I see that the promoters of the U.S. F1 Grand Prix are going to have one-time Train Smash Woman Britney Spears and someone named Bruno Mars perform at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) over the race weekend this year. This, to encourage people to come to a place which features, as one canny commenter put it, a 56-lap parade lap.
Here’s why I, a Formula 1 devotee, won’t be going back to the US GP anytime soon.
- Parking — It’s a nightmare. If you don’t mind paying $150 for a parking spot next to the track, then you’re good to go. However, if you balk at paying that fee on top of a $200-plus ticket price, then you’ll be parking in a muddy field over a mile away and walking along a country road to and from the race. It’s total bullshit. There should be large covered parking garages (which we Murkins do better than anyone else, btw) all around the circuit so that race fans can at least get to their cars quickly, even if they then have to endure the
- Traffic jams — Access to COTA is along a series of tiny, two-lane back-country roads which cannot handle even half the traffic of the event. If the race starts at 1pm, you need to get to within three miles of the track at least three hours beforehand. Last year, Doc Russia, Trevor and I got there two hours beforehand, parked the Doom Wagon (Doc’s ride — don’t ask) and walked about a mile and a half alongside a road full of cars carrying people who were trying to get closer before themelves parking. Some people had given up and were trying to turn around — making the situation even worse — and the only saving grace of the whole thing was that it wasn’t raining (which it often does in Austin in November, by the way, sometimes in torrents). All this hassle, as I mentioned above, at the most excruciating
- Cost — It seems ironic that only the F1 team owners and drivers can really afford to go to the US GP. Attending the GP could cost, all in, over $1,000 — way too much for the average fan to afford — and to be perfectly honest, when it would cost me only a few hundred dollars more to attend any of the better-managed F1 races in Europe, I can see why the promoters have an uphill battle, especially when the FIA governing body of Formula 1 charges excessive fees to the track owners so that FIA can pay the large amounts of money to the teams to cover development and playboy millionaire-driver costs. Unlike in Yurp, we Murkins have a lot of choices when it comes to motorsports — Indycar and NASCAR come to mind, both of which are better spectacles than F1 anyway, because they are less
- Boring — It says a lot that a NASCAR race on an oval track can be more exciting to watch than the F1 Grand Prix. In my opinion there are several ways that F1 could improve the sport and make it more exciting for spectators, but I’ll talk about that some other time. So I’d rather not watch the F1 races in situ, but instead spend my Saturdays and Sundays
- Online — The annual cost for the F1 live-streaming TV coverage of all the races is about one-tenth the cost of attending a single Grand Prix: no expensive hotel rooms, no driving three hours just to get to Austin, no traffic jams, no long walks over muddy fields and along congested roads, no exorbitant tickets costs, etc. Rather, I’ll sit in my comfortable recliner with some kind of beverage in hand and a bowl of snacks, and watch the entire race, not just the piece of track I can see from my seat. I hope it rains.
And here’s the real takeaway from my gripe: once there’s no reason for me to attend said event, it really doesn’t matter whether there’s a US Grand Prix at all — on TV, the coverage is pretty much confined to the track anyway. (For that matter, I’d rather watch the Spa or Monza races on TV anyway because the tracks are more interesting than the Scalextric layout of COTA.)
Incidentally, I am fully aware of the irony of COTA hiring Britney Spears to perform after their Grand Prix:
…while F1 has banned grid girls.
Let it also be said that I wouldn’t attend a Britney concert as a gift. I have enough problems with my hearing without subjecting my ears to her breathy dog-whistle voice. And as I have no idea who or what “Bruno Mars” is, it’s a safe assumption that I won’t be watching that either.
Sayonara, Austin Grand Prix. I’d like to say it was fun while it lasted; but overall, it wasn’t. I’m a huge fan of F1 — just not the way you stage it. Too bad, really.