What a difference a week makes. Last weekend, we were forced to endure the childish, thuggish antics of NASCAR drivers trying to kill each other on and off the track. Fast forward to REAL racing – Formula One at the beautiful Circuit of the Americas and the Austin Grand Prix.
The winner of the 2o12 race at Austin was Lewis Hamilton driving his last race for McClaren. As he drove his celebration lap the man he defeated, a world champion Sebastian Vettel, applauded Mr. Hamilton rather than trying to beat him up. Pay attention NASCAR – this is how real racing drivers are supposed to act toward each other. It’s called good sportsmanship.
Whether or not NASCAR was watching. the world (literally) was watching. Formula 1 racing is among the most popular sports on the planet by television viewership. Austin had a lot to prove. At stake – the $400 million public/private partnership that led to the creation of the track and the first Grand Prix run in the USA in the last five years.
Nobody needed to worry. The people of Austin did it right. 120,000 fans were treated to one of the most thrilling, beautiful and fan-friendly F1 tracks in the world. The fans learned how F1 racing is different from what we usually see in the USA.
The technically-advanced F1 cars are operated by the best drivers in the world but supported by teams of brilliant, talented and dedicated people. Each team has a chief engineer and the pit stops – wow! Several were under two point five (2.5) seconds. (That is not a typo!) The facilities at COTA are top-drawer. The people of Austin were welcoming. The drivers and teams were excited. It was an amazing day.
24 drivers qualified for the race and as the lights went out (that’s how an F1 race starts) my heart pounded. It was a clean start and a clean race. The track is challenging and being brand new, nobody was sure what to expect. One thing we did expect was that the signature turn on the track – turn one – provided plenty of excitement, as did turn 19 which proved too challenging for some of the drivers.
The sportsmanship and outright camaraderie shown amongst the drivers and teams was refreshing. It was also nice to see so many international faces at a USA-based events People came from dozens of different countries. Lots of race fans made the trip from South America and Mexico.
The track officials were amazing and the facilities still boggle the mind. If there was a nit to pick about this race it would be the fact that Texas never misses an opportunity to pretend we’re under attack by terrorists. Security was insane and long lines were a problem on qualifying days. But race days saw things mostly sorted out and the fans seemed to really have a good time.
It’s very expensive to attend a Formula One race but if you want to see real racing and experience it in a way that even the best TV coverage can’t beat, save up for next year’s race. It can only be better.
Thanks Austin, Texas, Formula One. It was a great race.