Austin USGP: Why the press makes this old hat

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It’s on! The 2012 United States Grand Prix is happening and it’s an amazing spectacle. The first thing that must be said, from my experience anyway, is that the Circuit of the Americas is a massive success! I mean massive!

It is a gorgeous facility and while there are areas with a nice, super-fine layer of post construction dust on it (and that’s to be expected), it is without a doubt something Austin, Texas and the United States can be very proud. What many may miss on this hillside of speed is the work that has gone into kicking things off. I’ve read blog posts and magazine articles saying this or that but the pure and simple fact is, COTA has pulled off the amazing.

Sure, there will be niggles and people upset but even Sergio Perez nearly missed the pit entry in Friday’s first practice session so anything can happen in a first Grand Prix. One thing I’ll focus on this weekend is finding things that fans don’t always get to see or read or hear. I’m particularly interested in the professional men and women of the media.

The media room is full of people that have been traveling the world and now face two more grands prix until they can comfortably call it a season and put their feet up for a spell as they’ve been on a F1 walkabout for the better part of a year now. They’ve covered every point, penalty and pile-up. Formula One is a well-oiled machine and the press are part of this Rube Goldberg contraption. That’s actually a good thing for the owners of COTA.

What I’ve found is an ease, comfort and routine of “another-day-at-the-office” to the process and facility. Like this is the 12th grand prix the circuit has hosted. while many of us in the States have entered the gates pie-eyed and ready for F1’s return, this is simply another race for the world’s press and they have this process as well-oiled and refined as a Red Bull Racing pit stop.

It’s this relaxed and routine process that lends COTA an air of “yeah, we’ve been doing this for a long time now” and that’s a good thing as I am sure behind the scenes, there is a mild form of panic and anxiety. Traffic concerns, food service, sanitation and all the details that go in to a race weekend are massive. Simply taking care of the press and covering their needs for broadband, food and detailed information is a task in and of itself.

I see Nigel Roebuck, Joe Saward, Peter Windsor, reporters speaking languages I don’t dare to guess at and a phalanx of motor sport outlets that all of you read every day. It must be said that one of my favorite people, so far, is the FIA’s Stewart. Stewart has helped me immeasurably by personally hunting down my press pass and helping me get settled in at the media center. He knows I’m new to the process and has taken every opportunity to make me feel welcome. That’s a nice touch when you are a stranger among a media machine that is very closely knit (and that’s completely understandable).

The media center is huge! It has seven (7) massive large venue projectors (they look like Christie or Barco projectors from where I sit) and are edge-blending four massive images on a wall (I believe Ford AV was the company who won the contract for the audiovisual systems here…they are a competitor in my day job). The ceiling has eight (8) suspended speakers for team radio audio feeds. Each seat has an internet connection and power for this laptop I’m using. Tedious details? Sure, but some of you asked to provide a little insight as to what its like to be here.

A phalanx of reporters are all nose to laptop and working diligently meeting deadlines and creating copy…except for the dude near me who is watching YouTube videos of some Auto-tuned Obama mix. I’m sure it’s relevant to his story. I did pass Timo Glock, Paul Di Resta and Kamui Kobayashi on my way in. They were all three running tot the garages as practice was about to start. Comparatively, they are very short men although Paul, by F1 standards, is tall.

There’s 10 minutes left in FP1 and, no shocker here, Lewis Hamilton leads the time sheet followed by Sebastian Vettel. Lap times have dipped into the 1:39 range and as I suspected, the esses look visually stunning. Watching Alonso navigate those was impressive. Turn one is not Eau Rogue but it does harken back to the elevation changes of old in America. It give it a historic vibe like the Glen or looking at Spa from on top of Eau Rogue. It’s a nice touch…then again, everything COTA has done so far has been a nice touch.



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