It’s lights out and away we go!! Sound familiar? You’ve heard that phrase if you’ve watched any of the F1 races!
Over the weekend, I went to Austin, TX for the United States Grand Prix Race and it was a blast. BUT you *have* to know a few race secrets to actually make it enjoyable. Or else you’ll get stuck on the huge crowds, sweating to death, or mile-long lines for the shuttle buses (seriously). I’ve got a few tips and tricks to help make your race weekend the best possible! With over 400,000 people in attendance over the weekend, tips are clutch ;)
My husband got into Formula1 after watching the Netflix Drive to Survive series in 2020. Of course, I initially thought it was lame, but after watching the show and the races with him, I suppose I’m a fan too (ha!) If you start watching, you learn a little more about the teams and the drivers after each show or race and start to have favorites.
This weekend, I had to look like a fan, so I bought a hat at the race. The Mercedes hat was the cutest so I went with that one ;) My husband is a big Red Bull and Checo fan, so that’s who I cheer for. One of my favorite things about being at the race was the F1 is such an international sport that the crowd was so diverse and I heard quite a few different languages! Of course, there was a huge Mexican presence to cheer for Checo, and it was so fun to make a few new friends who came from Mexico to Austin just for the race! Actually, the best part of Friday's Green Day concert was when they brought an audience member on-stage to play guitar and he ended up being so good and he had come all the way from Costa Rica for the races! (shout-out Mauricio!)
Most people have a favorite team from the top 3 teams and a favorite driver or team from the mid to bottom teams. Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes are the top race teams so we go for Red Bull, but my underdog favorite is Daniel Ricciardo on McClaren because he’s so smiley, you can’t help but like him…but he hasn’t done well this year. :/ Adam’s "worst favorite" is probably Nicholas Latifi because he is the *worst* driver (lol).
Anyway, let’s get to the tips: we’re talking tickets, transportation, and packing/general info.
First things first: SHOULD YOU EVEN GO?! If you’re a fan, then yes. Period. If you’re on the fence, but love a good energy crowd, then yes. If you hate crowds, standing in line, and/or walking 3 miles to get to your seat, then NOPE.
There are so many ticket options!
It’s the cheapest ticket option and the seats aren’t bad at all. But you need to get there early, claim your spot, and bring chairs for sure. Most of these spots don’t have any shade available so think about bringing an umbrella, too.
This year we were in Grandstand 1, right in front of the starting line! Our ticket also came with club access, which was a *life-saver* so we didn’t have to stay in the sun all day! I recommend buying a ticket that includes some kind of club or tent access so you have easy access to food, drink, (non-porta potty) restrooms, and shade! Our seats were great and were in the shade after 3pm; it was so nice to walk 50 feet back and hang in the club for a while with TVs to keep up with the action on the track.
There are also suites, paddock passes, and other F1 experiences you can purchase as add-ons.
How do you get from the city to the track? The race takes place at COTA, Circuit or the Americas, just outside of Austin. You can either park on site, take a shuttle from downtown Austin, or ride share. There are pros and cons to each! You have to weigh your time against cost against how you like to travel.
We took the shuttle. The weekend shuttle pass is $149 ish?. We stayed in an Airbnb just east of downtown and had an 8 minute drive to the shuttle parking lot. You also have to pay to park at the shuttle lot each day…$20/day. Then you get in line and hop on a shuttle. Then you wait in traffic for the 35-60 minute drive to the track. The major pro of the shuttle is that it drops you off as close as possible to the track entrance. Friday and Saturday were super easy- no line for the shuttle, minimal traffic. But Sunday was CRAZY. Give yourself an extra 2 hours compared to your Saturday time spent.
They had something like 600 charter buses to handle the crowd. It was interesting to see where each bus was from - all different states!
Sunday after the race, the shuttle line was a hot mess. That's all I will say about that. Be prepared.
This could potentially be a good option. There are multiple parking lots with different price tags based on proximity to the track. You don’t have to wait in the shuttle line but you do have to wait longer in traffic, as you don’t have access to the “shuttle only” lanes of traffic. If you want to go early and tailgate or hang at the track, you can choose to beat traffic, and get a spot near the exit for an easy exit strategy.
This might be the worst option, actually. The ride share drop off spot is about 2 miles away from the track entrance. I personally am not a fan of riding in the back of an Uber for long distances, so that’s a no for me. We talked with some people who were late to the shuttles and the line was long so they thought ride share would be faster...it as but then they had to walk 2 miles and almost missed the start of the race!
All in all, the three options all have pros and cons and none of them are way above the others. ;)
Let’s talk about what to bring to the track, and all of the details that nobody tells you.
Look cute but be comfortable. I was cute Friday. I was kind of cute Saturday. I was a hot mess Sunday. Ha! I was so tired by Sunday that I didn't even care. This brings me to another point: pace yourself throughout the weekend. I think in the future, I would be happy to just attend on Sunday for race day. ;)
Bring a water bottle to refill. There are water fountains and water refill stations around the track. Otherwise, there is plenty of water to buy at any food outlet or bar.
Bring snacks! There is plenty of food there but most is unhealthy. I brought a few healthy bars to hold me over between meals and found a pineapple chicken dish (served in half a pineapple!) that was great for lunch on Saturday when we were there almost all day.
All of the the official communication said bags had to be 12x12x20 but nobody was measuring. There were plenty of backpacks there.
I bought a Mercedes hat…for $80. :/ I know, terrible. But the worst part is that we got online later and saw it on the official F1 website for $35. Ugh. Obviously it’s an experience and you’re having fun and it doesn’t matter, but why not just buy the hat before the race and avoid the like and upcharge? Ha!
Bring earplugs! We were in the third row up from the track and it was pretty loud! Also, bonus use: there was a guy in the row behind us who wanted everyone to know that he parked in VIP and I was so thankful for my earplugs. Ha!
It was a great weekend! It's definitely worth it to experience if you're a fan! It would also make such a fun gift for the F1 fan in your life!