Trackside at COTA – 2018 US Grand Prix

Filed in US F1 Travel Guide by on 3 Comments

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

This guide will be fully updated for 2018 around 2-4 weeks before the race weekend.

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 need to cover a lot of ground on foot.

Going to COTA: need to know

  • Know before you go: read the latest COTA blog to help you plan your weekend at the circuit
  • 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. Read the list of prohibited items.
  • Opening times: the parking lots next to the track open at 07:00 all weekend, whilst the circuit gates are open from 08:00-18:00 on Friday, 08:00-21:00 on Saturday and 08.30-20:30 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.

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 or Travis County Expo Center priced at $15 return each day when purchased online, or $20 for walkups. This service is recommended!
  • 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.

2017 US Grand Prix Schedule

In addition to over 6 hours of F1 action, the 2017 USGP schedule also features FIA Formula 4 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 20

  • 08:00: Gates open
  • 08:45-09:15: Formula 4 practice
  • 10:00-11:30: Formula 1 (Free Practice 1)
  • 11:50-12:15: Masters Historic F1 practice
  • 12:30-12:50: F1 Talks: The Future of F1 (Austin 360 Amphitheater)
  • 14:00-15:30: Formula 1 (Free Practice 2)
  • 16:10-16:30: F1 Talks: Formula 1 Fitness (Austin 360 Amphitheater)
  • 16:30-16:50: Formula 4 qualifying
  • 17:10-17:35: Masters Historic F1 qualifying
  • 18:00: Gates close

Saturday, October 21

  • 08:00: Gates open
  • 08:30-09:15: F1 pit stop practice
  • 11:00-12:00: Formula 1 (Free Practice 3)
  • 12:30-12:55: Masters Historic F1 race 1
  • 13:30-14:30: Fan Forum (Austin 360 Amphitheater)
  • 14:30-15:00: Formula 4 race 1
  • 15:10-15:25: F1 Talks: Ross Brawn & Chase Carey (Austin 360 Amphitheater)
  • 16:00-17:00: Formula 1 (Qualifying)
  • 18:50-19:20: The Shadowboxers concert
  • 20:00: Justin Timberlake concert
  • 21:00: Gates close

Sunday, October 22

  • 08:00: Gates open
  • 09:30-09:55: Masters Historic F1 race 2
  • 10:50-11:20: Formula 4 race 2
  • 12:30-12:45: F1 Driver’s Parade
  • 14:00-16:00: 2017 United States Grand Prix
  • 16:00-16:30: Fan track invasion
  • 18:00: Stevie Wonder concert
  • 20:30 Gates close

Concerts

The big draw this year is Justin Timberlake, who headlines on Saturday evening from 20:00 at the Super Stage in front of grandstand 9 (the headline concerts are no longer held at the Austin 360 Amphitheater). After the race on Sunday, Stevie Wonder will be playing from 18:00. There’s also a host of other musical acts playing around the circuit over the course of the weekend. 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 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! Check this page to confirm times, which are subject to change.

  • Friday October 20, 12:50-13:15: Red Bull & Mercedes
  • Friday October 20, 16:30-16:55: Ferrari
  • Saturday, October 21, 18:50-19:20: McLaren + Mika Hakkinen
  • Saturday, October 21, time TBD: Renault
  • Sunday, October 22, 09:55-10:20: Haas
  • Sunday, October 22, 10:00-10:25: Sauber
  • Sunday, October 22, 10:25-10:50: Williams
  • Sunday, October 22, 10:30-10:45: Torro Rosso
  • Sunday, October 22, 10:45-11:10: Force India

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

  • Take a walk around the support paddock. The Formula 1 and Masters Historic pits will be open to the public for the first time.
  • Check out the panoramic views from the Observation Tower. Tickets are available for $30 from the base of the tower on Grand Prix weekend.
  • Hit the new 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!)
  • Test your skills with Topgolf CRUSH at the top of Turn 1, and you could win a prize

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

November 26, 2017

Accommodation – 2018 US Grand Prix in Austin

The best budget, mid-range and luxury accommodation in Austin for the United States Formula 1 Grand Prix.

October 17, 2017

Off-Track Activities – US Grand Prix

Central Austin is bursting with activity day and night. There are plenty of things to do away from the track during on United States Grand Prix weekend.

October 14, 2017

Trackside at COTA – 2018 US Grand Prix

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

October 12, 2017

Getting There & Around – United States Grand Prix at COTA

Advice on getting to Austin for the US Formula 1 Grand Prix, plus how to get to the Circuit of the Americas (COTA).

October 11, 2017

Race Facts – US Grand Prix

History and facts of the United States Grand Prix, which has been held at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) outside Austin since 2012.

March 28, 2017

Tickets – 2017 US Grand Prix at COTA

Advice on buying tickets for the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas. Detailed information on grandstands and the best vantage points.

July 12, 2016

Travel Basics – US Grand Prix

Start planning your trip to Austin for the 2016 US Grand Prix on October 21-23.

Tags: , , , , , ,

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 (3)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *