Trackside at COTA – 2018 US Grand Prix

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Your trackside guide to Circuit of The Americas for the 2018 United States Formula 1 Grand Prix on October 19-21.

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 (sun/rain) is limited, so keep this in mind when you are getting ready for your day at the track. As with any such circuit, it’s a good idea to wear comfortable shoes as you’ll be covering a lot of ground on foot.

Going to COTA: need to know

  • Know before you go: bookmark the COTA FAQ page for full trackside information, including shuttles, parking, trackside entertainment and more
  • Download the COTA app before you go to the track: just search for “Circuit of the Americas” in your app store (IOS/Android). The app has maps, FAQs, on-track and concert schedules, live commentary and more.
  • Circuit entry: 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. The full list of prohibited items is available on the COTA FAQ page.
  • Opening times: the parking lots next to the track open at 07:30 on Friday and Sunday (08:30 on Saturday), whilst the circuit gates are open from 08:00-17:30 on Friday, 09:30-22:00 on Saturday and 08.30-20:00 on Sunday.
  • Following the action: 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. F1 Vision is also available at the 2018 US Grand Prix for $109 all weekend.
  • Post-race track invasion entry points: Turn 19, Main Grandstand East, Main Grandstand West, Turn 1.

 

 

Parking, Access & Orientation

  • More information on getting to COTA is in the Getting There & Around section of our guide, whilst relevant maps can be found on the COTA website with details of parking. 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 Shuttle service from Downtown priced at $15 return each day when purchased online, or $20 for walkups. This service is recommended!
  • COTA has five entrance gates: 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.

2018 US Grand Prix Schedule

In addition to over 6 hours of F1 action, the 2018 USGP schedule also features two open-seater support categories: FIA Formula 4 and the new F3 Americas Championship. The supercars from the Formula 1 Pirelli Hot Laps program will also be doing regular demonstration runs with paying customers.

Friday, October 19

  • 08:00: Gates open
  • 08:45-09:15: F3 Americas Series (practice)
  • 10:00-11:30: Formula 1 (Free Practice 1)
  • 11:55-12:25: FIA Formula 4 (practice)
  • 12:30-13:00: Formula 1 Pirelli Hot Laps
  • 14:00-15:30: Formula 1 (Free Practice 2)
  • 16:00-16:20: FIA Formula 4 (qualifying)
  • 16:45-17:15: F3 Americas Series (qualifying)
  • 17:30: Gates close

Saturday, October 20

  • 09:30: Gates open
  • 11:40-12:10: F3 Americas Series (race #1)
  • 13:00-14:00: Formula 1 (Free Practice 3)
  • 14:15-15:15: 302nd Aviation Squadron Static Aircraft Display
  • 14:20-14:40: Formula 1 Pirelli Hot Laps
  • 16:00-17:00: Formula 1 (Qualifying)
  • 17:30-18:00: FIA Formula 4 (race #1)
  • 20:00: Bruno Mars concert (COTA Superstage)
  • 22:00: Gates close

Sunday, October 21

  • 08:30: Gates open
  • 09:15-09:45: F3 Americas Series (race #2)
  • 10:15-10:45: FIA Formula 4 (race #2)
  • 11:00-11:20: Formula 1 Pirelli Hot Laps
  • 11:30-12:00: Formula 1 Drivers’ Parade
  • 13:10-15:10: 2018 United States Grand Prix
  • 15:15-16:00: Fan track invasion
  • 16:00-16:55: F1 Fan Forum (Austin 360 Amphitheater)
  • 18:00: Britney Spears concert (COTA Superstage)
  • 20:00 Gates close

COTA F1 Concerts

Circuit of The Americas continues to sign up big-name acts for its F1 weekend concerts. This year, Bruno Mars brings his 24k Magic World Tour to the COTA Superstage on Saturday after qualifying, while pop icon Britney Spears headlines the post-race concert.  There’s also a host of other musical acts playing around the circuit over the course of the weekend (learn more here). All F1 ticketholders receive free entry to the concerts.

Drivers’ Autograph Sessions

These sessions, which also include a Q&A with the drivers, take place at allocated times on the stage of the Austin 360 Amphitheater. This year, all the sessions take place on Saturday, October 20. Click here for the schedule.

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.

Other things to do at COTA

  • Check out the panoramic views from the Observation Tower. Tickets are available for $30 from the base of the tower on Grand Prix weekend. Open on Friday from 09:30-17:00, Saturday from 09:00-16:00 and Sunday from 09:00-17:00.
  • Hit the go-kart track! Located in Lot A behind the Main Grandstand, tickets are available from the COTA website for $30 and must be purchased in advance (no walkups!)

Been to COTA? Leave a comment with your trackside tips!

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Trackside at COTA – 2018 US Grand Prix

Your trackside guide to Circuit of the Americas for the United States Formula 1 Grand Prix.

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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.

Comments (12)

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  1. Rob Marson says:

    If you want to purchase an alcoholic drink at the track make sure you have ID no matter what age you are. I’m in my 50’s and had to show ID!
    As mentioned there is plenty of food choice but it’s pricey although as it’s the US the portions are very generous.
    My experience in 2015, as with many circuits, is they don’t care which stand you sit in for practice and quali

  2. Rick says:

    Thx for the insight. Very helpful.

  3. Scott says:

    Tip 1: I bought a three day parking pass from a local homeowner just outside turn one. Way cheaper than track parking, just as close and way easier to get out after the event. Look for Bubas BBQ.
    Tip 2: I brought a small/low camp chair I bought at REI and sat on the hill above turn 1. I think Turn 1is the only place to sit and watch the race. I sat for General Admission price, just below the $600/seat guys in the grandstands. Austin has to be the best place to watch F1 without buying a Grandstand seat…..Hungaroring has to be the second best!

  4. Andy T says:

    Do you have any source to confirm that FM radio will work this year? We took ours last year (2017), and there was nothing on the advertised channels. We had to hire the fanvision mini TV thingys to get commentary that we could hear from out seats.

    (Asking on behalf of any fans who may be misled by outdated info, as unfortunately I won’t be going this year :(

  5. james says:

    question. can i being my backpack straight from the airport to the track friday? i know the demensions, 20x12x12.. i can male P2 easily directly from the airportt to track, but i don’t think i’ll make it to my airbnb in downtown austin & back to track….any ideas?

    • Kirill says:

      I think as long as you do not have any items that are prohibited inside of the backpack you will be fine. However, I would check what is allowed and what is not inside of the track beforehand on the official website.

  6. Arturo guzmán says:

    Trackside is extremely full of mud. Bring rain boots and be papered to get very dirty. Also temperatures are around 65 so jeans and light jacket are a most. Concerts are also in extremely muddy terrain with poor lighting so be careful there. I agree you can save a lot by buying general admission. Great views and half the price.

  7. Mark Hawkins says:

    enjoyed the race weekend at COTA (2018), but a few observations as this was a budget trip for us:

    Parking at the official track is $100+ for the 3 days, but if you drive down Elroy road by the circuit, plenty of locals hire out their land for parking, we paid $20/day for Sat/Sun, locals are friendly and we didn’t get hunted and eaten!

    Metal detectors while entering the track and bag search, although they specify you are only allowed to bring in a bottle of water, bag search is pretty light, so we brought in some snacks for race day. Food & drink is a rip!!! can of Bud = $10, drip coffee with powdered creamer = $4, chicken strips(3) with a few crisps on the side = $13. Best value was the Krispy Kreme donut van. F1 merch is normal high price and they had some COTA specific clothing, but it’s $30+ for Tshirts etc. Zip line is $30…you get the idea.

    We went on General admin tickets (cheapest), but the track has plenty of really good vantage points due to the elevations, so very happy with what we could see of the action (we set up on the hill by turn 1 so we could see start/finish/pits and turn 1, also had a short downhill walk to get to the track invasion at the end….a lot more orderly than Monza or Monaco. We bought some camping chairs from Wallmart to use on Sunday as the surrounding areas were still a bit muddy from all the rain Austin had in the previous days. Like most tracks, it’s very hard to actually follow the action (but you can rent a fan vision tablet to keep you up to date (ahem $149 I think), but for a track experience they have it pretty well set up. An auditorium area has talks with drivers/staff in between the action and various live bands around the track during the weekend.

    The after race concerts are held on a big stage in the centre of the track with only one way in/out so is a bit of a trek across the fields. Nice festival type stage. Perimeter of the track has free shuttle buses running in a clockwise loop to save you having to walk miles.

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