We returned to Austin last year to attend the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas (we last visited the race during its inaugural race in 2012).
I flew to Austin on Wednesday, and thanks to following F1 on NBC Sports on Twitter, I managed to meet Manor F1 Driver Alexander Rossi shortly after landing! I rushed over to the food truck court while he was filming a segment for the show, “Off the Grid.” You can read more about my experience here.
We were staying with my sister outside of Austin, so drove downtown on Thursday to walk around, visit the Circuit of the Americas Fan Fest and then later that night attend Will Buxton’s Big Time Bash at the Rattle Inn. We parked close to the Rattle Inn, since that would be our last stop of the night. As a huge fan of Topo Chico water, Dave was thrilled to see this Topo Chico mural on the side of the their building and had to take a picture.
Sidebar: Topo Chico water is carbonated mineral water from Mexico. My sister and her husband introduced Dave to it a few years ago, and he is hooked. Topo Chico is only gradually entering the market in Los Angeles, so it has been difficult for us to find. It is everywhere in Austin – you can even order it at bars! Needless to say, Dave was in heaven – we were in Austin to watch Formula 1 AND he could drink as much Topo Chico as he wanted.
Aryton Senna Exhibit
While walking around the city, we discovered this exhibit on famed Formula 1 multi-World Championship driver Aryton Senna. It was a small exhibit, but featured some of his race suits, helmets and wings from the cars he drove in Formula 1.
Circuit of the Americas Fan Fest
After enjoying the Senna exhibit, we headed to the COTA Fan Fest on Rainey Street. The Fan Fest is free, and listed an impressive line-up of musical acts including Public Enemy and Trombone Shorty, but since we were there to see the race, we did not stay to watch them. We knew we would be tired walking around the track on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so we decided to focus on being well-rested. That being said, the Fan Fest provides entertainment for the serious and casual race fan, and excellent live music.
The skies were threatening rain, but we walked into the enclosed area and explored some of the food and drink booths. Not surprisingly, Topo Chico was there!
We had to have our picture taken in the Topo Chico photo booth, and we took home a Topo Chico poster (Dave is that obsessed with this water that he wants a poster!).
There was an Illy coffee truck, which was exciting for me since I love Italian coffee.
On the main stage, later in the evening the musical acts were set to perform. First though, our main focus was hearing Formula 1 drivers interviewed.
I really enjoyed this as we usually only hear the drivers interviewed on TV immediately after qualifying sessions or the race, and this informal interview, with four drivers at the same time, allowed us to hear their personalities more. I was thrilled that my favorite driver Felipe Massa was on the panel – he is quite funny! Joining Felipe was his Williams Martini Racing teammate Valtteri Bottas, Ferrari Reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez, and Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg. There were rumors swirling that Gutierrez would be announced as a driver for the new Haas Formula 1 team, and while he was asked about that, Gutierrez artfully dodged that question (and he was indeed announced as one of Haas’ drivers the following week).
I remember Felipe Massa teasing Gutierrez about having a long conversation with Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen (Kimi is notorious for being a man of few words).
The interviews continued, but we wanted to make it back to the Rattle Inn for the Will Buxton event. We quickly jumped in an Uber (sadly ride-sharing car services Uber and Lyft are no longer allowed in Austin), and made it over to the Rattle Inn just in time to see…
Esteban Gutierrez and Felipe Massa on stage with the evening’s host, NBC Sports’ Will Buxton!
There was a suggested donation to join the party as Will and organizer Austin Grand Prix were raising money for Austin’s Meals on Wheels and the Justin Wilson Children’s Fund. The room was packed with race fans.
After Gutierrez and Massa left the stage, we were treated to hearing Alexander Rossi. Rossi, an American driver, had only recently been named a driver for the Manor Racing Team for the last half of the season. As the first American Formula 1 driver in several years, everyone was thrilled to watch him race in Austin.
Some of the loudest cheers that night were for the F1 on NBC Sports television team of Leigh Diffey, Steve Matchett and David Hobbs.
Throughout the evening, Will Buxton and organizer Austin Grand Prix raffled off prizes from some of the Formula 1 teams. Sadly, we did not win anything.
After the official program, all the fans stayed to mingle, and we managed to meet both Leigh Diffey and Steve Matchett. David Hobbs proved to be elusive!
After mingling with other fans, we were looking for a bite to eat before heading home. Luckily for us, Austin has many options for getting your fill of Tex-Mex, and the Violet Taco food truck was right next door. We ordered a few, and a Topo Chico of course, and they were really good! I would recommend stopping here the next time you are in Austin.
After filling up on tacos, we headed back to my sister’s to rest up for the official events at the track starting on Friday.
This year, Austin Grand Prix announced that they will be taking a break from organizing the Buxton Bash, but they are already planning for an event next year. You can read a complete re-cap of the 2015 event, with a listing of the prizes donated by drivers and teams here.
There is a Fan Fest in downtown Austin again this year on Friday and Saturday nights, and it’s a great opportunity to hear live music and enjoy Austin nightlife. There are also car displays, photos and exhibits, and it is FREE! If you’re staying downtown, you don’t have to worry about driving to and from the track like we did, leaving you more time to enjoy the fun!
Are you attending the USGP in Austin this year? If so, let me know what your plans are while you’re in town. We will be watching the race from California this year.