It’s been five years since the United States hosted a Formula One race. And Austin, Texas, has gone all out to put the United States Grand Prix on par with race mainstays like Monaco, Melbourne and Singapore.
The race will be held November 18 at the brand new Circuit of The Americas, which hosted its First Lap Ceremony on October 21, led by race legend Mario Andretti, the last American driver to win the Formula One World Championship. While F1 does have history in the United States — the last race here took place in Indianapolis in 2007, and was actually held as a street circuit in Phoenix from 1989-1991 — the Austin track is the first purpose-built F1 facility in the country.
Ian Weightman, founder of Formula Expo and Formula VIP events, which is orchestrating the activities surrounding race weekend, noted the drivers’ anticipation to hit the track at Austin.
“It’s designed by (renowned track architect Hermann) Tilke, who’s designed some of the best tracks in the world,” he says. “And, none of the old hands have a competitive advantage here. They’ve all got basically a day and a half to learn it.”
But the Formula One experience is about more that just what happens on the track. With over 40 years of F1 experience, the Formula Expo and Formula VIP Event teams, led by Weightman, are staging events that aim to elevate Austin’s race weekend to rival those of Monte Carlo and other cities worldwide.
“It’s vital to create these experiences outside of the race itself. There’s this sort of traveling circus with Formula 1. Most people will pick three, four, five races per year that they want to go to,” Weightman explains. “They’ve probably already picked Monaco, they may well have picked Melbourne because that’s the start of the season. They’re going to pick the other cities on various criteria, one being how much they are going to enjoy the rest of the weekend.”
A city already renowned for it’s nightlife and live music, Austin will kick it up a notch to host the international race community. A total of 18 exclusive events will be split between two venues: W Hotel (Blu at W) and Four Seasons (Gold at the Four), commencing with the VIP Race Ball on Friday and concluding with the Prohibition After Race Party on Sunday.
The second floor of the W will be transformed into a high-end nightclub for the weekend, with international DJs, gourmet food, champagne and lighting effects created by the designers responsible for the Beijing Olympics. Over at the Four Seasons, the focus is on exquisite dining experiences, including the race ball, international banquet and post-race gala.
“You’ve got to have something to finish off the week, so we’re going have an evening where they’re transported back. We’re going to transform the Four Seasons into a 1920s speakeasy,” says Weightman. “People will have to have a password to get in, they can dress up in boas and fedoras, the cocktails will be served in coffee mugs. Especially for international visitors, it finishes off the weekend with a bit of Americana.”