It's that kind of beautiful day that Central Texas so often serves up in the fall: blue, cloudless skies; a slight chill to the air, offset by brilliant sunshine; and the whine of high-speed motor racing. Actually, the last is not usual–today is the first running of the United States Grand Prix in Elroy, Texas, at Formula 1's newest venue, the Circuit of The Americas.
It's been a race to get the track finished, and CoTA pulled out some miracles in the last 24 hours. New roadway signs materialized overnight, fences were finished, construction materials and equipment cleared away. Finishing touches were put on public areas, such as hundreds of potted plants. The iconic CoTA tower is beautiful when it's lit at night, acting as a beacon across the flat pasture landscape. It's still not 100 percent finished–there are dirt parking lots, areas on the grounds that lack finishing. But to look at the TV coverage, the stands and the track areas are ready to race. And racing they are: the first practice laps have been completed, with Lewis Hamilton (who recently announced he's moving from McLaren in 2013 to drive for Mercedes) holding the best lap at 1:39.543. Here at Austin Fit Magazine, we've developed an interest in the Williams F1 Team due to their Texas ties with the Michael Johnson Performance Center in McKinney, Texas (you can read about this connection in AFM's 2012 July issue). Over race weekend, AFM will update our coverage of the Williams F1 Teams' physical training as well as follow what's happening at CoTA.
Right now, what you need to know is that you'll need to wear some comfortable walking shoes. Even with shuttles running around the perimeter, there's a fair amount of walking to get from place to place. That doesn't mean fashion goes by the wayside–think "Austin chic." Skinny jeans and riding boots with smart jackets and scarves have been widely spotted, as well as tights and cowboy boots. If you're planning to knock'em dead with your Jimmy Choos, slip a pair of Pumas in the bag for the trek through the parking lot and change once you're within the venue.
Earplugs are a must. There's nothing quite like the sound of an F1 engine roaring out of the pit. While the decibel level is okay at first, after 20-30 minutes of non-stop sound, you'll welcome the earplugs. Plus, your hearing will thank you in the long run.
Traffic in the early morning was better than expected. There have been modifications to several lanes (for example: there are now two left-turn lanes from 183 onto FM 812. Where the bottleneck can (and will) occur is at the intersection of 130 and FM 812. Expect a confusing array of traffic cones with sheriff-directed turns. All the traffic funnels down FM 812, which has been converted to three lanes heading into CoTA Avenue. While travel time wasn't bad at 8 a.m., it will only get worse throughout the day as spectators flood in for the following practice laps.