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Trackside – 2017 US Grand Prix at COTA

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Your trackside guide to Circuit of the Americas for the United States Formula 1 Grand Prix. The next race takes place on October 20-22, 2017.

Images kindly supplied by Marie Misso, who attended the 2016 US Grand Prix. This guide will be fully updated for 2017 around one month before the race.

COTA rates highly for the quality of its trackside experience, though the circuit’s shortcomings were highlighted in 2015 when it was hit by a freak storm with strong wind and heavy rain on Grand Prix weekend.  There are lots of nice grassy banks at COTA in the general admission areas, but cover from the elements is limited (that includes sun as well!), so keep this in mind. As with any such circuit, it’s a good idea to wear comfortable shoes as you will be covering a lot of ground on foot. Internet access can be limited trackside, so taking an FM radio is a good idea. You can tune in to race commentary on 104.9 or 105.3 FM.

Parking, Access & Orientation

The parking lots next to the track open from 7am on Friday and Saturday (7.30am on Sunday), whilst the circuit gates are open from 8am on Friday and Saturday (8.30am on Sunday). Remember that you cannot bring any food or drink (aside from one sealed plastic bottle) into the circuit. If you have General Admission tickets, bringing a collapsible camping chair is a good idea. Read the list of prohibited items.

There’s thirteen official car parks (and plenty of unofficial car parks) for fans located around the outside of Circuit of the Americas. Click here for maps on the COTA website with details of the parking and best ways to get to the circuit. Traffic can get very congested around the circuit, particularly on race day. If you haven’t bought your parking pass in advance, it’s possible to buy entry to lots F or T on the day from the box office (opposite Lot B). There’s also a Park & Ride offer with cheaper ticket prices.

There are five entrance gates to the circuit: Main Grand Stand, Grand Plaza, Turn 1, Gate 4 and Turn 11 East. Once inside, you can also take advantage of a free on-site tram service to take you from one side of the circuit to the other; one shuttle stops at Grand Plaza Lot B, Main Grandstand, and Lot T near Turn 1), whilst a second shuttle stops at Grand Plaza Lot D, Tunnel 2 exit, and Lot H turnaround.

2016 US Grand Prix Schedule

In addition to over 6 hours of F1 action, there’s also Porsche Supercup racing and Masters Historic racing, which features 3-liter F1 cars from the period 1966-1985, including classics from constructors such as Ferrari, Williams, Lotus and McLaren.

Friday, October 21

  • 08:00: Gates open
  • 10:00-11:30: Formula 1 (Free Practice 1)
  • 11:55-12:20: Masters Historic F1 (Practice 1)
  • 14:00-15:30: Formula 1 (Free Practice 2)
  • 16:00-16:45: Porsche Supercup (Practice 1)
  • 17:15-17:40: Masters Historic F1 (Practice 2)
  • 18:49: Gates close

Saturday, October 22

  • 08:00: Gates open
  • 08:50-09:15: Masters Historic F1 (Qualifying)
  • 10:00-11:00: Formula 1 (Free Practice 3)
  • 11:30-12:00: Porsche Supercup (Qualifying)
  • 13:00-14:00: Formula 1 (Qualifying)
  • 15:00-15:25: Masters Historic F1 (Race 1)
  • 16:00-16:35: Porsche Supercup (Race 1)
  • 19:00: Taylor Swift concert

Sunday, October 23

  • 09:00: Gates open
  • 10:35-11:00: Masters Historic F1 (Race 2)
  • 11:30-12:05: Porsche Supercup (Race 2)
  • 12:30: F1 Driver’s Parade
  • 14:00-16:00: 2016 US Formula 1 Grand Prix
  • 16:00-17:00: Fan track invasion
  • 18:00: Usher and the Roots concert

Concerts

The big draw this year is the wildly popular Taylor Swift, who headlines on Saturday evening from 19:00 at the Super Stage in front of grandstand 9 (not at the Austin 360 Amphitheater as in previous years, presumably to fit more fans in). The Weeknd was lined up to play after the race on Sunday, but pulled out and has been replaced by Usher and the Roots. All F1 ticketholders receive free entry to the concerts. More info is here.

Drivers’ Autograph Sessions

These sessions, which also include a Q&A with the drivers, take place at allocated times over the course of the weekend (see opposite) on the stage of the Austin 360 Amphitheater. There’s no need to get a wristband this year, but you will still need to get there early if you are determined to get your favorite driver’s autograph!

  • Ferrari: Friday, 12:10-12:35
  • Red Bull: Friday, 12:50-13:15
  • Williams: Saturday, 12:05-12:30
  • Haas: Saturday, 16:05-16:30
  • McLaren: Saturday, 16:10-16:35
  • Mercedes: Saturday, 16:30-16:55
  • Renault: Saturday, 16:30-16:55
  • Torro Rosso: Saturday, 16:35-17:00
  • Manor: Sunday, 10:15-10:40
  • Sauber: Sunday, 10:45-11:10
  • Force India: Sunday, 10:45-11:10

Food, Drink & Facilities

The trackside food and drink offer at Circuit of the Americas is varied and decent, but the prices are very high. Expect to pay $8-10 for a beer and $15-25 for meals. Food on offer includes everything from standard American fare (hot dogs, hamburgers etc) to pizza, Mexican and some more interesting food trucks. There’s plenty of restrooms around the circuit. Permanent facilities are located next to several grandstands (Main, Turn 1 and Turn 15) and inside the Austin360 Amphitheater. All the other facilities are temporary.

Have you been to COTA? Leave a comment below and tell us your trackside tips!

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About the Author ()

Andrew Balfour is the Founder and Editor of F1Destinations.com. He originally hails from Adelaide, where he went to his first F1 race way back in 1987. He's been resident in Europe for almost 15 years and travels regularly to F1 races around the world.

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