Tuesday, November 20, 2012

2012 United States Grand Prix Thoughts

John Marine | 11/20/2012 03:27:00 PM | | | |
The weekend of November 15-18, 2012 saw Formula 1 return to the United States at the new Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, USA. The event was met with fanfare from many celebrities as well as many athletes. The University of Texas marching band performed along with Clay Walker singing the Star-Spangled Banner. While all the fanfare was nice and everything, the REAL action happened when Formula 1 raced around on the 3.427-mile (5.515-kilometer) Circuit of the Americas. COTA was raced in anger with the cars and stars of today's Formula 1 World Championship. This blog post concerns my thoughts of this weekend of F1 racing- the first weekend of F1 racing in the United States since the last US Grand Prix at Indianapolis in 2007.

--- 2012 US Grand Prix Thoughts ---

I would like to look at this event from a number of perspectives. I will not focus on the race itself, but more about various elements related to this race. Here is a picture to help showcase the race:

2012 United States Grand Prix
^ from: rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com (best picture I could find; click to view article) - This was the start of the 2012 United States Grand Prix as the cars headed into Turn 1.

General Thoughts.

It was one of those "pinch me... is this real?" moments. I never thought Formula 1 would return to the United States with a completely modern racing facility. Scariest of all- this world-class circuit being located here in my home state of Texas. Being here in Houston, Austin is hours west of Houston. I've been to San Antonio before (never been through the whole city), but I've NEVER been to Austin. Just to know that Central Texas is home to a world-class modern racing facility is amazing to me. I would be even more irked if such a world-class racing facility was built here in the Houston area. There were once two planned big time race tracks to be built within range of Houston. Both of which, either canceled or very slow in development. Only proper quality track is Houston Motorsports Park.

So that leads to the next thing I'm pondering about Circuit of the Americas...

Why Austin?

This was a clever question asked by one website. For one thing, I think this is good that Austin- the capital of Texas- got this track. I usually get jaded that all the money and fame go to the New York City area or the Los Angeles area. Speaking as a native Texan, I even feel proud that it isn't just Dallas-Fort Worth that gets more fame. While I've never been to Austin, I know Austin well for two things: University of Texas Longhorns athletics and the SXSW (South by Southwest) concert. Austin is very much a happening city.

I think Austin is a great location for two reasons. First off, think of the track namesake- Circuit of the AMERICAS. Not America- but THE Americas. I like to think of it as meaning the United States of America as well as Latin America. COTA's location in Austin makes it sort of an ideal hub for racing in the United States as well as being a quality racing venue to those from Mexico as well as the rest of Central America and even South America. Second, Austin doesn't have too much in terms of any pro-style sports or sporting functions. Austin is essentially a small-market sports city. It isn't like Houston and Dallas with more than one pro sports team. Austin is actually in the same boat as San Antonio as small-market sports cities, and even San Antonio has a pro sports team- the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA (sworn enemy of my Houston Rockets). So to have some kind of proper sporting venue for a city that may never have any pro sports franchise in any of the major American sporting leagues is a huge bonus for Austin.

In addition, Texas itself is a unique place. We are called "The Lone Star State" for a reason. Texas used to be its own country in its history before becoming the 28th State admitted to the Union. Flags are even held at half-mast in the wake of some sort of memorial or tragic event (such as September 11th). Some people even today think Texas should secede from the Union. This alone adds to the appeal of such a race track being put in this location.

These are among many reasons why Austin is such an interesting fit for this track.

The Track.

The Circuit of the Americas can only be described in a few words- fabulous and distinctive. It has all the features of a modern track worthy of hosting a Formula 1 Grand Prix, but it is also distinctive in nature and in layout. This is a European-style racing track deep in the heart of Texas. You HAVE to see the various helicopter views of Circuit of the Americas. The view of the first corner from above is totally fabulous. You seem to be tempted to dive into deep into the absolute apex of the first corner. It's so wide, but also blind as you go uphill. My favorite view hands-down has to the Esses. Part of me still fancies the Esses at Road Atlanta more than the Esses at COTA, but this section looks amazing. The track flows very nicely and is very challenging. This is a fabulous race track.

This track layout has elements of Suzuka, Istanbul Park, and Magny-Cours. Everything is super modern with many painted sections. However, it isn't an asphalt canvas like the Paul Ricard Circuit in France (which I blogged about before). A smattering of red, white, and blue painted sections accentuate Circuit of the Americas. It all looks awesome, especially when you see the Esses.

The most notable feature of Circuit of the Americas is the large tower that overlooks the circuit. I heard that the ones who created this track's tower has had people from other tracks want to create some similar towers for other racing venues. So is it safe to call this track a trendsetter?

The Grand Prix Itself.

REMEMBER: This section is NOT a review of the race. It is a general overview of the on-track action.

When the lights went out and when the cars launched from their grid positions, the world got its opportunity to see Formula 1's current roster of drivers challenge the 3.4-mile Circuit of the Americas. The action and drama were intense, as they usually are in Formula 1 racing. I saw lots of intense racing as well as near-perfect mastery of racing COTA. As I said before, this track is very much a European-style racing course here in Texas. The fans greatly embraced this course as well as the race weekend. It was amazing to watch all of this come together in my home state. In fact, part of me feels a bit miffed that I wasn't in Austin seeing the race live and in person. The top three finishers all had some sweet-looking Stetson cowboy hats. I guess it's all about having that Texas feel considering there is not one current American driver who raced in the 2012 US Grand Prix.

Even the Speed Channel commentary crew of Bob Varsha, David Hobbs, Steve Matchett, and Will Buxton (all four of which I vastly respect) had a good time talking about the race, even using loads of Texas clichés for the race. Those guys do a great job. Will Buxton even had himself all dressed up cowboy style with cowboy boots, a good belt buckle, cowboy hat, and all. Interviewing the winners was the 1978 F1 World Champion- Mario Andretti.

The entire event was just magical.

--- Circuit of the Americas ---

Before I begin, if anyone of or representing Circuit of the Americas is reading this post, I want to send a special hello to you.

This track is a fabulous one with all the action that has happened at Circuit of the Americas. I want to take this opportunity to discuss what I want for the future of COTA. So here goes...


Series such as MotoGP and the Australian V8 Supercar Series have been told to race at Circuit of the Americas in the future. I wonder how motorcycles would fare around COTA. It will surely be interesting to see how motorcycles would take on this track. I also wonder if any certain modifications will have to be made to allow for safer racing for motorcycles going around the full layout. I'd be interested seeing this track being raced on by AMA Pro Road Racing, World Superbike, and (of course) MotoGP. The only long shot would be if the FIM Endurance World Championship would want to do an endurance race around COTA. More on endurance racing later in this section.

MotoGP races at COTA on the weekend of April 19-21, 2012.

Australian V8 Supercar Series.

The Australian V8 Supercar Series will visit COTA in May 2013. I once blogged about the Australian V8 Supercars, and if you don't know what kind of action these Aussie brutes bring, you're in for a treat. These drivers battle as hard as NASCAR usually does. Those cars make sweet engine music when driven in anger. Racing is going to be intense in Austin. I just wonder if Marcos Ambrose wants to hook back up with his fellow V8 Supercar mates for that race weekend apart from his NASCAR duties.

Considering this race will be in May, that means the brutal Texas heat could be a factor for the V8 Supercar drivers.

Touring Car Racing.

This relates to touring car racing besides V8 Supercars. I am thinking more along the lines of series like World Challenge all the way up to the FIA World Touring Car Championship. I'm not sure if drivers would prefer the full layout or any shorter layout around Circuit of the Americas.

GT, Sportscar, and Endurance Racing.

A track this competitive would be very interesting to have an endurance race be held in Texas. How about we have a little Le Mans Series-style fun around Circuit of the Americas? Set up a 1000km race with some of the world's finest sportscar racers and sportscar racing teams around COTA. Maybe install some tall flood lights to make it great to see be raced at night. I would SURELY love to see some of today's finest sportscar racing teams and drivers take on Circuit of the Americas in endurance racing competition. Can you imagine the Audi vs. Toyota battle at COTA as day becomes evening and evening becomes night? Don't forget about the intense GT battles as well. You know Porsches, Ferraris, and the like will mix it up as fiercely as the prototype drivers do.

Of course, I also want to see the American Le Mans Series and Grand-Am Road Racing Association make their rounds around COTA. Since both series will be merging in the near future, it will be great to see American sportscar racing around this great track.

Other Racing?

These are just random musings...

• Just for fun, I want to see NASCAR's top three series have a one-off race event around Circuit of the Americas. Let's see how America's premier category of motorsport does around a track like this.

• I also want to imagine maybe the SCCA Runoffs happen at COTA. Having quality amateur and professional drivers race on a world-class international racing facility like COTA will certainly be great to see. I'd want to see the various open-wheel and closed-wheel racing classes of SCCA racing take their turn around COTA.

• V8 Supercars will race at COTA in the future. However, I want to imagine Germany's DTM (Deutche Tourenwagen Masters) running circuits around COTA. What would REALLY be cool is a one-off DTM vs. V8 Supercar challenge. Maybe they settle the score in Austin!

Final Thoughts on Circuit of the Americas.

I've described Circuit of the Americas as a fabulous racing facility. This is a modern international race track that will serve as a great race track for years (and perhaps decades) to come for American motorsport as well as various other international motorsport leagues. I think fans in America and worldwide have embraced this track- and for good reason. Whoever would have thought such a track would be set up here in my home state of Texas? This alone is even more reason for me to be excited for this track. And for the record, I still feel the least bit surreal a track like this is even here in Texas, especially three or so hours west of my hometown of Houston. Since Texas is a gridiron football state, and since Austin is home to the University of Texas Longhorns athletics; it is safe to say that Circuit of the Americas has scored a major touchdown for bringing world-class motorsports to not only America, but to the great state of Texas. Give the Game Ball to everyone who helped engineer and create Circuit of the Americas as well as aggressively promote this circuit and racing at COTA. If this year's action was great, it will be even better in the years to come.

The slogan for Austin is "Keep Austin Weird." Well, Austin got even weirder with this great race track and this amazing race.

That concludes this blog post. What were your impressions of the 2012 United States Grand Prix? Get social with Circuit of the Americas and the Austin Grand Prix:

Circuit of the Americas official page
COTA on Facebook
Follow Circuit of the Americas on Twitter!
Austin Grand Prix
Austin Grand Prix on Facebook
Follow Austin Grand Prix on Twitter!
Austin Grand Prix on YouTube

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John Marine said...

This is so cool! I love race cars. Unfortunately, we don't have anything like that here but I'm definitely hoping to check out races when I'm in the US.


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