The US Grand Prix arrived in Austin Texas about the same time as the residual effects from hurricane Patricia announced its very damp, if not torrential, arrival. This meant that the collision of two huge elements was imminent.
With FP2 canceled due to severe weather on Friday, the rain was an unwanted visitor come Saturday morning and presented a very difficult call on the part of the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), Formula One Management (FOM) and the FIA. Should we try to run FP3, what will the weather be like for the time scheduled for qualifying and if we can’t run the qualifying session, will that happen on Sunday morning ahead of the race? What if the rain, slated to relent around race time, spoils Sunday morning?
The regulations state that the result of FP3 can be used for the grid positions should qualifying be canceled. The teams were alerted to this as the FIA green-lighted the FP3 session on Saturday morning and the cars gingerly took to the track with the understanding that how they finished is how they could start the race on Sunday.
The challenge was what to do about the fans? As morning broke in Austin, many fans looked to social media for news of what was happening at COTA. Many of the press reports from local authorities did not paint a nice picture with tweets of flooded roads and stranded cars. Local authorities were telling Austin citizens to stay off the roads etc.
This created a bit of an issue for COTA given the challenges of off-site parking lot conditions and low-lying areas. Certainly safety is a major concern for the circuit and they officially tweeted that the morning’s opening would be delayed until 12pm (noon).
The problem is, the FIA decided to run FP3 and there were barely any fans at the circuit given that COTA had made the announcement about gates opening at noon. The 2004 Japanese Grand Prix comes to mind when the FIA canceled Saturday’s activities and scheduled qualifying for Sunday morning. Some fans are asking why that wasn’t the case in Austin considering that FP3 could have been the official qualifying session and they missed it.
I caught a ride to the circuit with some folks working inside the Ferrari garage so I did catch a large part of FP3 but many fans did not catch the session. For the fans, lets hope the weather relents and qualifying can actually happen. As it is, Austin is truly a challenge for all parties but in the end, the fans have missed FP3 so let’s hope quali happens and the weather dries out for race day.
And I’m about to drive to Austin….
Wish me luck!
Still raining too hard. I’m staying home this time. Hope things get better on Sunday.
Qualis cancelled. We’ll try again tomorrow at 9 AM.