It’s a fan’s world – A heartfelt “thank you” to everyone who attended the 10th USGP
AUSTIN, Texas (October 26, 2022) – ICYMI, the 10th Formula One United States Grand Prix took place this past month (October 21-23) at Circuit of The Americas. While plenty of excitement happened on the track, the off-track experiences make the USGP unique. So, what went down on the other side of the safety barriers?
Earlier in 2022, Australia held the record for most attended F1 event at 419,000 guests over a four-day event, but the Circuit proved the weight of their record-breaking pattern and churned up the biggest F1 event ever. Over the three-day USGP weekend, COTA fans smashed the existing record.
There are always a few notable fans who stand out in the crowd (literally and figuratively). One many can spot is Kim Reimer, or the Car Hat Man. Having attended eight of the ten U.S. Grand Prix races held at COTA, Reimer is easily recognized by his spectacular, homemade headgear. We caught up with him beneath the Tower on Saturday morning where he stood, shielding his creation from the strong winds that blew across the Circuit over the weekend.
Reimer spoke loudly to be heard over the unrestrained engines of the Masters Endurance League then circling the track. “I started as a Michael Schumacher fan when he raced with Benetton. We thought it was a big mistake for him to go to Ferrari, as he had won two world championships with Benetton and Ferrari were a third-rate team at the time. When I made the first hat he raced for Ferrari, and I just stuck with it. I’ve had Schumacher, Raikkonen, Alonso, Vettel, and now LeClerc on my hats.”
“It took me 15 hours to build. I wore it and was amazed at the reactions from the people. First was the smile and laugh. Then, about 20 feet past me they decided they wanted a photo,” Reimer said.
His 2022 hat took over 115 hours to build from start to finish, consisting of glue, foam, wiring, a careful paint job to replicate the coloring, sponsors, a miniature helmet and hands of number 16 Charles LeClerc, and even a flashing brake light. To build these fantastic creations, Reimer uses the current year’s livery announcement and the first practice photos to hone the details.
However, Kim Reimer isn’t the only person getting crafty for the F1 USGP.
If you’ve visited the Reddit thread r/Formula1, you may have encountered a frequent visitor known for embroidering. Her name is Sarina Echels and she had a mission over the USGP weekend: find a way to get her custom-made, embroidered patches to each driver. By simply scrolling through Sariina’s social media, you can see videos of each patch she’s made, including track outlines of every circuit on the calendar and its name in the country’s language. Echels caught COTA’s eye Saturday while waiting by Tunnel 1 with her wife to greet team members walking to the paddock. She wore a dark denim jacket with Velcro sewn in and every patch attached down her arms, across her torso, and down her back.
Echels could tell you just about anything with regards to “who’s who” of Formula 1, spotting everyone from journalists and team engineers or pit crew members like Calum Nicholas, to retired and up-and-coming drivers like Logan Sargeant. Speaking on what developed her interest in motorsports just one year ago, Echels recalled, “The algorithm got me. I was recommended a video of Romain Grosjean’s [2020 Bahrain GP] crash and all the safety advancements that kept him alive. From there, I had to know more.”
Echels spoke emotionally about the first race she’s ever attended, “I wanted to go to an established race. COTA knows what they’re doing. Plus, I know the fans there care about the race just as much as I do. It was such a supportive community. Everyone was respectful of each other and their favorite drivers.”
After a few members of the F1 Reddit community recognized her and her unique racewear, Echels is already planning for next year. “The drivers had such cool helmet designs; I want to incorporate those.”
With over 435,000 fans that made their way to COTA over the weekend, it’s no surprise a few of them have attended all 10 F1 USGPs in Austin. When asked what makes the Circuit special to him, Andrew Barry responded, “It is an event where my two boys and son-in-law can share a passion for motor racing. I grew up in the UK and went to many F1 races as a boy with my father and they are some of my fondest memories, the love of cars and passion for racing. Now I’m able to continue that legacy and build my own memories with my boys.”
COTA is particularly important to another attendee who celebrated a huge moment in her life at the top of the Observation Tower. Nohemi Villarreal-Bonilla and Manuel Lechuga had been involved with Formula 1 well before they were involved with each other, though the first time they spent race weekend together in 2018 they knew they were meant to be.
Manuel proposed to Nohemi at the top of the Tower in September 2021. “COTA just became super special to us, so it was a no brainer when it came to him proposing.” As a ‘thank you’ to Nohemi and Manuel for sharing their story, in February of 2023 the couple will take their engagement photos around COTA’s campus, as a unique memento of their history.
Nohemi and Manuel aren’t the only couple to keep COTA close to their heart. Longtime fans Rodrigo and Cristina Rios had been following Formula 1 for years before the Austin circuit made it onto the calendar. After experiencing iconic tracks like Circuit De Monaco, Silverstone, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, and Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, the couple declare COTA their favorite, to the delight of the Texas crew.
“COTA is a great first introduction circuit for someone who is just getting into racing, because you can see so much and do so much. You see many turns and race moments, but you can also enjoy concerts, food, and the festival-like environment. But also, for passionate and consistent racegoers, it’s comfortable. It’s like going home and having the best of the best experiences,” Cristina said.
Circuit of The Americas would like to extend a heartfelt “thank you” to each and every guest that made our 10th anniversary special. After all, it’s a fan’s world and we’re happy to be living in it.