U.S. Formula 1 Grand Prix 2012 Experience
by Pablo Mazlumian
This year I was one of the lucky ones! By attending the inaugural United States Formula 1 Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, I was going to experience motorsports history first hand. Having attended F1 races before (but not since 2006), I was tingling with anticipation.
The majority of us simply don't understand the magnitude of this project. To set the stage, the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) was built specifically for F1, and was completed just days before its November 16 initiation. The track is a massive 3.4-miles, with turns and elevation changes inspired by famous tracks like those of the Grand Prix's of Turkey, Belgium, Brazil and Great Britain. It's also one of only 26 tracks in the world with a prestigious Grade 1 certification.
While some people might be scratching their heads regarding the $400 million in private investments it took to get here, COTA is expected to bring in up to $400-500 million each year with F1, Moto GP, American Le Mans and Australian V8 Supercar events. The F1 event alone expected 300,000 people to come to Austin. All in all, the COTA project has brought in a total of 6,000 jobs (300 full time) as well.
Up until the weekend prior to the race, I didn't think I was going. Without passes, I wasn't ready to shell out a plane fare, and ticket prices were steep ($160 for general admission, $500 average for reserved seating and $3000 hospitality suites). However, with just days to go I got the call that jumped me and my cookie crumbs off my couch, and thanks to Ryan Caldwell, senior Vice President of Waddell and Reed in Kansas—which happens to control nearly 21 percent of Formula 1 shares (yes, out of Kansas)—the prized tickets were in hand.
If you need a little background on what an F1 car can do, try to imagine a 1400-lb racecar (with driver!), powered by a 2.4-liter V8 pumping 800 bhp. How? It's able to turn 18,000 RPM, which the rules limit it to. The word in the paddock is that an F1 engine can safely spin past 20,000 rpm if the rules were to allow it.
The glowing carbon brakes, car-gluing aerodynamics and tires are so incredible an F1 car can brake from 120 mph to a standstill in just over 2 seconds, and produce over 4G's in both braking and handling. Seeing this first hand leaves me giggling with delight.
Here are some pictures to capture my memorable weekend. Please excuse the fences in the way—I did not have an official photographer's pass.
|Friday morning we'd actually gotten there before dawn. It was well worth it. Just seeing the track in its quiet state, yet with the anticipation of what would transpire in just a few hours, was thrilling. It really got the adrenaline pumping.|
|My golden ticket landed me in the hospitality suite at Turns 16-18, the 3-4 high G apex turn (depending on driving style), which mirrored the 4-apex neck-snapper of Istanbul's Turn 8. This is the view of our hospitality suite from Turn 1, as Alonso whizzes by in his Ferrari. We sat in the far right lower corner.|
|It's a phenomenal way to experience a race, and all day you're treated like stars trying to get fat. These seats, I'm told, were selling for about $2500-3000 for the weekend. You even get to sit in Sparco-like race seats if you want.|
|If you need to get away from the noise (although you can't really) you can hop inside, grab a drink or some food, and watch the race on the screens.|
|Or, you can play F1 2012 in the Excape supplied simulators, thanks to Excape CEO James Fiorillo. Actually, Caterham F1 driver Heikki Kovalainen laid down a 1:41 on this very simulator the night before, and we spent a few 5 to 10 minute sessions trying to match that to no avail. We're sure it's because Heikki weighs like 85 lb.|