Racing to Town

How Circuit of the Americas brings racing fans to Austin again and again

by Avery Tanner
formula 1, circuit of the americas, united states grand prix, bruno mars, Britney spears, austin, atx, austin360 amphitheater
Photograph by Florent Dechard of Bruno Mars performing on the Austin360 Amphitheater stage.

One weekend every year, racing fans flock to Austin for the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix. But what the heck is Formula 1 anyway?

Formula 1 is a type of car racing that features single-seat vehicles traveling at record speeds around a track. Although Europeans make up most of the sport’s fan base, it is becoming more and more popular in the United States thanks to its expansion and the ever-growing status of drivers.

formula 1, circuit of the americas, united states grand prix, bruno mars, Britney spears, austin, atx, austin360 amphitheater

Thousands of racing fans gather at the Circuit of the Americas’ track annually. Photograph by Earl McGehee, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Austin is home to Circuit of the Americas, or COTA. First proposed in 2010 and finally finished in 2012, COTA was built specifically for the sport of Formula 1 racing. COTA holds the United States Grand Prix every year. Held last month over the weekend of October 19, this event is the only Formula 1 race in America, making it a unique and attractive event for fans. The 3.41-mile race track provides a perfect venue for the drivers and their state-of-the art cars.

formula 1, circuit of the americas, united states grand prix, bruno mars, Britney spears, austin, atx, austin360 amphitheater

The world-renowned track was built in 2012 and is now host to the United States Grand Prix. Photograph by Glenn Dunbar.

F1 racing uses a point system for both drivers and the constructors of the vehicles to determine a winner. Points from each race of the F1 season ultimately determine the World Champion driver and constructor. The races are multi-day events due to the customary practice sessions, one Friday and one Saturday. Following the practice sessions, drivers participate in a qualifying race to determine the starting order for the race, which occurs Sunday.

formula 1, circuit of the americas, united states grand prix, bruno mars, Britney spears, austin, atx, austin360 amphitheater

The world’s most iconic cars have graced the COTA track since it opened. Photograph by Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 3.0

This year’s U.S. Grand Prix Champion was Kimi Räikkönen, who garnered 25 points. Lewis Hamilton, who is quite possibly the best-known F1 driver today, came in third with 15 points. Hamilton currently holds the top spot in the rankings, with just two Grand Prix races left in the 2018 season.

formula 1, circuit of the americas, united states grand prix, bruno mars, Britney spears, austin, atx, austin360 amphitheater

Photograph of Britney Spears performing by Ted Parker for Circuit of The Americas.

The U.S. Grand Prix is not only a weekend full of racing, but a weekend full of music. Each year, some of the brightest names in music play at the Austin360 Amphitheater, located at COTA. Last year, it was Justin Timberlake and Stevie Wonder. The year before, Taylor Swift and Usher.

This year, Bruno Mars and Britney Spears came to town. Mars brought his signature groove to Austin with a set full of hits – and plenty of dancing. Spears proved her status as a true pop star with her energetic performance of the songs we all know and love.

The Grand Prix will return to COTA in 2019, sure to keep fans coming back to Austin for an exhilarating race and epic concerts.


Read More From the Arts Issue | November 2018


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