It's finally here—the Grand Prix weekend at Austin's new Circuit of the Americas site in southeast Travis County, and for the first time Friday, F1 drivers got a feel for the track.
The first practice run kicked off at 9 a.m., with another practice drill slated for the afternoon.
F1 race crews are working on tweaking their cars for the uniquely-designed COTA track. Every F1 race site around the globe is different, so teams are working to ensure their cars are ready for COTA’s layout. While the engine can’t be manipulated, drivers say making sure their cars’ tires are ready is the primary focus.
“The biggest thing we need to understand as soon as possible is how the tires perform,” Red Bull Racing Driver Mark Webber said. “The tires are a big factor of our work on Friday in practice, so we will be looking to get as much information on that because in simulation-world we get a rough idea, but not as accurate as we probably would like in the real world.”
Webber says they will then do some fine tuning.
"Then we will tune things like gear ratios, even down force levels, to see how much top speed we need compared to how much grip we need in the corners,” he said. “We've got to adjust the wings quite a lot to get that balance right. That will all be done on Friday night, then obviously we start to fine tune the cars for ultimate lap times on Saturday afternoon."
Bernardo Pana grew up in Italy, and is rooting for his home team, Ferrari, this weekend.
He now lives in Fort Worth and is ecstatic to have a permanent track just a few hours from home.
"Years ago--back in the 1970s--I was in Monte Carlo,” he said. “After that year, I went to Montreal. Since I moved to the United States, this is the first Formula One race in the US I am attending."
After Friday’s practice runs, there will be a qualifying round Saturday, followed by the race Sunday afternoon. The 180-mile race is supposed to last about an hour-and-a-half. In F1 races, the drivers are not allowed to refuel.
While this weekend’s race is bringing teams and drivers in from all over the world, it’s also bringing in plenty of globetrotting race fans.
For those hoping to get to the track, there's a transportation stop at 15th and Trinity downtown and one at the Expo Center.
Click here for more transportation information.