Fan Recap with Race Results
Race action highlights included Lewis Hamilton winning the race with Sebastian Vettel in a close second. Some great on-track action was given to fans with the Mercedes and the Ferrari battling it out at the start and then later during pit stop rotations. During the closing few corners of the grand prix, Max Verstappen was able to maneuver past Kimi Raikkonen to take third place. However, Verstappen exceeded track limits and was immediately given a 5 second time penalty that relegated him to 4th. Overall an exciting race to watch and not the sometimes snoozefest of other F1 races.
The United States Grand Prix brings excitement to fans, both on track and after the racing is done for the day. Several support races in 2017 at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) on the F1 weekend. There was FIA Formula 4, a feeder series for open wheel racing, and the Masters Historic Racing, which is comprised of classic Formula 1 race cars from the years of 1966 to 1985. Two wonderful open-wheel series that provide huge levels of car eye candy and racing action. But, the fun and entertainment were not just on the track!
Double Header Fan Entertainment
The USGP race weekend had big entertainment names on the roster. First, Justin Timberlake performed Saturday night after the F1 qualifying session. The concert was relatively brief, but JT didn’t underwhelm. Then on Sunday night following the GP, Stevie Wonder performed and entertained as he always does so well. As an added bonus at the track COTA erected a Fan Zone with a Ferris wheel and activities for the whole family. But, what appealed to me as a huge fan was the easy access to food and beverages along with little wait times for the bathroom. COTA does a good job of making sure the race fan has a good experience. Not everything is always smooth like butter, but I sincerely feel this track listens to fans and makes changes quickly to improve the fan experience.
I realized the true willingness to improve the fan experience by Circuit of the Americas when traveling to other Formula 1 races and other racing events in general. One big aspect that stood out to me at COTA is the ability to circumvent the entire track. As a fan, one can walk around the entire perimeter of the track with little areas off limits. This was quite the contrast to the F1 race at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City. I attended last year and was limited to a small area of the track inside the baseball complex. The food and beverage options were extremely limited and the entertainment off-track was nill. The two track experiences were night and day contrast. This is why I will recommend a COTA visit over another track.
No Downtown Austin Fan Zone
One thing that was missing for me was the absence of the downtown Austin Fan Zone Experience. It seemed like there was an attempt to be replicated on site at COTA with the Fan Zone and the two big name concerts, but it fell short in my opinion. Having F1 and all the circus and circumstance around it in the heart of Austin made me feel welcome as a race fan. To me having the downtown entertainment brought the entire race weekend from the track into the heart of the city. This only improved the experience for me as a fan. My hopes are that the City of Austin, Circuit of the Americas, and Liberty Media can come to a huge compromise and throw the ultimate Formula weekend party that encompasses COTA and downtown Austin.
This weekend in Austin saw Mercedes take the 2017 Manufacturers Championship, but left the Drivers Championship still alive. It will be difficult for Ferrari’s Vettel to make up the points deficit to beat Hamilton, but that’s why we are race fans and watch the events. COTA’s Fan Experience was fantastic and I hope that downtown Austin can be more assimilated into the F1 weekend festivities in the future. Having Austin in the middle of the F1 mix made it a “bigger” event to me. However, all-in-all, the USGP weekend did not disappoint in the least.