It feels amazingly quiet right now; the high-pitched drone of cars has completely ceased. Today's Formula 1 practice sessions have ended here at Circuit of The Americas.
Feedback from the drivers is starting to trickle in. Fernando Alonso (Scuderia Ferrari) had this to say about the circuit: "A nice surprise, even if we had an idea of what to expect from the simulator; it's very demanding, especially the first sector which is very fast and where you can really feel the acceleration of a Formula 1 car. The track is very smooth and not at all porous; it reminds me a lot of Portimao in Portugal, so if it was to rain, it could be like driving on glass." (Good news: according to KXAN, the rain that had appeared in forecasts for Sunday has turned into a chance of sprinkles. Considering the state of the "grass," that's a good thing for everybody with a seat on the berm, too. With a real rain, CoTA could be a sea of mud.) Alonso is in third position after both practice sessions with a time of 1:40.337 for the first session and 1:38.483 for the second.
Charles Pic (Marussia), who made his F1 debut just this year, felt "it has been a very interesting day, driving here at the Circuit of The Americas for the first time. It was very close to the simulation work we have done, which is always encouraging. I like it a lot; the first sector in particular is quite exciting to drive. This morning the track was so slippery that we just had to focus on getting to know the layout and finding more grip, as both were key to improving the lap time. We made steady improvement and it was pleasing to finish the session ahead of both Caterhams. This afternoon we had a lot of work to do to get the tires working and this was our focus with different fuel levels. Tomorrow will provide us with a clearer picture, but I'm quite happy with the first day here."
Saturday starts bright and early with team pit stop practice at 7 a.m. and qualifying session for the Ferrari Challenge at 7:45 a.m. The third practice session kicks off at 9 a.m., with the qualifying session (this is what determines pole positions for Sunday) at noon. The day ends with a race (14 laps or 30 minutes, whichever is reached first) at 3:20 p.m. In between races will be music by Collective Soul (for complete schedule information, go here).
Expect that traffic into the venue will pick up tomorrow. Today was a bit sleepy, a nice warm-up to the fan flood that is to come over the next two days. Do take advantage of the shuttles; plan to walk once you're here; peruse the sight map before you come; be prepared to soak up the ambiance and take your time between races. And bring some cash–food is expense. Lines are long for fan gear, so look for that online if you hate to wait and don't need instant gratification.
It will be fun to see what downtown Austin is like tonight, as the international three-night party that is Formula 1 Fan Fest kicks off. Yes, there are some big concerts in town that required buying a ticket, but there's a wide variety of free entertainment going on downtown. And if it's anything like actually being at the races, the people watching will be fabulous.