Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Formula 1 Weekend

This weekend was a whirlwind- one I've been secretly excited about for the last couple of weeks!  Since we've been married, I've never been able to do anything big for Simon: No big gifts or surprises. So, when this year's Formula 1 race came to Austin, Texas, I decided I'd give secretive spontaneity a try.  As it turns out, I'm not half bad at it.  

After lots of planning with Sarina, Dan, Tanya and Shea, or in other words, my Texan contacts and co-conspirators, I managed to get all of the details worked out, and bought us three-day passes to the F1 Circuit of the Americas.

Thursday
 I took the day off work and spent the morning packing both mine and Simon's suitcases, trying to plan for the unnaturally warm predicted weather (even for Austin) as well as anything that might not be predicted.  All of my scheming seemed to be going as planned until Simon texted me that he would be grabbing lunch at the apartment.  AHH not part of my plan! He did not know I had taken off work that day, let alone that I was packing suitcases for a vacation.  I hurriedly finished and threw everything in the car so me and the evidence could disappear for lunch.  Luckily, Simon did not notice anything suspicious, and all was safe!
 A couple of hours later I surprised him at his office and announced we were going on a little surprise trip for his birthday, no questions allowed.    He was quite surprised (mission accomplished)  and seemed to be a little unsure about this whole leaving work unannounced thing.  I assured him that his boss and I had been in cahoots, and all was taken care of.

The secret road trip ensued, and to his shock, ended at the airport!  I had still not told him where we were going or what we were doing and I enjoyed watching the wheels turn as he tried to piece it all together.  Once at our gate -a flight to Chicago- I told him the news: we're going to the formula 1 race in Austin.  It was even more fun after he knew and we could both be excited together.

A couple of plane rides later, Simon's cousin Dan picked us up at the Airport and the weekend began.

Friday
We spent the night in Houston and embarked in the morning for Circuit of the Americas in Austin, where the race and all of the pre-race activities would take place.

We parked and walked and shuttled and walked some more.

shuttle shots

Hiking down 
Main entrance
Friday ticket

Group shot at the main entrance


  The RedBull/ToroRosso and Ferrari merch stands

Where's Waldo?  hehe



The tower; You could pay to go to the top for the view.


Friday was just practices.  We planned out where we wanted to try and sit for Saturday and Sunday and scouted out the best food stands.  There really were a lot of options


They even had a Biergarten. 

We watched the Ferrari challenge qualifying and the vintage qualifying.  We bought general admission tickets so, rather than a specified seat, we had a spot on any of the grassy areas.  We had our sights set on Turn 1.  (directly below T1 on the map, to the right of the main grandstand)




Friday afternoon, after all of the scheduled track events, we went to dinner at Carinos and then found Dan and Sarina's beloved custard stand, Shake's.  

We stayed with our local friends, the Amaros, and enjoyed talking some with them once we finally made it to their house.

Saturday
Bright and early and ready to leave.

Saturday was the 3rd practice, the 3 Qualifyings for the F1 Race, the Ferrari Challenge races and the Vintage Challenge races.  We woke up at 4:30/5 ish to prepare and leave by 6:15.  Where we were staying was about 45 minutes from the track, and the gates would open at 7:30.  Because we did not have assigned seats we wanted to get their as early as possible to get our spot.  Dan dropped the three of us off (me, Sarina and Simon) at the entrance closest to turn 1, where we hoped to sit, where we huddled with a group of about 40 or 50 other waiters.  We got the spot that we wanted and set up chairs and blankets.  It was kind of a trial run for the main event on Sunday; That is when good seats would really count.

It was really foggy saturday morning.  This was where we sat and the view of the foggy track.  
Individual, unopened water bottles were allowed, but food wasn't; however, we did manage to sneak some snacks in (don't judge). 

 We did eat one full meal there Saturday and Sunday, but the prices were so outrageous we just couldn't afford to drop $100.00 on food to sustain us for the 8 or 9 hours we were there those days.
  

The fog cleared eventually and in plenty of time for the practices.  This is a shot of the Ferrari Challenge Qualifying.  They were a little more aggressive than the F1 cars but not nearly as fast.  


This was the blower truck that would clean the track off.  I'm quite sure "Blower truck" is the official term.  


video
 Here is a shot of the F1 cars going around turn one during the qualifying.

 A picture of the pit lanes and the final top 10 lineup for Sunday's race.

 A sort-of close up of the pit lanes during a RedBull pit stop.

Our view of the track post-fog.  I really was extremely pleased with our seats.  

Saturday night we had an early dinner at Long Horn Steakhouse and, I must confess, another visit to Shake's for dessert.

Sunday
Another 4:30 morning.  Sheesh.  We were all getting pretty tired by this point, but this was the main event: we had to perk up!  We did the drop off routine again, just like the day before.  This time though, because of our post-race plans and the need for two cars, Dan and Simon dropped Sarina and I off at the entrance to turn 1.  There were MUCH more people in line today.  I was really glad we got there when we did!  An announcement was made that the opening would be delayed for unknown reasons- even the staff was being asked to stay out.  So we waited as the line snaked longer and longer behind us. 
(please note the man who smiled for my picture)

 Simon and Dan actually made it all the way back from where they parked before the gates even opened, but were forced to wait at the main entrance rather than joining us at turn 1.   That turned out to be a blessing because the delay that effected everyone was actually at our gate, so the rest of the track opened up before our side.  The gallant guys raced through the park along with all the other avid fans (I can only imagine the sight) and managed to secure our ideal spot once again! Hurray for us!!  There were  only a few scheduled activities before the big race began which meant less waiting.  Mainly just the 2nd Ferrari challenge race then the pre-race events began.  The  drivers parade, the announcing of the line up and then the RACE!! Woohoo.
 Daniel got some awesome close-ups to a lot of the cars so I wanted to put them on here but I totally stole these from him :)  We did some hardcore photo sharing! 

Vettel


Webber

Kovalainen 
(I was bummed Räikkönen isn't driving anymore this season, he is one of my favorites)

 Grosjean

Hamilton

Button

Chilton

Sutil

di Resta

Gutierrez

  Vergne

Ricciardo

Pic


Alonso

 Massa

Here is a nice panorama of the track (and the people) from where we sat.

Smiles - excited about the day.  You can tell it is early because grass is still visible.  Just wait!
 Circuit of the Americas booth

 Me and Sarina rocking the neon earplugs.


During the race.
We tried to get a car in the shot.  Success.  Good job Sarina! :)  Notice the increase in people and the decrease in personal space from the other picture.


Vettel going around turn 1.

It was an exciting two hours with Vettel winning, again!!
After the race they allowed people to go onto the track. The four of us and a few thousand of our closest friends quickly made our way down.
How crazy is that mass?? Dan found a sneaky way to not be in that group, but to instead go around it. This led to a not so pretty encounter with a power-tripping security patrol woman but we made it through and got onto the track!

This is us waiting for the masses to start moving.

It was nuts but kind of awesome.
Starting line

Ricciardo's garage

The now empty grand stand

Cheese on the track in front of RedBull's pit area

RedBull pits
Winners's podium 

Cars waiting for post-race inspection

The view of turn 1 from down the track. We sat right to the right on that top hill.

Simon at the finish line. 

Close up of the cars

A couple shots of me on the track. 

Ok I know that was a ton of pictures but let me tell you, it could have been worse :)
Simon got a F1 shirt and I bought a program as souvenirs. We had so much fun being so incredibly close to the action, and being able to walk the track at the end was really an awesome plus to the weekend! 
We made the long trek back to the cars and grabbed Mexican for dinner.  Thankfully, not at the super sketchy place we initially went to no thanks to YELP!  A funny memory, but really... We were not about to get out of our cars, let alone eat food there. 
We said goodbye to Dan who headed off for a work trip. Then Sarina, Simon and I drove back to Houston for the night.  I was glad we got to spend a little time with Hannah and even drop in on Bill, Toni and Jason Sunday evening- although it was brief.

Monday
 Toni graciously drove us to the airport after loading us up with sandwiches and lebkuchen. Thanks Toni! A direct flight got us back home by 4:30, pooped from all our fun. 

I owe a tremendous thanks to the Amaros for their spectacular hospitality and willingness to put up with us four crazies for a weekend! Thanks to Dan and Sarina for joining in on the fun, helping get everything together and helping me with the secret-keeping!  Also, a thanks must go out to Bill and Toni for babysitting Hannah so it could be an adult-only weekend. Everyone needs those once in awhile! 
I think I can speak for both Simon and I when I say that the weekend was fun, exciting, expensive and worth it. We probably won't be planning another Formula 1 weekend getaway any time soon but this one was certainly a success!