Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Keep Austin weird // A first-time F1 visitor at a first-time race at the Circuit of the Americas

Published by Christopher Wheelahan

An artistic shot from the foot of the tower
Credit: Christopher Wheelahan

It’s been several days since my first Grand Prix, and we've just had Thanksgiving here in the US of A. It’s taken me a bit to really process everything that I experienced that weekend and, candidly I think the best way to do sum it up would be to say a few quick words and show a few pictures. Here goes…

Austin is just a fantastic city. It’s full of hipsters and weirdos and people willing to get excited and have a music festival for just about anything… or nothing. I spent some time in Austin after Hurricane Katrina, so I was at least a little familiar with the area, but not overly so. I only spent a few weeks there. That being said, it was amazing to see how the city totally transformed itself for the race without losing its own identity.

The Austin FanFest was just awesome. The city essentially closed the nightlife area of downtown to traffic and started a big music and F1 festival. At one point we could literally watch three concerts at the same time: one in a parking lot, one two blocks to our left and another three blocks to our right. And these were real concerts with stages and gantries and A/V techs. Austin can’t even do an airport coffee bar without live music.

Why yes, yes this is the largest BBQ grill in the world
Why yes, yes this is the largest BBQ grill in the worldCredit: Christopher Wheelahan
One of the many simulators at Austin FanFest
One of the many simulators at Austin FanFestCredit: Christopher Wheelahan
Austin’s burgeoning cocktail culture - nothing like an absinthe cocktail or two
Austin’s burgeoning cocktail culture - nothing like an absinthe cocktail or twoCredit: Christopher Wheelahan
The Texas Capitol building – like the US capitol building, only radioactive
The Texas Capitol building – like the US capitol building, only radioactiveCredit: Christopher Wheelahan

The city is a perfect size for a Grand Prix. Just about one million people make it so that everyone knows it’s happening and it’s not just another thing going on. The city really made an effort to contribute, and learn about the sport. I couldn’t seem to walk more than a block without someone asking if I was at the race and who won. Most of them even knew a few of the drivers.

From strange, dancing weirdos at the Fiat display downtown to the cabbies taking us to and from the airport, everyone made an effort to contribute, and more importantly, made sure that everyone had a good time. Austinites are proud of their city. Almost every conversation started with “How did you like the track? How did you enjoy Austin?” and ended with “Well we hope you come back soon.” I’m surprised nobody asked if there was anything they could do to improve the experience, like a hotel concierge would.

The Vintage Grand Prix featured cars from the early 1970’s to the early 1980’s
The Vintage Grand Prix featured cars from the early 1970’s to the early 1980’sCredit: Christopher Wheelahan
Kimi’s almost smiling. He’s also staring into your soul. You need scalp protection
Kimi’s almost smiling. He’s also staring into your soul. You need scalp protectionCredit: Christopher Wheelahan
Those waiting for Big-Rig BBQ found themselves in a… thorny situation
Those waiting for Big-Rig BBQ found themselves in a… thorny situationCredit: Christopher Wheelahan
The tower as seen from the infield
The tower as seen from the infieldCredit: Christopher Wheelahan

A few final thoughts and some crucial lessons I learned last weekend.

  1. Central Texas is exactly as dry and dusty as you would imagine. Bring a damp bandana.
  2. Of course you can get sunburned in November. It's Texas.
  3. Stay hydrated. You'll be miserable otherwise.
  4. Bring cash. Lots of cash.
  5. Make all decisions based on the shortest line. You'll be happier that way.

If you haven’t ever been to a Grand Prix, go. It was truly a spectacular time. And if you’re ever going to one at the Circuit of the Americas, give me a shout. I expect I will be there for many Grands Prix to come.