There were smiles all round at the Circuit of the Americas on Friday night. An awesome opening day of action ended with Red Bull Racing on top, but the timesheets were almost immaterial compared to the historical significance of what was happening.
“It’s great to be back in America,” said seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher. “It was great to do some laps and the circuit is very challenging. It will certainly help to showcase how attractive our sport can be to the fans.”
Michael’s sentiments were repeated up and down the pitlane. “This is a great drivers’ track,” said Lewis Hamilton. “It’s very tough to pull together three perfect sectors, which is how it should be.”
On such an important day for F1 in America, the paddock became a ‘Who’s Who’ of the sport’s history. There were world champions galore – Jackie Stewart, Emerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti, Keke Rosberg, Niki Lauda and Damon Hill – all wanting to witness what was happening, and there were stars from the silver screen as well. Ron Howard, the director of the soon-to-be-released movie Rush, was a guest of Ferrari and George Lucas was using a pass from Bernie Ecclestone. With more celebrities expected to visit over the weekend, the United States Grand Prix is fast becoming much more than a motor race; it’s becoming an event.
To appease European television audiences, the schedule has been bumped back by one hour, which meant practice started at 0900 yesterday (as it will today as well) and that forced the drivers to set their alarms early. Most of them crawled out of bed at 0600, but they had it easy compared to the real workers in the teams: the mechanics had 4am alarm calls and weren’t expecting to return to their hotel rooms until 0200 this morning…
Even the VIPs were forced to get out of bed early because the Pitlane Walkabout for F1’s richest guests in the Paddock Club was at 0700. And such was the enthusiasm for this race that Ferrari had 300 people in their suite alone, ready for some F1 and coffee.
As opening days go, it couldn’t have gone much better for the Circuit of the Americas. Yee-haa!