Friday F1 Parties, Fan Fest, Circuit of Americas and more
F1 Party No. 5: Globetrotters play differently than you and I. At the U.S. Grand Prix, they leave the track late in the day, dine in town, take a long siesta, then go out. At 1 a.m. Then they don’t slow down until 5 a.m. Austinites, at least those approaching 60, do not. The My Yacht Club pre-party reception at the Ballet Austin Studios commenced at 8 p.m. as mostly local dance backers munched on Garrido’s snacks and sipped Patron drinks while watching astounding Formula One historical footage. At 10 p.m., those Austinites booked for the full-night experience drifted over to the Austin Ventures Studio Theater, decked out like the kind fancy bottle-service clubs that don’t last long in Austin. I recognized most of the faces until 1 a.m., when the place suddenly filled with writhing bodies attuned to a deft DJ, whose tracks dissolved from house music to irresistible, unadorned beats. Made it home well before dawn.
F1 at the Track: If Royal-Memorial Stadium is our Roman Colosseum, then Circuit of the Americas is Austin’s Circus Maximus, stretched out and twisted. No matter how many times I wander around the track, I can’t process the scale. Any view might be a false view. Shade, shorts and Topo Chico trumped paid seats, fleece and Pouilly-Fuissé on this warm, sunny November day. Pedicabs, outside vendors and scalpers were typically Austin additions to the event in its second year. Forget interviewing fans while the F1 cars are running. There is no talking. No listening. Just the primal scream of the race. Viewed — and heard — from various points around the track, those thin, low cars zoom by at implausible speeds. And that sound — that indescribable, alien sound! — awakens something deeply buried in your physical frame.
F1 Fan Fest: Thursday’s launch of the Circuit of the America’s downtown party seemed to replay last year’s extreme calm and mildness. On Friday, however, Fan Fest dialed it up a notch. Stretches of the 12-block party were full and fulsome, even extravagantly celebratory. Breaking up the blocks for through-traffic on certain streets worked well enough and surely dampened some of the local crankiness about the intrusion of giant social events on daily progress around downtown. The big stage just south of Republic Square Park made a fine concert venue. Crowds responded warmly and noisily to Los Lonely Boys, but got a little quiet when they played jazz. No really, jazz.
F1 Party No. 6: These days, most diplomacy has less to do with geopolitical policy and more to do with trade. So it’s no wonder that the British arrived in Austin Friday with loads of luxury goods in their baggage. Finely tooled consumer products were displayed in the coves of ACL’s mezzanine level for the Best of Britain F1 party, which would later bleed into the Best of Texas concert. Gov. Rick Perry and Mayor Lee Leffingwell greeted storied driver and professional Scot Jackie Stewart, later smothered by adoring women. My favorite personal moment was watching former presidential photographer David Valdez and Popular Hispanics publisher Milton Torres explaining to each other who I was. (I’d profiled both, they soon discovered.)
F1 Party No. 7: Didn’t know what to expect from the mysteriously marketed Motostalgia Gala. Yet as soon as I entered the vast acreage of the Austin Convention Center, I understood the appeal of this traveling auction and social function. Everywhere one looked were magnificent old cars in mint condition. My personal faves: A cherry-red 1957 Porsche Speedster 356A, a white-and-oxblood 1953 Cadillac Eldorado and a forest-green 1936 Packard Eight Phaeton. “Car geek central,” was how media consultant Kevin Benz described the event, before explaining that Austin businessman Milton Verret’s Ferrari F300, formerly driven by Michael Schumacher, would be auctioned later, some of the money going for charity. While the exhilerating swing band Vintage 15 serenaded the crowd, Benz’s wife and philanthropy advisor Olga Campos pointed out 92-year-old boxer Jake LaMotta, escorting a blond dripping with diamonds. I dashed over to snap a shot, but waited while the pugilist finished the first sip of his drink. LaMotta’s seventh wife, Denise Baker, bawled at me: “Take the picture already!” It was like something out of a 1940s mob movie. Her eyes and mine met in knowing amusement.