JZ at F1


The fastest pitstop at the US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas was 1.923 seconds. This was not only a track record but a new F1 record. This absurdly fast pitstop sums up so much of what we witnessed at the Circuit of Americas. NASA like technology mixed with human efficiency, so technical that the "human" aspects seemed hidden behind the paddock gates along with the secret engineering, supermodels and A-list cameos.


From the stands, during trials, a hundred thousand fans held up their phones to catch their car in a split second. It was hot in Texas during race weekend. Shade was a purchased commodity along with everything else at the track. The merchandising and concession machine that is Formula One was as well oiled as the race cars. Somehow, I found myself purchasing a $98 tee shirt that was quickly stained with ketchup while trying to shimmy along the grandstands. And we were the lucky ones. I mean, really lucky. Because we could leave the sweaty stands and go back into the paddock club where the super wealthy from Europe and the Americas sat in sterile, hospital-reminiscent viewing rooms and watched the race on Fox Sports. 


Along the Greenbelt in Austin, we had rented a nice mid-century house with a pool and a view. After a stop for queso and margs, we rinsed off the day's sweat and cranked up the AC. On Saturday night, an early viewing copy of Roman Polanski's "Weekend of a Champion" was delivered to our house and everything changed. We fell in love with Formula One while sitting comfortably on the couch watching Jackie Stewart drive Polanski through the streets of Monoco. Stewart explained every corner, every turn, his line, why he drove, the pain of losing friends, the cars; Formula One was fascinating, exciting and FAST.


Back at the track, where the modern F1 cars redefined "fast", we had a chance to see Jackie Stewart in person as he chatted with drivers and other legends like Mario Andretti. Ron Howard, fresh after the release of "Heat" walked the starting line of cars flanked by the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Surreal doesn't really give justice to simultaneously watching Gerard Butler lean in close to speak with a driver, while a 400 pounder, in the seat behind, chomped on a Turkey Leg, dripping fat onto his Red Bull tank top. 


The race itself was over before it began. Within the first few minutes, Vettel in his Red Bull car pulled away from the pack. The speed difference and driving lines were indiscernible between Vettel and the other drivers but it was beyond clear that Red Bull had a distinct advantage either in driving prowess or car technology. It was strange, during the minutes while the cars were on the far side of the track, to realize that for our car to win, we would need Vettel to crash. We briefly discussed this ethical dilemma over text, after screaming into our doubled up ear protection became too tiring. We left the circuit as soon as the checker flag flew. We wanted to beat the traffic and it was still a three hour drive back into town. When we arrived in Austin, the city already had that Sunday afternoon feeling. It was over. Time to go home. Time to settle down.


To the truest sense of my memory, the previous description is how I recollect the US Grand Prix. It sounds really shitty which is why I want to qualify my next statement by commenting that I truly don't understand why, when we boarded our flight back to Portland, and took our seats, we looked at one another and unanimously agreed that Formula One was absolutely awesome and that we couldn't wait to get back to the track. We still hold the latter sentiment today. 

Juliet Zulu