouble finishing in front of his teammate in Guanyu Zhou.


F1 DFS Top Driver Plays

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton has looked quite racy this weekend as he nearly challenged for the pole in qualifying. This is also known as a track where he makes very good time even if the car isn’t as fast as it could be underneath him. His ability to hustle the car around the circuit makes him not only tough to pass here but also gets him better results than the speed suggests should be possible. That’s exactly what we’re looking for on Sunday. He should be able to nail down a podium finish and beat his teammate which brings him nice value at this price.

Sergio Perez

Checo has been consistently behind Verstappen in the speed department this weekend. However, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have value. He received a 5-spot grid penalty following qualifying which gives him some built-in Spot vs. Grid Position upside as well as a chance to finish on the podium if he catches a break or two. He isn’t the sexiest pick this weekend but there is still value here if things go his way with him finishing either P3 or P4.

Lando Norris

It’s been a typical race weekend for McLaren so far. Norris has good speed in the car and Daniel Ricciardo can’t figure out how to make his car go faster. Norris has run inside the top-10 all weekend including qualifying P8 before moving up to P6 following grid penalties to others. While there isn’t a ton of upside for Norris to move up, he can certainly hold his position in the running order and Ricciardo should be no threat to finish ahead of him. That means bonus points for Norris which is always good for DFS value.

Sebastian Vettel

Vettel is coming into this race having posted four top-10 finishes in the last six races including back-to-back top-8s in the last two. He’ll start P10 on Sunday and ran mostly inside the top-10 at practice as well. So the speed is clearly there for him this weekend for his final US Grand Prix but the question remains as to whether or not he’ll beat his teammate to the finish line. It’s been a coin flip all year between the Aston Martin duo. Whichever teammate finishes better will be in the optimal this weekend.

Pierre Gasly

Coming off an emotional and controversial weekend in Japan two weeks ago, he’s looking for a clean, and fast, race at COTA. He’s got the speed having run inside the top-10 all weekend including being one of the faster cars in the tire test, though that doesn’t hold much weight. While he doesn’t start as far ahead of his teammate, Yuki Tsunoda, as the others listed here, he has been consistently faster than him all weekend and his history at similar tracks this year suggest he should be able to hold that advantage. So finishing top-10 and beating his teammate, like he did at Australia, should give him enough points, at this price, to be a strong contender for winning lineups. Though he’ll also be a popular play.

Lance Stroll

Stroll, like his teammate, is quick this weekend. In fact, he’s been the faster of the two Aston Martin’s running in the top-five at points. He’s also starting five spots ahead of Vettel. The problem with that is that there is little upside for Stroll in terms of moving up at all rather than moving backward in the field. He’s also been splitting the races pretty evenly all year with Vettel in terms of defeated teammate penalties and if he can hold off Vettel, there’s enough points here, at a lower salary to make him viable for a winning lineup.


F1 DFS Constructor Plays (Locks)

Red Bull




F1 DFS Construction Plays (Upside)


Aston Martin



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