Last weekend Bill and I visited the Formula One Expo at the Austin Convention Center. This event was intended to drum up excitement and ticket sales for the Formula One United States Grand Prix to be held outside of Austin from November 16-18. Twenty F1 races are taking place around the world this year but only two of these are in North America: this Austin race and one held in Montreal earlier this month.
We were welcomed to the Expo by a knowledgeable guy who explained that 24 drivers (two each from 12 teams) compete on a race weekend. Practice runs are held on Friday and early Saturday; qualifying runs take place later on Saturday. Then the actual Grand Prix race (190 miles) happens on Sunday afternoon. He said that F1 cars average about 200 mph, reaching maximum speeds of 220 mph. A point system is used to determine world championship winners for both drivers and their supporting teams.
November’s race will be run on a new Circuit of the Americas
track which is being built about 10 miles east of downtown Austin. For several years, the Austin American-Stateman
has reported on various controversies with funding, access, permits, and complaints from neighbors. (See this recent New York Times article, Formula One Track, Nearing First Race, Gets a Wary Embrace from Austin
for an accurate description of the mixed feelings in Austin.) Construction work is now moving at a fast and furious pace. The track owners (different from the Formula One people) plan to host other races and events including outdoor concerts at the site. A 5K “running of the track” is already planned for November 3. That sounds like fun although I would be worried about the “130 FT ELEV CHG” and the logistics of trying to run on a banked track.
Over 120,000 racing fans are expected to attend this fall’s Grand Prix. Austinites are already being warned to expect huge traffic jams. Some companies are even offering helicopter rides out to the track. General admission tickets (with seating on the grass berms) are $159 for the weekend. Reserved bleacher seating starts at $269. For premium grandstand seating…well, you need to fill out a form and a sales representative will call you.
Bill and I left the Expo knowing a lot more about F1 racing than before. We admired the shiny race cars, peered inside engines, and studied the track layout. But did this make us want to actually purchase tickets to see the race? Nope.