Austin race even surpassed Ecclestone's expectations UPDATE
Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone says the United States Grand Prix at Austin proved to be a bigger success than even he anticipated.
|The grandstands were all full in Austin and the entire weekend went off without any big hitches|
The event attracted more than 250,000 spectators over the three days, and drew rave reviews from drivers, team bosses and the media about the possibilities it has opened up in America.
Ecclestone, who exactly one year ago feared that the race would not take place amid concerns about finances and building progress, was overjoyed with what he had seen.
When asked by AUTOSPORT how the event had matched his expectations, Ecclestone said: "Much better... 12 months ago there wasn't even [going to be] a race.
"Everything is good. Everyone is happy. Everyone in Austin seems happy. It is good when you do something and it works."
Ecclestone believes that the fact Austin has shown such enthusiasm for F1 is a good sign for the future.
"It is difficult the second year, to get a big crowd for a new event," he said.
"But here you can see that they are behind this, which is good. The governor said we would get a bigger crowd next year than this year."
Red Bull boss Christian Horner had no doubts that the Austin race had gone down well.
"I think they have done a great job here," he said. "The track is fantastic, the drivers enjoy it.
"We have seen a good race and the enthusiasm from the fans, the public and the town has been tremendous. It looks like F1 has been a big hit in Texas."
When asked how much work the sport needed to do for the future to ensure it gained a foothold in the United States, he said: "We have to make sure that we continue to put on a good show, and you can see the enthusiasm there is for F1.
"It would be great to have another race in the States which is obviously under discussion, but F1 has made itself proud.
"It has put on a great show this weekend and I am sure it will be remembered." Yahoo! Eurosport UK
11/19/12 The race drew a distinctly different kind of Austin tourist, and for many it was the first time to visit the city. For the die-hard fans, the draw of Austin seemed incidental compared with the circuit, but the city also made an impression.
“You would think this is the friendliest city in the country. Everybody says, ‘Hi. Welcome, welcome, welcome,’ ” said Jim Bruner, a retired engineering professor from Rio Rico, Ariz., who was riding a shuttle bus from Trinity Street downtown to the circuit Sunday morning.
“I’ve been to the Indianapolis 500 32 times. This is not a transportation problem,” Bruner said of the traffic. “I expected it to take three hours to get to the track from my hotel (on Interstate 35 in North Austin). It’s taking a little over one hour.”
Jim Greenwell of Chicago, sitting nearby, chimed in: “People are very friendly. Even the cops are friendly. We’re not used to that.”
Downtown Sunday, out-of-town fans and Austinites soaked up the final night of Fan Fest, a festival geared toward the car enthusiast, with several streets closed off, including Congress Avenue.
“We want to come back next year,” said Rodrigo Penichet, 32, of Mexico City, standing at the corner of Third Street and Congress Avenue. He and companion Claudia Lopez, 35, said they went to the track all three days, calling it “a very good experience.”
The gorgeous weather — ideal for spending the day outside doing anything, including watching cars zoom around a track — certainly didn’t hurt Austin’s image.
Auto racing’s international traveling show was already packing up Sunday night for the next stop — São Paulo, Brazil, host of the final race of the season Sunday.
Some fans rushed to nearby Austin-Bergstrom International Airport after the race, but most are expected to catch flights on Monday, which promises to be among the busiest days of the year at the airport. Commercial airlines added seven flights and 2,506 extra seats for Monday to accommodate F1-related traffic, in part by bringing in larger than normal planes on regularly scheduled flights, according to airport officials.
Some 100 private planes left the airport Sunday, with another 200 expected to fly out Monday, airport spokesman Jason Zielinski said.
Circuit organizers have a year to plan for next year’s race, tentatively set for Nov. 17. There were some glitches Sunday, most notably bottlenecks leaving some parking lots on the east side of the track and long delays after the race on Elroy Road and westbound FM 812. Also after the race, the line to reach the shuttle buses, which took tens of thousands of fans to park-and-ride lots at Trinity Street and the Travis County Exposition Center, stretched for an hour.
Circuit spokeswoman Julie Loignon said officials expected the long lines on Sunday, considering the huge volume of people leaving at the same time.
“We did have a crowd that just about met our expectations,” she said.
Greg Mickelson of Atlanta said he waited an hour to an hour and a half to board a shuttle bus to Lot Q, a remote parking lot on circuit property.
“Today, there were just so many people, it just overwhelmed them,” he said.
Inside the circuit Sunday, some vendors ran short of beer. Fans reported food shortages on Friday and Saturday as well. Loignon called Sunday’s beer shortage an isolated incident.
“I would say we lost thousands because we ran out of beer,” said Mika Scott, a Buda resident who was working the stand as a fundraiser for Buda Youth Sports. “It was insane we ran out of beer at a Formula One event.”