Formula 1 Fan Fest at the US Grand Prix

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.

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I met Manor F1 driver Alexander Rossi while he was filming a segment for NBC Sports show, “Off the Grid.”

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.

 

Austin Rattle Inn Topo Chico

Dave outside the Rattle Inn, thrilled with the Topo Chico mural on the building.

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.

Aryton Senna helmet Formula 1 USGP Austin

One of Aryton Senna’s helmets.

 

Aryton Senna Formula 1 Austin USGP McLaren

Senna’s helmet, race suit and gloves, and the steering wheel and wing from his McLaren Formula 1 car.

Aryton Senna display at Formula 1 USGP Austin

The small display of Senna memorabilia

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!

Circuit of the Americas Fan Fest USGP Austin Topo Chico

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!).

COTA Formula 1 Fan Fest USGP Austin Topo Chico

All smiles drinking Topo Chico!

There was an Illy coffee truck, which was exciting for me since I love Italian coffee.

Circuit of the Americas Fan Fest USGP Formula 1 Austin Illy Coffee

Free cans of Illy iced coffee drink!

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.

COTA Formula 1 Fan Fest Austin

The main stage at the Fan Fest

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).

COTA Formula 1 Fan Fest Gutierrez Hulkenberg Bottas Massa

Formula 1 drivers Esteban Gutierrez, Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa

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).

Williams Martini Racing Valterri Bottas and Felipe Massa at COTA Formula 1 Fan Fest

Williams Martini Racing teammates Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa

Valtterri Bottas and Felipe Massa interview at COTA Formula 1 Fan Fest Austin

Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa being interviewed at the COTA Formula 1 Fan Fest 2015

Williams Martini Racing Formula 1 drivers Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa at COTA Fan Fest

Williams Martini Racing driver Felipe Massa answers a question while teammate Valtteri Bottas looks on at the COTA Formula 1 Fan Fest in 2015

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…

Buxton's Big Time Bash at Rattle Inn Austin with Esteban Gutierrez and Felipe Massa

Blurry photo of Esteban Gutierrez and Felipe Massa on stage at the Rattle Inn with F1 on NBC’s Will Buxton

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.

Manor Formula 1 Driver Alexander Rossi with F1 on NBC Sports reporter Will Buxton Austin Rattle Inn

Manor F1 driver Alexander Rossi on stage with Will Buxton

Some of the loudest cheers that night were for the F1 on NBC Sports television team of Leigh Diffey, Steve Matchett and David Hobbs.

F1 on NBC Sports Steve Matchett, David Hobbs and Leigh Diffey at the Rattle Inn, Austin.

F1 on NBC on-air talent Steve Matchett, David Hobbs and Leigh Diffey on stage at Will Buxton’s Big Time Bash at the Rattle Inn in Austin, 2015.

F1 on NBC Sports Steve Matchett, David Hobbs and Leigh Diffey at Rattle Inn in Austin

A packed house to hear and see F1 on NBC Sports’ Steve Matchett, David Hobbs and Leigh Diffey live at the Rattle Inn in Austin.

Steve Matchett, David Hobbs and Leigh Diffey from F1 on NBC Sports

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!

F1 on NBC Sports' Leigh Diffey and me at the Rattle Inn in Austin

Meeting Leigh Diffey at the Rattle Inn

F1 on NBC Sports' Steve Matchett with me and Dave at the Rattle Inn in Austin

Dave and I with Steve Matchett at Buxton’s Big Time Bash at the Rattle Inn

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.

Topo Chico and tacos from the Violet Taco food truck in Austin

Tacos and Topo Chico from the Violet Taco

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.

 

Meeting Formula 1 Driver Alexander Rossi Before the US Grand Prix in Austin

Yesterday I arrived in Austin from Los Angeles, excited to visit this fun city, spend some time with my sister and her husband, catch up with friends from high school, and….attend the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas this weekend!

We attended the first USGP (U.S. Grand Prix) at COTA (Circuit of the Americas) in 2012 and had a blast. Our schedules have not allowed us to return, until now.

When I arrived at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport yesterday afternoon (a really cool airport, by the way. Live music, a Longhorn fan store, free WiFi for 1.5 hours, lots of plugs for charging and eats from The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que and Amy’s Ice Creams to name a few highlights), I was greeted with ads from Mobile 1/Honda/McLaren.

I like this one on the stairs leading up to the airline club lounges. Note also the Dell signs to the right. Apparently there’s a Dell conference of some sort this week (Dell headquarters are in Round Rock, north of Austin), and their ads were quite clever.

IMG_8929After I picked up my bag, I checked my twitter feed and I saw something about Manor F1 driver Alexander Rossi cooking/serving at the Chi’Lantro BBQ truck starting at 2:00 PM. I still had to retrieve my rental car, but I thought I might be able to get there.

I rushed over, arriving slightly after 3:00 PM to learn that the truck was closed for the day. Bummer. But, sitting at the picnic tables in front of the truck was Alexander Rossi.

Recently, Rossi, who was a reserve driver for the Manor F1 team, was named a driver for Manor F1 at several of their final races for this season. There has not been an American F1 driver since 2007 when Scott Speed raced for the Toro Rosso team. As this is the US Grand Prix, there is a quite a bit of excitement for an American driver to race in front of American fans at Circuit of the Americas!

Meeting Alexander Rossi

Rossi was talking to the crew from NBC Sports as they had just concluded an interview with Will Buxton and Jason Swales. I was able to chat with him for a few minutes before he had to leave for more PR engagements, and we talked about the sound of the new engines. He said that you can hear different things now that the engines are quieter, like the tires. I’m excited to hear the cars tomorrow during the first two practice sessions.

He graciously posed for a picture with me – I couldn’t believe how tall he is once he stood from the table. He said he’s 6’2″!! That is quite tall for a racer.

IMG_8932I also asked to pose with Will and Jason, who were fully decked out in Texas attire!

IMG_8934Three years ago at the first USGP, Will hosted, “Buxton’s Big Time Bash,” at a local bar. It was a fun time meeting fellow F1 fans before the race weekend. I was excited to meet the man behind the fake Charlie Whiting twitter account, and I also met Will! It was fun to see him again yesterday, and he said that we must attend his fourth annual bash as there are many drivers planning to attend and surprises in store. The bash is tonight at the Rattle Inn. More information can be found here.

Here’s a photo of me and Will at the first bash in 2012.

COTA Will

To cap off my drop by Chi’Lantro, I met Blair Soden, the executive producer of the NBC Sports show, “Off the Grid,” and a Penn alumna! We had a bit of a moment when Will asked us about Penn State!

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Needless to say, but I was quite excited to meet all these folks yesterday afternoon. We are looking forward to the Formula 1 Fan Forum and Will’s bash tonight, and then tomorrow the fun begins on the track with practice sessions (fingers crossed the predicted rain holds off).