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The Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix: Cars arrive, the time has come

The Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix: Cars arrive, the time has come

Austin Photo: News_Benoit_formula 1_usgp ready_nov 2012_finish line
The COTA start / finish line Photo by Benoit Rochard
Austin Photo: News_Benoit_formula 1_usgp ready_nov 2012_velocity lounge art
"Velocity," a 120 foot reverse glass painting hangs in the Velocity lounge at COTA Photo by Benoit Rochard
Austin Photo: News_Benoit_formula 1_usgp ready_nov 2012_ferrari pit
Work has begun in the Ferarri pit. That's Fernando Alonso's garage on the left. Photo by Kevin Benz
Austin Photo: News_Benoit_formula 1_COTA_nov 2012_car
Formula 1 cars unloaded in the COTA pit area Courtesy of Circuit of the Americas
Austin Photo: News_Benoit_formula 1_COTA_nov 2012_epstein interview
Bobby Epstein interviewed by international journalists from Sky Sports in the U.K. Photo by Kevin Benz
Austin Photo: News_Benoit_formula 1_usgp ready_nov 2012_circuit of the americas
Circuit of the Americas is ready Photo by Kevin Benz
Austin Photo: News_Benoit_formula 1_usgp ready_nov 2012_epstein martin art
Artist Christopher Martin and COTA co-founder Bobby Epstein unveil "Velocity" Photo by Kevin Benz
Austin Photo: News_Benoit_formula 1_usgp ready_nov 2012_finish line
Austin Photo: News_Benoit_formula 1_usgp ready_nov 2012_velocity lounge art
Austin Photo: News_Benoit_formula 1_usgp ready_nov 2012_ferrari pit
Austin Photo: News_Benoit_formula 1_COTA_nov 2012_car
Austin Photo: News_Benoit_formula 1_COTA_nov 2012_epstein interview
Austin Photo: News_Benoit_formula 1_usgp ready_nov 2012_circuit of the americas
Austin Photo: News_Benoit_formula 1_usgp ready_nov 2012_epstein martin art

We’re just days away from the United States Grand Prix and I can feel the excitement in the air albeit with a hint of anxiousness.

There is so much unknown with this event that although race fans couldn’t be more thrilled right now, I can’t help but worry a little.

The crowds, the traffic, the unusual private parties, how are we going to cope with these things? People say, “But SXSW brings as many people, ACL Fest and Texas football games bring large crowds as well.” I agree, but those events have grown over the years, they’ve adapted to what the city can and can’t handle. We’ve watched them develop from small local events, to the international gatherings they are now.

Formula 1 is going to hit us in its fully-grown form. I think we’ll handle it just fine but we'll see.

This is arguably the biggest and most important Formula 1 Grand Prix ever held in North America. Formula 1 is back on our soil for the first time in 5 years, at a state of the art purpose built facility called Circuit of the Americas, in a city that’s exciting in it’s own right.

 “Velocity” by Christopher Martin fits Circuit of the Americas well on many levels. 

Sorry Indianapolis, I’ve never made my way up there but no one’s ever told me I should either. Whereas I don’t think I’m alone when I say Austin’s awesome. I’ve yet to meet someone who hates it here. Some people may be indifferent about Austin but those are the people we refer to when we say “Only boring people are bored.”

Bobby Epstein, the co-founder of Circuit of the Americas, gave “Keep Austin Weird” a new angle for me as he unveiled the 120 foot long work of art gracing COTA's Velocity lounge, “It’s about being non-conforming, bringing together the unexpected, and making it work.”

That struck a chord with me, it really is what Austin is all about. As we recently saw, Austin doesn’t even correspond to its neighboring areas: An island of blue in a sea of red during the last presidential election. We rank in the top five cities for both single young professionals, and retired empty nesters. We have some of the best-ranked spa resorts, and some of the best music festivals. So although Formula 1 makes very little sense at first glance, once you examine it, Formula 1 is actually a perfect fit.

Not to mention I have never seen a track that feels and looks like an automotive version of a luxury stadium like this one does. Even if you have a seat, I recommend walking around the track this weekend and checking out the different angles and viewing areas.

I was talking with some French media correspondents yesterday and they were amazed. They had never imagined they would be coming to such a fun, eclectic, friendly, vibrant place. It’s exciting to think about the amount of exposure we are about to receive, the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce could not dream up a better opportunity for not only Austin but Texas to be showcased to the rest of the world. 

Frankly I don’t think the last two most prominent Texan political figures were part of an approved public relations campaign to make Texas look as awesome as it is. So this should help change people’s stereotypical idea of what Texas and Texans are like.

Epstein said one of the most rewarding things he’s experienced in relation to this project so far, is seeing the looks on racing team employees as they take in the facility. So far the feedback has been positive, both from the crews on the ground and the drivers who have raced the circuit on the simulators.

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton said, “I think it’s going to be a track that drivers enjoy, which produces some great, close racing and which fans will quickly love.”

“I think we’re in for a fantastic weekend," added McLaren’s other driver Jenson Button. "I really cannot wait to get out to Austin and see the city, the people and the track. I think it’s going to be brilliant.”

Today at the unveiling of “Velocity” the largest acrylic painting in North America, Epstein emphasized that during the conception and design of the facility, they put extra thought into how each motor sports component could be “recycled” and used for other types of events on a year-round basis, and still be worth looking at.

The most prominent example of this is the observation deck; it’s not only a great vantage point to watch all the action, but also a giant sculpture.

“Velocity” by Christopher Martin fits Circuit of the Americas well on many levels; visually of course — blue, red, and black are all prominent throughout the facility, the round shapes represent the apexes and the black streaks in the background look like tire tracks.

But it also relates because it’s one of a kind, on a scale that none of its peers can match, and it was put together in record time.

Although Martin has never done a piece of this size in the past, he estimates it should take about 6 months, but he only had 6 weeks, and he did an amazing job, the size and the detail are awe-inspiring.

Circuit of the Americas has the same effect. I’m not a construction expert but if you asked me how long it should take to build a facility like that, I would say 3 to 5 years, they did it in a little over a year, and just like Martin’s artwork it is an awe-inspiring masterpiece.

This weekend can’t come soon enough.