Remembering 2014’s Lewis Hamilton Meet and Greet at COTA
Greg Woods has made the trek from Iowa to Austin every year for the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas. In 2014, he won the chance to spend time with Lewis Hamilton in the paddock on the Saturday of USGP weekend. Here’s the story in his own words.
My best friend Jared and I are from Iowa, and as any passionate American Formula 1 fan knows, the lengths to which one must go to follow this sport are often tiring but worth it. Our unwavering desire to see F1 in the flesh during its only visit to the United States, saw us driving across the country overnight in order to arrive in Austin early on the Saturday morning of the U.S Grand Prix.
The day before we arrived at the circuit, we had seen a Twitter contest run by Circuit of The Americas in which they were calling for photos of fans enjoying their Grand Prix weekend. Cryptically promising a big prize the next day, Jared and I began to strategize, mulling over our options, trying to decide what our photograph would be. It had to be good. It had to be clever.
After submitting our entry that morning, our Saturday at the track proved very exciting, having walked all the way around the outside of the circuit and seen a couple of support races as well as F1 Qualifying. However, nothing prepared me for receiving a notification on Twitter saying that our photo had won.
The prize? A meet-and-greet with MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS F1 Team driver and soon-to-be two-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton. Not an autograph or a picture, but an actual chance to meet one of the most recognizable, successful and popular sportsmen on Earth in the Formula 1 Paddock!
The F1 paddock is one of the most exclusive places that any sports fan could dream of going. So many times we’d glimpsed it from halfway around the world on our televisions back in Iowa, and now we were going to be there, talking to none other than Lewis Hamilton!
When we finally walked through the security gates and entered the Paddock, this familiar-but-foreign landscape suddenly seemed very real. There were the team hospitality buildings. There were the tires being inspected. There were F1 drivers all around us. There was Ted Kravitz preparing for a report on Sky Sports. Even Niki Lauda gave us a “Hello” nod as he left for the garages. It was mind-blowing.
After getting a tour of the paddock and waiting outside the Mercedes hospitality area, Lewis arrived. He smiled and greeted us warmly, happy to meet us.
He asked how we’d won the contest, and that led into a fun discussion on long road trips. He related a story of when a friend and he went to pick up a car in California before driving back to Las Vegas. I asked him about his success in America and his recent appearance on the Today Show, broadening F1’s reach here, and he responded with glowing and detailed answers.
We had a wonderful time talking to Lewis about our experiences and actually engaging on a personal level with this legend that we had been following from afar for so many years. Somehow, improbably, two guys from Iowa were casually talking with Lewis and members of the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS F1 Team, chatting about everything from F1 memories to the Premier League.
This was the opportunity of a lifetime, made possible by Circuit of The Americas, MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS F1 Team and Lewis Hamilton. It was the greatest thing we’ve ever been able to do at a U.S. Grand Prix – and we’ve been to all of them in Austin. We will remember it for the rest of our lives.
Greg Woods operates the motorsports blog Woodsie’s Garage.
You can win your own Lewis Hamilton meet and greet and an all expenses paid trip to Austin for the USGP by entering in the #COTALEWIS15 competition.