Austin F1 Weekend: A Downtown View


The 2012 Formula One Unites States Grand Prix has been declared a success by the Austin media. After two days of practice runs and time trials, over 117,000 spectators watched Lewis Hamilton win at the brand-new Circuit of the Americas track.

Bill and I did not buy F1 tickets although we did watch the end of the race on Sunday afternoon. We had decided to stay in our downtown apartment instead of escaping to stay with friends in the suburbs. Nearby hotels were full but the streets seemed less crowded than usual except for Saturday evening. Every morning there was a flurry of activity as fans left their hotels to head east to the track. Mid-days were fairly quiet downtown. Then the action picked up again as race goers returned back to their hotels or came into the city to party.


Helicopters shuttled fans to the track from two nearby parking garages: one at the Embassy Suites hotel just south of downtown and another at an office building on south Mopac. Both routes flew over South Austin’s residential neighborhoods and often circled overhead while waiting for a spot to land. The neighborhood associations are in an uproar so I will be surprised if these locations are used again for future events.

All weekend Bill was on the lookout for celebrities. Paul McCartney was rumored to be in town and we heard that Carmen Electra was staying at the W hotel. But the only famous person we saw was Jackie Stewart, who signed a race car outside the W on Friday. I was impressed that Bill recognized him. I was also impressed with Sir Stewart’s fancy autograph (second row, second from the left in this photo).

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