US Grand Prix – The Good
We made it from our hotel in San Antonio to the Circuit of the Americas, home of the US Grand Prix, in about 1:20, which wasn’t too bad at all. Traffic moves along pretty quickly, and when we exited the toll road it was a breeze to get to our parking area. Parking in Lot L was quick and easy, and there as an entry gate just a few minutes walk away at Turn 11. Great start to the day. Even better were the sight lines from the south side of the track. I’d almost call this a ‘stadium course’. There are plenty of amphitheaters – natural or man-made I don’t know, but I’d suspect man-made – from which to watch the action or take pictures that aren’t obstructed even by fencing. As I walked along from the hairpin at Turn 11 to the esses at Turn 4, it occurred to me that a general admission ticket might be a damn good deal here, especially once they have some grass grown around the track.
Our seats at Turn 4 are pretty good; we can see cars as they come out of Turn 2 all the way to the Turn 5/6 complex. It seems like a pretty technical area of the track that could be important in qualifying, but we won’t see much passing. Watching the cars scream by with multiple high speed direction changes is a pretty awesome sight. Previously I said it might be something like Suzuka, but I’ve also seen it compared to Maggotts/Becketts at Silverstone, and I think that’s a better comparison. If I had to do it over again, I’d pick the Turn 9 grandstands, which, depending upon where you sit, will have a view from the exit of Turn 6 all the way to the exit of Turn 11 down the long back straight. Note for next time.
My overall impression of the track and facilities is that it’s quite spectacular. Not Abu Dhabi, mind you, but considering this place was a field of dirt a year ago and the US Grand Prix was in doubt multiple times, the people who had a hand in building this place deserve a big round of applause. We’ll see how it holds up with qualification crowds tomorrow and the race crowd on Sunday.
US Grand Prix – The Practice
Surprise, surprise, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time in both P1 and P2. Most impressive was the fact that he sat in the garage for almost an hour of P2 as the team dealt with a water system issue. Vettel’s teammate, Mark Webber, was at the top of the time sheets for most of P2 until Vettel came back out and gapped the field by 3/4 of a second. Until then, Vettel’s rival for the championship, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was very close behind Webber and looking quite strong. At the end of P2, the top five looked like this:
- Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:37.718
- Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:38.475 (+ 0.757)
- Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:38.483 (+ 0.765)
- Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:38.748 (+ 1.030)
- Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:38.786 (+ 1.068)
US Grand Prix – The Not So Good
I needed to make a call after P2, so out to the parking lot I headed for some quiet. Unfortunately, the mobile signal coverage at the Circuit of the Americas leaves something to be desired – at least with AT&T’s network. So I let the exit crowd subside a bit, and then I set off in my car to find civilization. Getting out of and away from the track was surprisingly quick, and within a few minutes I was in the parking lot of a small strip mall making my call. When I finished, there was still 20 minutes until the start of GT3 practice, so I decided to head back in, figuring it would be pretty quiet by then. Well, to clear the area, most roads are one way traffic outbound, so I had to take ‘the long way’ back to the same place where I entered originally. No problem so far, but by now, the GT3 cars were already on track. I couldn’t get back to my designated parking area, because that road was outbound only as well. After more fighting of temporary one way roads going the wrong way, I found a place to park just in time to see the GT3s exiting the track. Oh well.
Now for the worst part. After all the track activity was done, getting away from the area was a real problem. After about an hour and a half, I was still within sight of the Austin Airport, and any road heading toward Austin was jammed, so about face and back to San Antonio, from where I write this update while enjoying a Shiner Wild Hare Pale Ale…