Leading Formula One commentator David Croft has led a raft of praise for the Circuit of the Americas and of the overwhelming welcome the sport has received at its newest venue in Austin, Texas.
Arriving in Austin on Wednesday, the 42-year-old was taken aback by the positivity surrounding the Grand Prix during what could be a key weekend in the season.
“the welcome that Austin is giving Formula One is absolutely incredible and that’s not just the people on the streets, that’s the news programmes as well. You cannot turn the telly on and not know there’s a Grand Prix taking place here. It’s a sell-out. The Austin airport is having its busiest day of the year, even busier than the day before Thanksgiving and the welcome that has been put on is phenomenal.”
This weekend’s Grand Prix will be the first in the US since the sport split with Indianapolis in 2007 and initial impressions is that this could be a successful relationship.
“F1 is here; the city is welcoming F1. F1 wants to be here and unlike when we go to Korea, where you would be forgiven for thinking it was just a get together with a few cars and their mates, this place is embracing Formula One and that is absolutely brilliant.”
Croft was also keen to note the feeling of excitement from local support as he entered the circuit yesterday morning.
“We came into the track […] at 8:45 – and this is a Thursday, so there’s no cars on track and there were fans queuing up to get in and there’s only one other place I know where that happens in large numbers and that’s Silverstone.”
As the leading member of the Sky Sports F1 commentary team, Croft is certain that the weekend will deliver numerous talking points, but believes the prizes on Sunday may be going Red Bull’s way.
“It looks to me like a Red Bull track, although Red Bull say don’t count your chickens on that one – who knows, it might suit McLaren as well, but I think it could be a Red Bull track this week. I’m not sure where Ferrari fit in at the moment, but I don’t think Alonso will be far away.”
“…it has got the ingredients that tend to suit a car that has the most efficient aerodynamics and downforce and that traditionally has been Red Bull in the past few years, but it’s going to be so slippy out there in FP1 that Jerome d’Ambrosio said it may not be until Saturday that you get a true reflection of what this circuit is capable of and what the drivers can do here and I think he’s right in that.”
Formula One had a difficult time of it in the US since leaving Watkins Glen in 1980 and Croft is hoping the Austin experience goes some way to healing some of the wounds that have developed over the years and according to the Sky Sports F1 man, plenty of early running would be a good start.
“They’ve got an extra set of hard tyres, so there’s no excuse for sticking around in the garage – we want to see maximum action on the track, but I don’t think we’ll see until Saturday morning a true indication as to who’s going to go really well here.” Croft continued “it’s going to be fascinating – the teams are going to discover a lot and it’s going to change a lot over night as well, so that temptation to chase that lap time and performance have got to be overcome by the teams, because you end up getting yourself into all sorts of bother.”
The commentator also ran the circuit on Thursday as part of the Run That Track programme and was left impressed by not just the layout, but also the elevation changes – something that has been lacking at many newer venues.
“Once I’d gotten over the fact that I needed oxygen just to get over turn one, I really enjoyed running the track. The hill up to turn one is mighty. It’s a total blind apex as well, almost pointing up to the sky and I think we’re going to get a lot of fun, but then the drop down is really severe.
“There’s a great twisty bit in the first sector that’s reminiscent of Maggots and Becketts and the Esses from Suzuka, there’s another crest just before you get to the hairpin and a long straight. There’ll be overtaking opportunities and that ‘turn 8’ replica as well in the final sector.”
However, if there were any thoughts of a Texan scorcher this weekend, Croft immediately scoffed that possibility.
“We’ve all come to Texas thinking it would be the hottest place on the planet and it’s gets down to 3°C at night. We were out at the Salt lake barbeque last night, which is right out in the sticks, and it was fairly nippy by the time we stopped eating.”
Leigh O’Gorman is a friend of the Sett at Badger GP and the editor of the motor racing based website TheMotorsportArchive.com. When he’s not dribbling over a laptop at home or in an office somewhere, he is probably spending his time traveling all over Europe covering various Formula 3 championships, as well as GP2 and GP3, while also dabbling in things like Formula Ford. Throughout 2012, he was also the British Formula 3 correspondent for MotorsTV.com