Formula 1 race cars are loud — REALLY, REALLY LOUD. Ear plugs muffle the sound a bit, but you can feel the engines roar in your bones as they run by the grandstand. And this was just practice.
The brand spanking new Circuit of the Americas (COTA) lived up to its name albeit with a few minor bumps in the road. There's still a lot of dirt without grass and there is not a good way to get from here to there — a tram would be great but for some reason it didn't run on the west side. One volunteer told me they had seen it once all day.
If you happen to care about the people in the suites, and believe me, COTA does, it's bad form to run out of vodka... on Friday... before noon. They found more then ran out again at four. It's also bad form to have 45 minute lines for food. People paying five figures for seats in suites expect better.
No one doubts those Sodexo service issues will get fixed. There are some things you cannot fore-tell without actually getting people in the door.
Here's what worked. The Formula 1 formula for exciting, edge of your seat entertainment is amazing. COTA is amazing. The circuit was nearly full on Friday afternoon with cheering F1 fans and the F1 teams delivered great racing action as the first two practice sessions got underway.
Traffic was not horrendous. Austin police chief Art Acevedo was pleased with his officer's work on the first day. Of course Friday practice, still a work day for most, is not the same as Sunday race day and we'll see what happens then.
Sebastian Vettel turned in the best time of the day, not surprising as he leads in the driver's championship. This was however just practice, a chance for the drivers and the teams to get to know the track, lay down a little rubber and start braking it in. On Saturday things get very serious with afternoon qualifying.
The drivers, international superstars themselves, had nothing but praise for the track. Mark Webber did his obligatory Red Bull appearance for the media on Wednesday. He's been to Austin a few times and has good friends here. He's staying out of town at a Hill Country ranch.
He talked about the challenge of driving for the first time on a brand new circuit. "The biggest thing we need to understand right away is how the tires perform, and then we'll tune things. That'll all be done on Friday night and then we'll fine tune things for ultimate lap times on Saturday afternoon.
"The city knows we're here and they're embracing it. The track looks awesome so all the ingredients are there for a great weekend. The important thing for Austin and Texas and America is to see the longevity of the event. we want to keep Formula 1 here for a long time."
Many of the fans attending the race had been skeptics, maybe fearful of getting their hopes up only to be dashed to the curb. COTA cam close, but on this day, the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix kicked off in awesome, Texas-sized style and the players were impressed.