F1 Drivers Share Their Favorite COTA Memories
The 2016 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix marks the return of F1 to Austin, Texas, for the fifth successive year at the only purpose-built F1 track in America – Circuit of The Americas. This year’s race weekend in Austin promises to be the biggest and best, including a very special concert to celebrate the fifth anniversary: 10-time GRAMMY winner, singer, musician, and songwriter Taylor Swift will perform on COTA’s Super Stage on Saturday, October 22nd after the Qualifying session. Closing out the the weekend’s entertainment on Sunday, October 23rd will be two-time GRAMMY winner, The Weeknd, who will keep the fans’ adrenaline pumping long after the last F1 car has sped over the finish line.
The dazzling off-track entertainment will meet its match with the on-track drama of high-tech innovation and sporting courage, including the debut on home soil of the Haas F1 Team – the first American-led Formula One outfit since 1986.
Since hosting its first F1 race in 2012, COTA has gone on to become home to one of the most popular race weekends on the F1 calendar. Recently announced as the most watched F1 race in the world with 96.1 million viewers, the race weekend in Austin has already provided fans with many iconic moments including Sebastian Vettel’s memorable first win in 2013 as well as Lewis Hamilton’s three victories culminating in his unforgettable title clinching performance in the wind and rain last year. Add some F1 drivers dancing in the rain, Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders on the starting grid, Mario Andretti and Elton John conducting podium ceremonies and, of course, the obligatory Cowboy Hats and some big, big steaks and it’s easy to see how the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin has become a firm favorite with drivers, teams and fans the world over.
With that in mind, COTA asked the current crop of F1 drivers to tell us about their favorite COTA memories as they get ready to hit the award-winning circuit for the 5th year in a row this October:
Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team
Lewis Hamilton: I have good memories at COTA. Winning the first Grand Prix there was pretty awesome and overtaking the Red Bull but I think the greatest one was winning the World Championship there last year.
Nico Rosberg: My best memory was actually singing on the Sunday night last year with my team in Pete’s Piano Bar in downtown Austin. It was a lot of fun and I can’t wait to go back there!
Sebastian Vettel: I have enjoyed some fun races in Austin over the last 4 years, the track layout is a real challenge and very satisfying when you get that perfect lap for pole, but my best memory is the victory in 2013 – my only victory SO FAR in Austin, but it was my 8th consecutive win that season! The crowd were so enthusiastic for all the drivers, but I really appreciated their support on that day.
Kimi Raikkonen:Unfortunately, I have not had great success on track in Austin, but I still have some great memories of the city, and especially the fans. I have had so much support from all sorts of folk in Austin, and the town seems to come alive for race week, which makes it a real pleasure.
Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo: The podium in 2014 was great as a result, but my favorite memory was probably the first weekend there in 2012. Being in a new city for the first time and driving on a new track exceeded all my expectations.
Max Verstappen: I drove the track for the first time during the Friday practice session in 2014, which was great as COTA is such a fun track to drive. Then last year finishing fourth under difficult circumstances was a very nice feeling. I love America, they have good food and great people, so I am happy to be going back there.
Williams Martini Racing
Valtteri Bottas: The best memory I have from Austin is scoring my first points there when I finished eighth in 2013 with Williams. It’s a place I remember fondly because of that.
Felipe Massa: COTA is a fantastic track where I have some great memories. Out of all the new tracks COTA definitely has the best layout. The long straights, the high speed sectors and the low speed sectors are just incredible. I’ve had some really good races there for sure. I finished fourth in the first race at the circuit in 2012 and only just missed out on a podium in 2014.
Haas F1 Team
Esteban Gutierrez: My greatest memory from COTA is Qualifying in 2013. It was my first year in F1 and I qualified 8th which was one of my best results and fantastic in front of so many Mexicans and American fans. Austin always has very special vibes for me!
Romain Grosjean: The 2013 U.S. Grand Prix with my second position. It looked impossible to beat the two Red Bulls, I finished behind Vettel, but in front of Webber. Loved the cowboy hat on the podium too!
Sahara Force India
Sergio Perez: Until last year, the U.S. Grand Prix was like my home race. So it was always very special to go to race there because I knew I was going to have a lot of support from the stands. And that always makes it very special. I still remember the size of the crowd for the first race there. People everywhere!
Nico Hülkenberg: I think the best ever memory from racing in Austin was from its first year in 2012. We got there and everything was new – the track, the facilities – and everything was so exciting. The fans’ support was great and I even had a good race, finishing eighth and scoring some good points for the team.
Scuderia Torro Rosso:
Daniil Kvyat: My greatest memory at COTA is going for the lead in Turn 1 during last year’s (2015 USGP) race. It lasted only one corner but it was still a very cool moment!
Carlos Sainz Jr.: I remember last year’s USGP being a very eventful one! It rained so much that Qualifying was moved to Sunday, the same day as the race! I crashed in Qualifying, which wasn’t good… But my greatest memory from that weekend was my comeback in the race and finishing in the points!! That shows you it’s important to never give up.
Sauber F1 Team
Felipe Nasr: In my rookie season in 2015 it was my first time taking part at the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin. At the same time, it was also the 400th Grand Prix for the Sauber F1 Team. I had a difficult beginning with front wing damage and too many pit stops. It was not looking good for me, but in the end the safety car came out which helped me to finish the race in P9. I was really pleased with this result after a difficult race.
Marcus Ericsson: Last year was also my first U.S. Grand Prix. Unfortunately, I could not finish the race due to a technical issue. It was frustrating because I had been looking forward to come to Austin and to race on this track. Therefore, I don’t have a great personal memory just yet, but I can’t wait to get there this year and hope for a clean weekend!
Renault Sport F1 Team
Jolyon Palmer: I’ve never driven it, but I can remember the first year in Austin when the championship was very close and Hamilton won after passing Vettel on the back straight; it was a good race. It’s a great track and the event looks good on TV.
Kevin Magnussen: It’s great that Formula 1 is racing in America. I don’t have a particular memory however I always love going to the US as it’s a real racing country and I’ve visited many times with my dad to see him racing. There are many old school tracks there and COTA is a decent mix of a cool track, which is fast and also technical.
What’s your favorite COTA memory? Share it with us on social media using the hashtag #COTAMemories on our Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Tickets for the 2016 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix still available
Sunday-only General Admission passes are now available for only $99, allowing fans the opportunity to catch all the racing action with great views on the elevated grass berms all-around the track. Three-day passes for the 2016 F1 USGP – which include access to the Taylor Swift concert on Saturday and The Weeknd concert on Sunday – start at $150 and also include tickets to Friday’s practice sessions, Saturday’s practice and qualifying sessions, and Sunday’s Grand Prix. Spectators will also be entertained on-track by the Masters Historic Racing and Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup support series events, both of which will be active on-track on each day of the Grand Prix weekend.
Tickets are moving quickly for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Indeed, many of the turns, as well as majority of the Main Grandstand, have already sold out. F1 USGP tickets are available for purchase online at circuitoftheamericas.com or by phone at 512.301.6600 ext. 1. To speak directly to a helpful COTA representative about tickets or hospitality, please call (512) 536-1453. Hotel rooms can also be booked now at www.circuitoftheamericas.com/bookaroom.