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Formula 1 Racing

A New First for Austin

Photo Courtesy of Circuit of The Americas

Austin, Texas is well-known for being home to the exciting and the unique.  Featuring participant and spectator sports galore, in addition to its majestic landscape and vibrant music scene, the capitol city of Texas is an international trendsetter.  With the opening of the Circuit of the Americas Formula 1 track in 2012, Austin added another attraction which will contribute to its popularity on the international scene.

Southeast Austin’s new Circuit of the Americas track is currently the only track in the United States permanently dedicated to Formula 1 racing.  While Formula 1 has long been popular in Europe, it has been slow to catch on in the U.S.  Many American auto racing fans have never been exposed to the excitement of Formula 1 racing, but promoters in Austin hope to change that.

What is Formula 1 Racing?

Many auto racing fans consider Formula 1 racing to be the most challenging and most prestigious form of auto racing.  It differs from NASCAR and other races in two striking ways: the cars and the course.

The Cars

Formula 1 race cars are precision racing machines. These lightweight, single-seat cars are designed for speed.  The wheels and tires of a Formula 1 car are outside the vehicle’s body—a design called open-wheel.  The engine is behind the driver’s cockpit, rather than in front like ordinary autos and like NASCAR racers. 

The moment you spy a Formula 1 car you can tell it was built to race, even if you aren’t a racing fan.  The 2.4 liter, V8 engines of today’s Formula 1 cars have approximately 700 horsepower. These sleek racing machines can go over 200 mph.

The Track

Unlike NASCAR, Formula 1 racing is never held on an oval track. A track with right and left street-like turns adds to the challenge of this form of racing.  In Europe, the original home of Formula 1 racing, races are sometimes held on the streets.  Formula 1 racing has also been held on the streets of Las Vegas, Dallas, Long Beach, Detroit, and Phoenix. 

Drivers and Teams

Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher are among the big names in Formula 1 racing.  Several automobile companies including BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari have Formula 1 teams.

Drivers must have strength and stamina to compete in this type of racing.  Tremendous force is exerted on the human body as the cars accelerate to such high speeds, making endurance a must for a winning driver.  Drivers must also cope with the high heat within the cockpit.

Drivers follow a rigorous training schedule to make sure they are mentally and physically prepared for the stresses of racing at speeds of 200 mph or better.  Training includes strength training and cardio workouts.

And of course, race drivers practice driving.  One of the chief skills a winning driver needs is the ability to handle corners.  On the straightway, drivers can depend heavily on their car’s technology, but cornering is tricky; it requires all the driving skill of the human behind the wheel.

Formula 1 Racing in Austin

In May 2010, it was announced that an agreement had been reached for Austin to be the host city of the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix™ from 2012 to 2021.  Many Austinites were surprised by the announcement.  While the idea had been discussed for years, details as to where the race would be held and what it would mean to the city were sketchy.

But by that July, plans for the new track were well under way.  In July 2010, promoter Tavo Hellmund announced plans to build the 3.4 mile track in southeast Travis County.  The track was finished in September 2012. It is challenging with twenty turns over an elevation change of 133 feet.

The Circuit complex features a 9,000 spectator capacity grandstand and a stylish 251 foot observation tower designed to be a focal point for the complex. At the foot of the observation tower, an open air amphitheater with a 14,000 seating capacity will be the venue for concerts. After all, what would any event in Austin be without music? 

The Grand Plaza, a twenty-acre venue featuring a reflecting pool, various landscape zones, and large lawn is bordered by the track on three sides.  Other features include a promenade, concession stands, and two pedestrian bridges crossing the track.

The entire complex spreads over a 1,000 acres and cost approximately $400 million to be build.  Its construction created 1,700 construction jobs. Some 300 people are permanently employed by the track and several thousand more jobs are expected to be available seasonally.

Located just fifteen minutes from downtown Austin and nine miles from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport,  the Circuit of the Americas is anticipated to draw huge crowds and between $400 million to $500 million annually in revenue for Texas.

The Circuit of the Americas is currently the only dedicated Formula 1 track in the United States.  In addition, the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix™ track is scheduled to hold V8 Supercars from 2013 to 2018, as well as the 2013 MotoGP World Championship.

Austin, Texas has every reason to be proud of this new addition to its many attractions.  The track is the only FIA-certified Grade 1 track in the U.S. and there are only twenty-six Grade 1 certified motorsports facilities in the world.

Opening Day

A total of 265,499 fans attended the three-day Formula 1 United States Grand Prix™ which inaugurated the track in November 2012. The Circuit opened on November 16, 2012 with practice sessions and various other events, including dueling pianos to entertain spectators.  The qualifying round and first race took place the next day.  On November 18 the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix took place in front of a delighted crowd of 117,429 spectators.   British driver Lewis Hamilton took top honors.

The Formula 1 Grand Prix is scheduled to be held at the Circuit each November until 2021. November was chosen as the month for the event because of its cooler temperatures.  The cockpits of Formula 1 race cars are extremely hot and so for the comfort and safety of the drivers, planners chose the cooler fall months to hold the event.

Racing fans are now looking forward with excitement to the 2013 Grand Prix.  It promises to be even grander than the first, with numerous concerts and other events surrounding it.  Tickets can be obtained from the official Circuit of the Americas site www.circuitoftheamericas.com.

November is a glorious time to visit beautiful Austin, Texas.  In addition to the Formula 1 events, the annual Celtic festival takes place in the first part of the month, while the Thunder Cloud Subs Turkey Trot is held near Thanksgiving.

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