Happy to oblige!
The race was extremely cool to see in person. In addition to the F1 race, there were 3 support races: Pirelli GT3 (Porsche) Cup West, Ferrari Challenge (458 Italia Challenge cars), and Historic Grand Prix (cars from about 1965 through 1982). The GT3s qualified at about 2:15. The F1 cars were more like 1:35. The difference in speed is astounding to see in person. I think I saw the F1 cars doing consistently 3.5-4G laterally through the esses as they climbed toward turn 9.
The track itself was gorgeous. The terrain was very hilly, and the climb up the main straight into Turn 1 was extremely steep. Probably 80-100 feet of incline just on that straight alone.
We sat in the grandstands at Turn 12, right at the start of the braking zone after the long straight. The cars were going from ~200mph down to ~50 to make it through the 110-ish degree turn. It was probably the best place on the track to sit in terms of visibility. I could see the exit of Turn 1 and the short straight before T2. The cars were then visible as they approached and climbed the esses. Then they were visible about 3/4 of the way as they appeared down the long straight from T11 (there is a hill along that long straight that kills the sight line, but any passing happens at the end anyway). Then T12 through T15 were visible before the cars disappeared (this is the “stadium” section of the track similar to Hockenheim).
As far as “action” spots on the track, the long straight into T12 and T19 seemed to be where most interesting things happened. T19 is a very tricky turn, and it caught a LOT of drivers out (both F1 and in the supporting races).
The facilities were not yet finished. Lots of last-minute dried out sod, steam-rollered dirt/gravel pathways where the asphalt just ended, not much in the way of benches, etc. The grandstand for T12 was a temporary scaffolding thing, and it looked like they didn’t have enough time to build something more permanent. It was quite wobbly feeling when everyone stood up at once. So hopefully for next year they’ll have that addressed. The concessions drew a lot of complaints for being super slow, running out of food, etc. Hopefully next year they’ll have that a little better figured out too.
They had shuttle buses to get to and from the track, so it was not necessary to drive/pay for parking. Parking near the shuttle stop in downtown was $20 for the day. Shuttles started at 7 (and we got there at 6:45 each day), and we got to the track around 8:15 or so. We ended up leaving around 3:30 each day and got back to downtown around 5-ish. They were very organized which was nice, but the queueing was insane (you had to walk through over 1/2 mile of queueing even when there wasn’t enough people to fill it).
They only allowed sealed bottles of water in the gate, so we brought a few liters each day and had no issues with dehydration. I could see this being a problem for people who didn’t plan ahead though since the shade was pretty sparse.
There was only 1 “crash” the whole weekend, and it was in the GT3 race on Sunday morning first thing. As the cars were driving from the paddock up to the main straight to line up for the start, the last guy out of the paddock gunned it, lost traction on the cold track/cold tires, and hit the armco sideways right in front of our seats. He broke something and crabbed his way to the pit lane and didn’t start the race. Other than that, it was a pretty clean weekend (only 2 retirements in the F1 race, both due to mechanical issues).
The airport was crazy busy on Thursday when we arrived and on Monday morning when we left. They had brought in like 3000+ extra rental cars from neighboring areas/states, and they had a special return location for all the extra volume. Hotels were insanely expensive. We stayed in a b&b on the west side of the UT campus, and it was nice to be away from the throngs of people. The owner told us that “the powers that be” told her how much she should charge for the weekend (4 night minimum stay), so that was interesting. The crappy motel places (like Super 8) were charging ~400/night, so there were definitely no “deals” to be had. If anyone is planning to go next year, I’d suggest seeing if you can score a deal on airbnb or the like (early–before people are fully aware of the schedule).
There was a “Fan Fest” zone downtown between 5th and 6th streets, which is the main restaurant/bar/music area of the city. They had concerts all weekend and a bunch of f1 themed activities. If you wanted to people watch and look for drivers, that was the place to be. We decided to avoid it due to the tons of people and being exhausted from sitting in the sun all day, so I can’t telly you much more about that aspect of the weekend. Most of the larger hotels are right in that general area, so if you were to stay there you’d be right in the thick of the “action”.
There were driver autograph sessions, but they were very short and required standing in line starting at 7:30 for a 3:00 session on Saturday. So unless you *really* needed to get a signed whatever from a driver, it was unlikely that you could actually get one (they only did 15 minute sessions, which maybe translated to about 50 signatures). We did see Kimi and Vettel when they came out for their sessions though (at maybe 30 feet distance), so that was cool.
T12 was probably the loudest spot on track because the cars were all downshifting 3-5 times as they came into the turn, and the downshifts are LOUD. Most of the downshifts sounded as expected with each shift coming with a corresponding rev-match. he Force India cars had some weird shift program set up with their transmission making each downshift sound like a giant backfire. The Ferraris also sounded like they had 2 or 3 different mappings on downshift where sometimes it would sound like a backfire, sometimes, it would sound “clean”, and sometimes it sounded like they were doubling-up the downshifts with 1 rev match per 2 shifts. Pretty interesting to experience live.
One other thing that I found fascinating.. At T12, there was a huge variation in the lines that people were taking, mostly because they were not braking or turning in consistently. However, Vettel and Hamilton each only took about 3 laps in FP1 on Friday to nail down a perfect trail-braking line to the apex. Most of the other drivers were missing the apex by a lot, locking up brakes, not trailing smoothly, etc. It continued into the race itself, and the difference in lines was pretty cool to see.
I’m sure there are other interesting things I experienced this weekend, so if you have any other questions, please feel free to post them..