What a fabulous United States Grand Prix. There was excitement from start-to-finish for the 117,429 fans that lined the Circuit of the Americas and the result – Lewis Hamilton from Seb Vettel and Fernando Alonso – keeps the world championship battle alive until Brazil next weekend.
But this was much more than just a motor race; it was one of the biggest sporting events on the American 2012 calendar. The race has dominated the nearby city of Austin since the middle of last week and you couldn’t swing a (paddock) cat on the grid prior to the start due to the number of celebrities roaming around.
In no particular order, these were the stars from the silver screen: George Lucas, Ron Howard, Rupert Grant, Kyle Chandler, Luke Wilson, Patrick Dempsey, Matt Leblanc, James Woods, Erik Valdez, Todd Allen, Virginia Welch, Billy Miller, Max Meggs and Scott Elrod.
And from the worlds of music and sport, as follows: Enrique Inglesias, Jack Ingram, Lupe Fiasco, PSY, Mario Andretti, Dario Franchitti, Robby Gordon, Michael Johnson, Ben Spies, Rubens Barrichello, Bucky Lasek and Tony Kanann. According to Formula One Management, never before has such an impressive list of celebrities attended a race.
“It’s cool having so many celebrities here,” says Mercedes AMG Petronas star Nico Rosberg. “But the crowd has been fantastic as well. We all got a massive reception from the crowd on the drivers’ parade, and it’s been like that all weekend. There are lots of South Americans here too and they always create a good atmosphere because they’re very passionate.”
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh didn’t mince his words after Lewis Hamilton’s victory. “This was a brilliant day for motorsport in the United States,” he said. “The Austin racetrack is a magnificent one, and today it staged a wonderful motor race. The city of Austin has welcomed us and our sport, and on behalf of everyone at McLaren I want to extend our friendship and gratitude in return.”
As the chequered flag dropped at COTA, the party started in Downtown Austin. Red Bull Racing were planning a celebratory bash to pay homage to their third straight constructors’ championship, which they clinched this afternoon, and the drivers were planning to let their hair down too. “We’ll definitely have a few beers tonight,” said Seb Vettel. “The team really deserves this because everyone has worked so hard all year.”
One driver who wasn’t planning to party in Austin was Kimi Raikkonen. The winner of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix hot-footed it to Los Angeles on Sunday evening, but not before he’d handed out some t-shirts to everyone at Lotus-Renault. “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing” were the words emblazoned on the front, in deference to his radio message while en route to victory in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago.
A sense of humour is important in F1, and Kimi has it down to a tee. Let’s hope the American fans were laughing as well after a brilliant inaugural US GP at COTA!