I love Formula 1. It is as much about sound as it is about speed. The cars revving in the paddock sound like a roaring monsters about to be unleashed on to the track. It gives me goose bumps every time.
The Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, the home of ‘The Grand Prix of the Americas’, is not only a technically challenging track for the engineers but also tests the driver’s skills. Also and more importantly, from a spectator’s perspective it affords fantastic view of the race from both the grandstands and General Admission (GA) areas. All grand stands allow panoramic views of multiple turns. And unlike Montreal, the GAs are not treated like second-class citizens as most GA areas offers equally good views as the stands. Some seasoned Formula1 fans I spoke to, rated this track higher than most others and that is saying something.
My seat was in Grandstand 9. From here the view was of cars slowing down before Turn 9’s S-bend, then accelerating towards turn 11, called the Apex, making the turn and then flying at top-speed of more than 200mph on the long straight towards turn 12.
From here I saw Red Bull’s Vettel total dominance of the race from the start as he has done all of 2013. The interval between him and 2nd placed Lotus’s Grosjean kept increasing noticeably lap after lap. Even, Force India’s Sutil crashing out on the 5th lap, which brought out the safety car, was a minor hiccup for Vettel and the race’s winner was soon a foregone conclusion.
The fight raged for the 2nd spot, between Red Bull’s Webber and Lotus’ Grosjean but Webber couldn’t execute the move and finished third. We saw other overtaking though, with Force India’s Di Resta using DRS to overtake Toro Rosso’s Ricardo along the straight and Mercedes’s Rosberg then make a move on Di Resta at turn 15.
Keeping true to F1 tradition, fans were allowed on the track after the race, where I got a close up view of the cars and team garages.
As unbeatable as the ‘racing’ experience is at the COTA, the off track experience was a serious let down from Montreal. There were hardly any vendor booths on the circuit besides merchandizing and food. Even the off-track events/concerts at Austin’s downtown were uninteresting. The highlight of the evening was a photo op with Christian Horner the Principle of Red Bull. As it turned out, the real party was at Austin’s original party spot, the 6th street. Now this place was packed! Also, the street food here is amazing too; don’t miss it. I highly recommend the Hallal Boys truck – chicken over rice is to die for.
Where to watch the race:
Grandstand: We experienced the three-day weekend from all Grandstands and all GA spaces. I believe Grandstand 9 has the best seats in the house and is value for money. From here, as I said above, you see slow turns, accelerations and high speed over taking. Plus the Sun is on your back entire time. Grandstand 12 seats have views of the straight and Turn 15 but the Sun is glaring in your eyes the whole time. Grandstand 15 is a premium stand & therefore expensive but I would rate the view as descent. Here the cars are really slow as they go thru the W-shared turns and don’t pickup much speed, which for me is what F1 is all about. Grandstand 1 is premium too. From here the starting grid and sprint uphill towards turn 1 and 2 are seen. This is a great spot. Grandstand 4 offers fantastic view of high-speed turns along turns 4-6.
General Admission: All GA have wonderful & unique views of the actions and picking one over the other is difficult. GA at turn 11 (Apex) and 1 were especially crowded. I enjoyed Turns 4 – the high speed S-Turns and Turn 18 where I was closest to the cars. Both those spots are great for taking pictures too. The trickiest turn 19 is reserved only for GA; there are no stands here.
In a uniquely America style, this track has RV parking along the long-straight. People had put up tents on top of their RVs while others had built towers. I believe this is truly American way of watching F1.