Formula 1

US Grand Prix Recap

Race Day–and a spell without rain

This one is a bit late, and it will be slightly different than the rest because I was at the race. I’m sure it was pandemonium for those trying to watch it on TV with the delays, cancellations, and reschedules. But it was a very entertaining race, largely thanks to the track conditions, and Hamilton managed to pull off securing the win, and his 3rd world championship.

So instead of recapping the race, I’m recapping the trip because this was the 4th time I’ve been to the US GP and I’ve never experienced anything like it. Absolute craziness.

I live in the Dallas area and the trip to Austin is supposed to be about 3 hours, give or take, by car. We left in the morning, thinking we’d miss Dallas traffic, stop for lunch, and get to Austin before afternoon traffic. Well all the rain you might have seen on TV was sprawled across the state, so we got to drive down in it. There were parts where I could barely see past the hood/bonnet of my car and other times where it was more like a drizzle.

Then the fun part happened when, probably due to the rain, a wreck in Temple, TX forced a shut down of the entire highway. We were parked in traffic with no where to go, thanks to perpetual construction of said highway. There were people parking their cars to get out and stretch their legs or just take a look to see if they could see the problem ahead. We ended up being forced off onto a loop and thanks to sat nav, we found a back way to our final destination.

The drive ended up taking 7 hours, plus 30 minutes from when we stopped for lunch.

But then it was Eddie V’s for dinner in downtown Austin. The first year we went, we happened to eat there and met Lewis Hamilton. So we’ve gone there every year since, hoping for more F1 sightings. This year did not disappoint–Hamilton once again, but definitely topped by meeting the legend, Niki Lauda. He was very kind to take a picture with us.

Niki freaking Lauda
Niki freaking Lauda!!!

And then Saturday happened. We originally left for the track around 9 am only to be alerted they closed the track until noon. So were searched in vain for rain boots, came up empty, and then headed back out when their website they were encouraging fans to come out. Parking was an absolute mess (we were supposed to have a specific area of the lot, but were funneled through with everyone) and walking to the track, little rivers flowing through, and there was just an acceptance that my shoes and pants would be in dire need of washing when I got to a dry place.

There were people walking back as we walked toward the track saying they’d closed it again. I checked their website and twitter account–both said they were open so we pressed on. When we got there, attendants were letting people through without checking much. We found a tented area by our seats and took refuge. We watched the video board in hopes of seeing an update, but only showed qualifying would be delayed by 30 minutes, then 30 more, then 30 more. We started wondering if we’d even be able to leave the muddy, sloshy parking lot, with rain not letting up at all, so we left without seeing any cars. Qualifying, of course, had been cancelled and rescheduled for 9:00 the next morning.

That’s a 24 le Mans hat, not a Jeff Gordon one. Just so we’re clear.

Sunday morning, we were ready to leave by 6:30 am. Having checked for updates several times, we discovered many of the parking lots had been closed and many were “encouraged” to take the downtown shuttle instead. Having a car and not an SUV or truck, we decided for the sake of the car we’d take their advice. No one said anything about having to pay for parking to get on the bus, which I’m sure irritated a lot of people (us included), then there was another line to trade parking passes in for wrist bands, and a final line to get on one of the busses. Lots of standing in line in the rain.

Finally we got on a bus and made our way to the track. It was a scramble to get to our cold, rainy seats before the 9:00 am qualifying because today, no matter how much attendants didn’t want to, they were checking bags and scanning tickets… only to see it was delayed but only by a few minutes. We sat out in the elements, anxious to finally see some action. Q1, then Q2, then a delay for Q3, which was eventually cancelled leaving times set in Q2 to set the grid.

Rain was getting a bit lighter, and we drained our phone batteries checking for weather updates. My husband’s boss (who is awesome) gave us some extra tickets he had that allowed us access to a VIP tent at Turn 17 (yes, right where Rosberg went off, handing Hamilton the race) so we hung out there to stuff our faces with food and drink until the race started.

The race itself was excellent. Started only 5 minutes late–the rain had stopped but the track was still wet, requiring intermediate tires on the grid. Virtual Safety Cars, actual safety cars, passing, griping over the radio, some serious luck on pit stops, and it was so much fun to watch.

We stayed for the podium ceremony and interviews, then made our way to the line for the shuttle. We didn’t take into consideration that people came out to the track in waves but would mostly leave at the same time. That line was like nothing I’d ever seen–I wish I was exaggerating when I think it was a mile long. It took an hour just to get on a bus, but we developed a comradely with our neighbors in line and it was nice to see the crowd ban together when jerks tried to cut in line. Sure a few had no shame and got away with it, but for the most part the crowd shamed people into waiting like everyone else. Race fans are usually pretty good about keeping things fair, and I’ve always liked that.

Another 40 minute drive to get back to our car, which stayed safely in covered parking. After seeing some of the cars in the parking lots stuck and some up to the doors in water/mud, the hassle of the bus was still worth it. We got home, showered and basically collapsed for the night.

I loved every minute of it. I’m probably a little bit crazy, but I’d sit through a hurricane to watch some great racing.

I have to say a huge thank you to my in-laws for letting us stay with them as well as taking care of the kids while we played in the mud. One day I can’t wait to take the kids to a race, but they’re still young and it was just too long of a day, at least for our kids. Everyone’s different, but they wouldn’t have handled this well. Instead, they stayed dry and were spoiled by their wonderful grandparents.

This was by far the craziest USGP of the four in the books. I’m grateful to have been in attendance for each one, and I’m grateful to have been present for F1 history at this year’s race.

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