The Port Arthur News
AUSTIN, TEXAS —
Formula 1 auto racing's return to the United States was a rousing success last weekend as Texas played host to a US Grand Prix that made boots and stetsons the image of the nation for the international viewing audience.
Over 117,000 foreign and national spectators packed into the $300 million built-from-the-ground-up Circuit of the Americas in Austin for the final day of racing. All in all, the Capital City saw an estimated 300,000 people descend on it for a three day event and festival that shut down city streets and made Austin an Olympic-like focal point to viewers in nearly 200 countries.
This race in Texas marks the first one in a deal that will bring the international racing giant to the state once a year for the next decade.
The engines, the music, and the crowd's roar were three things one could take away from the weekend. The 720-horsepower V8 engines running at up to 18,000rpm were deafening as world's most state-of-the-art cars sped through the twenty-turn track.
Before fans' ears succumbed to tinnitus, the Live Music Capital hosts appropriately treated them to performances by Aerosmith, Enrique Iglesias, and a race day national anthem by Clay Walker. The entire University of Texas marching band performed for the hundred thousand plus audience which evoked feelings of a Texas high school football game on steroids.
Detractors of Formula 1 auto racing cite the lack of passing as a reason why they don't watch. Interestingly, Formula 1 is a lot like another internationally popular sport, soccer, in the respect that goals and passes are rare. When they do occur, however, it makes one erupt more passionately which actually adds to their allure.
After staying within striking distance of 2012 F1 Drivers' Champion Sebastian Vettel throughout much of the race, Lewis Hamilton passed him on lap 41 of 56. It was a different kind of crowd roar one normally hears as this one came from thousands of fans situated across 3.4 miles of trackside seats and stands.
F1 brought the world's most renowned racing teams to Austin in Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull, Lotus, and Mercedes. Along with their engineers, pit crews and international journalist following came pre-stylish eyewear and European chain smoking habits. This definitely wasn't NASCAR.
In addition to having been a spectacle like none other seen or held in the state, the USGP was a pivotal event for the sport because it was the second to last race of the 2012 F1 season. As alluded to before, McLaren's Lewis Hamilton made the most critical pass of the race and held on to be the first to the checkered flag.
Also making the winners' podium at second and third place were Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, respectively.
Champagne flowed and sprayed from the podium to the sound of the Carmen Overture as the three drivers were greeted and presented their trophies by Governor Rick Perry and the cowboy hat-donning race ambassador Mario Andretti.
Hamilton may have won but Fernando Alonso's placing at third after starting in seventh position can be seen as the most valiant. Sebastian Vettel only needed 15 points more than Alonso to seal the World Drivers' Championship (the scoring system is 25 points for first place, 18 for second, 15 for third, 12 for fourth, then decremented by 2 points down to ninth place).
Vettel had the upper hand to achieve season victory with pole position but slipped to that second pace finish. Alonso aided by a strong start passed some of the sport's best to grab his spot and keep his championship chase alive.
Austin's race beautifully sets up the final race of the Formula 1 season which is today's Brazilian Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel is now up by 13 points on Alonso so just a solid, clean finish will wrap up the title for him. Fernando Alonso will have to push his car up the field and hope for the best to earn the championship.
The Brazilian Grand Prix will air live on Speed TV today Sunday, Nov. 25th, at 9:30 a.m. Central (the race also re-airs 3:30PM). Tune in to see the season literally go down to the finish line and find out who will be the man to beat when F1 returns in 2013.
David Estrada Jr. is a Mixed Martial Arts and auto racing columnist for the Port Arthur News. He can be e-mailed at DavidEstrada@DavidEstrada.com