A Dummy’s Guide to Formula 1 in Austin


I decided to spend an extra day in Austin and fly out on Tuesday to avoid the mess on Monday.  Austin is well known for a few things: live music, the U. of Texas, and FOOD.  There is awesome food everywhere in the city of all types of variety.  Austin really has become a mecca of unique food and I think it’s worth your while to seek it out.  Of course, when in Texas, you MUST get some BBQ! *Unless you’re vegetarian I suppose, but even then, maybe just a little bit…  If you’re in a pinch for time and want something quick, check out Rudy’s.  Often times, when I fly into Austin, I request a trip straight to Rudy’s from the airport with my friends.  However, if you have the time, make the trip to Cooper’s.



Cooper’s has two locations: in Llano north of Austin, and New Braunfels south of Austin.  The north location is the original and it has all the smokers and grills sitting outside.  This is the southern location which was more convenient for me.  Make no mistake though, the BBQ is still amazing!
I went with some brisket, sausage, jalapeno and bacon mac & cheese, and fresh peach cobbler.  It was all absolutely mouth wateringly amazing!
I also made a trip to Cobb’s headquarters in Austin.  It houses their engineering facilities along with some production capability.  I got to check out how they do prototyping, their impressive machining capabilities, and their work areas with the car lifts and dyno.  I also got a see a number of the guys’ personal projects; trust me when I say all of these guys are real gearheads.

I’ll conclude with my notes to Austin on how to make the event better.  Austin, don’t price gouge people on hotels!  Well, this isn’t the City’s fault, but maybe they should do something about it to prevent the hotels from doing it.  Case study #1, the couple from the UK I met.  They stayed in San Antonio for the cheaper hotels.  Where did they hang out?  On the Riverwalk in San Antonio.  Case study #2, a co-worker of mine also stayed down in San Antonio.  After a full day at the track, you are TIRED.  People will hang out wherever their hotel is located as they are too tired to go anywhere else.  Case study #3, a couple I sat next to at the airport.  I believe they said they had been to 13 F1 races including Monaco.  They even had the premier grand stand tickets for the Austin race (a few thousand dollars) which implies they are not shy about spending money.  However, they also stayed in San Antonio.  I didn’t even overhear of a single person who stayed in downtown Austin.

A big Fan Fest area was created downtown with a lot of free live music stages and F1 related things (like the two Infinitis for the dyno drag race), but I heard the crowd downtown was significantly less crowded than even on a typical weekend.  Why?  The local news had hyped up tales of massive traffic jams and crowds which scared everyone into staying home.  Oh yeah, parking prices downtown also doubled over the F1 weekend keeping more people at home.  It’s really a shame because it would have been nice for more of the locals to learn about everything F1.  A lot of the local downtown businesses suffered because they stocked up expecting big crowds only to have very few people to show up.  The high hotel prices meant people stayed elsewhere and therefore never made it downtown, and the high parking rates along with over-hyped traffic predictions kept the locals at home too.

As for the race itself, they just need more food vendors!  A guy I sat next to in the stands mentioned he heard the forecasted food demand was based on a European race.  Two things, us Americans eat more food.  Secondly, apparently the Europeans tended to bring more food to the track while we like to buy food at the track (or any event such as football games, baseball games, etc).  So there were long lines at all of the food vendors with some taking up to an hour.

Oh, one last thing, I sat next to a track worker while waiting for my flight home at the airport and learned a lot of cool things.  He was a retired guy (as are many of the guys) who just does it for the love of it (they get paid squat).  He lives in Hawaii and mostly works the races in Asia.  However, Austin wanted as many experienced guys as possible so he decided to make the trek for this race.  F1 has two training certification centers to train the workers and those are located in the UK and Australia.  The UK site trains everyone for the Europe races and Australia trains everyone for the Asia races.  I think he said there were about 350 workers for Austin and they work from about 6am until 7pm which makes for a very long day when you throw in transit time to and from the track on top.  For comparison, the Australian Grand Prix will have upwards of 1000 workers!  Also, the Austin race had a lot of workers from SCCA who were not use to typical F1 protocol with regards to calling things out.  For example, the SCCA guys were calling out on the radio EVERYTHING that happened such as when cars went off-track and back on.  The F1/FIA guys do not make those types of calls; a car going off-track and then going back on has absolutely no bearing on safety (this occurred very often in Turn 12 with guys overshooting the braking zone and using the run-off area to get back on track).  The F1 guys only make calls for dangerous situations like a car accident or stopping in an unsafe place.  They only make these types of calls because it keeps the airwaves free for emergency calls; he said a typical F1 race only has a handful of calls made during the entire race.  Because some of the inexperienced guys were making calls on every type of incident, it jammed up the airwaves which could have prevented a critical call from getting through.  This guy also said Singapore was one of his favorite tracks but it made for an extremely long day as it was a night race; he’d get there early at 6am to work the support races and not leave the track until past midnight.

My thoughts on making a trip to Austin for Formula 1: make time for food in and around town (Chuys, Gourdough’s, Home Slice Pizza, Kerby Lane, and many many more), check out downtown, split the cost of a parking pass among a group of people, split the cost of a Fan Vision, bring lots of cash, and ear plugs.  I think next year is the last year of the naturally aspirated V8s before the turbo V6 engines come into play.  You do not want to miss the sound of these engines!  So come on down to Austin next year and make a vacation out of it!  I like Turn 12 personally.



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