Formula One
U.S. Grand Prix update

Formula 1 suite sneak preview: A first look Inside Circuit of the Americas


Austin Photo: Kevin_Circuit of the Americas preview_October 2012_Ecclestone seats
Photo by Kevin Benz
Austin Photo: Kevin_Circuit of the Americas preview_October 2012_media center
Photo by Kevin Benz
Austin Photo: Kevin_Circuit of the Americas preview_October 2012_media cubes
Photo by Kevin Benz
Austin Photo: Kevin_Circuit of the Americas preview_October 2012_media booth
Photo by Kevin Benz
Austin Photo: Kevin_Circuit of the Americas preview_October 2012_media cafe
Photo by Kevin Benz
Austin Photo: Kevin_Circuit of the Americas preview_October 2012_suite seats
Photo by Kevin Benz
Austin Photo: Kevin_Circuit of the Americas preview_October 2012_concessions
Photo by Kevin Benz
Austin Photo: Kevin_Circuit of the Americas preview_October 2012_tower
Photo by Kevin Benz
Austin Photo: Kevin_Circuit of the Americas preview_October 2012_turn 11
Photo by Kevin Benz
Austin Photo: Kevin_Circuit of the Americas preview_October 2012_grandstand seating
Photo by Kevin Benz
Austin Photo Set: Kevin_Circuit of the Americas preview_October 2012_track
Photo by Kevin Benz

At Austin's Circuit of the Americas, the suites (that's plural) are huge, as they should be when they're built for Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone. Walking through those suites it's a bit hard to imagine five thousand well-heeled folks flitting about inside them. The rooms are just 12 empty boxes right now — 160,000 square feet of boxes with a view (and carpet), but still a box.

Even so, Bobby Epstein, the founder of Circuit of the Americas, and my host on this day, doesn't want any photos taken inside. He would prefer Ecclestone see his suites when they are finished not during construction. Ecclestone and the Formula 1 teams will be outfitting the suites in the next few weeks, and by outfitting I mean everything from furniture and lamps to the art on the walls. It's how Formula 1 rolls. After the race, they'll pack it all up and move on to the next one. If you have the connections, a cool $5,000 will get you a seat.

This is the view from Bernie Ecclestone's seats outside the Formula 1 suites. The Formula 1 suites are located above the pits inside the track.

The COTA media center. International media will gather to watch and report on the race here. That white wall in the photo is a giant projection screen for watching the race.

The Media center will double as convention space for groups and associations.

A row of 30 media booths are set up on the track side of the media center.

The track view from one of the media booths. Each booth measures about 10' x 10'.

A worker seals the floor of the Media cafe and kitchen.

Construction crews are now working on a single eight hour shift as opposed to the 24 hour schedule needed late in the summer to get the track set for paving and inspection. On September 25th, Federation Internationale de l' Automobile (FIA) race director Charles Whiting inspected the track and declared it "race-ready." "Everything that I've seen so far has been absolutely first-class," he said.

This is the main grandstand being prepared before seats are installed. The  pit garages are across the track. These seats are directly across from the start / finish line.

The main grandstand concession stands at the mezzanine level..

COTA's iconic 251 foot observation tower. At the base will be the Tower Amphitheater concert venue.

Turn 11 at the far end of the circuit. The photo is taken from the  general admission berm looking at the stands.

Epstein's biggest worry continues to be rain which slows construction, particularly for parking lots. Still he's a lot less stressed than when I first met with him in the Spring. He smiles more, jokes a little and is clearly excited about getting real race cars onto his newly paved track. Now that the buildings have gone up, the asphalt has been laid, all the bank funding is done and the lawsuits — well, most of them anyway — have settled, Epstein is thinking more about COTA's place in the racing world than about what color seats to install.

Some great news came on Wednesday when MotoGP agreed to race at COTA next April. That race is now the fourth major championship series to commit, joining Formula 1, V-8 Supercars and the Le Mans World Endurance Championships. It's the greatest racing schedule for a single circuit in the world, but Epstein is too humble to say it in that way.

"We have four championship racing series committed before the track is even open," he said. "We may be the first track to do that. We've created a year-round facility that will provide an economic impact that will equal the economic impact of Formula 1 weekend. We think we'll eclipse $600 million in economic impact in the first year."

The Circuit of the Americas race track is beginning to look like the world-class venue everyone purports it will be. The track is paved, the seats are being installed and grass is growing on the general admission berms. The lounges (no photos here either please) are looking like they might be fun and tickets are nearly sold out.

Here's the current schedule of races for COTA:

November 16-18, 2012 — Formula 1 United States Grand Prix
Spring, 2013 (no date set) — American Le Mans series
March 2, 2013 — GRAND-AM Road Racing series
April 19-21, 2013 — MotoGP Motorcycle Grand Prix
May 17-19, 2013 — V8 Supercars series

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