Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button Ready for NASCAR Challenge at COTA

Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button return to Circuit of The Americas for a completely different type of racing.
Jenson Button, Rick Ware Racing/Stewart Haas Racing
Jenson Button, Rick Ware Racing/Stewart Haas Racing

Formula One held the inagural United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas 11 years ago. That race was won by Lewis Hamilton while Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen finished 5th and 6th. In the 2014 race, Hamilton won again, with Button and Raikkonen finishing 12th and 13th respectively.

Raikkonen and Button will be racing at COTA again tomorrow, and even with 39 cars in the field, they will start one right behind the other. Raikkonen qualified 22nd in his Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet, and Button will line up directly behind him in 24th position in his Rick Ware Racing/SHR Ford.

Austin is a special place for Raikkonen, who's last F1 victory came here in 2018 with Ferrari.

"I’m happy to be back with the team, and at a track that I know," Raikkonen said. "It’s the same track but it feels a lot different in an F1 car to a NASCAR car. A lot of the corners are more kind of straights in F1 because of the downforce. It gets a bit trickier in a NASCAR car. This car has lost some downforce, so it makes it a bit more tail-happy. It’s easy to think that they’re similar because you have a steering wheel and four tires, but it changes a lot."

"The track is nice because it creates good racing. There are places you can overtake, and especially in F1, you don’t get a lot of circuits you can have a good race. People can actually overtake without the DRS, and it feels more like a normal older-style F1 racing. All of the bumps the track has in F1 you get away with a lot because you don’t really feel it but in a NASCAR car, the effect is quite big. It’s a completely different track in many ways. It sounds stupid because it’s the same track, but the car makes it a lot different."

Kimi Raikkonen, Trackhouse Racing Project 91
Kimi Raikkonen, Trackhouse Racing Project 91

Both drivers experienced a multitude of differences, both with the car and the track. "I got onto the circuit and I was surprised by how little grip there was initially when I pulled away and the tires were cold,” Button said. “The gear shifting is… I’ve never driven a sequential gearbox car before. I’ve never pulled back going through the gears and pushed to go down. It’s something completely new to learn.”

"The weirdest thing for me is that there’s so much on the windscreen," Button admitted. "Focusing out of the windscreen is very difficult. There’s all sorts of different pillars and different angles, the windscreen wiper. Getting your head around that and your eyes to focus passed that definitely takes time. I’m used to having a visor and that’s it.”

Jenson Button, Rick Ware Racing/Stewart Haas Racing
Jenson Button, Rick Ware Racing/Stewart Haas Racing

Despite all of the learning and curve balls thrown their way, both of these Formula One World Champions are happy to be racing in the Cup series.

"In NASCAR, you can have closer racing,” Raikkonen said. “Obviously, the rules are quite different. I think it’s more of if you kind of behave, they’ll behave a similar way against you, the way I’ve understood it. It makes it more exciting at the end of the races when people can be quite aggressive. I feel more prepared this time around, but it’s all still kind of a learning curve."

"I expect a challenging race, but a race where I’m going to learn a lot as well,” said Button. “That’s why I wanted to do three races this year. There’s no reason for me not to be competitive, but it just takes a bit of time. These guys have driven these cars for years. They know the nuances and what makes them work. I’m not a guy that jumps in a car and goes immediately quick. I need to work with it a little bit, work with the engineers and build it around me."

“I know we will be competitive in terms of our race speed but there's a lot to learn. Driving a car is something that I've done my whole life. I'll go with it and roll with the punches. I am looking forward to the challenge."

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