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Turn 1

Alexander Rossi Talks About F1 In America

Alexander Rossi was in Austin last week for the Austin Fashion Week kick off event, "Shift Into Style." Before he took to the runway Friday night, we sat down with Alexander and got a deeper understanding of his appreciation for the new American home for F1, Circuit of The Americas.

What we really like about this interview is Alexander's in-depth analysis of a 3D model of the Circuit, explained to us through the experienced eyes of a driver.

Alexander also autographed some COME AND RACE IT stickers and shirts - keep your eyes peeled for this great giveaway!

For a more in-depth look into Alexander's role as American racing driver, check out: ALEXANDER ROSSI TO JOIN AUSTIN FASHION EVENT.


 Alexander also autographed some COME AND RACE IT stickers and shirts - keep your eyes peeled for this great giveaway!

Within Arm's Reach: Construction Update at COTA

// Click on any of the photos above to go to the full gallery.

With just under four months to go until the November Formula 1 race at Circuit of The Americas, construction is moving along steadily as the deadline approaches. On site today for a media tour, there was evidence of significant progress since our last visit exactly one month prior. Many are concerned that significant strides may not be enough to achieve the impossible, but COTA and their contractors are confident everything is on schedule.

First stop on the trip was Austin's zenith, Turn 1, where the temporary observation platform has been removed to make room for grandstands and permanent restroom facilities. We were able to exit the shuttle and step out on the run-off area, walking trough the gravel trap and on to the asphalt.

The difference between the track now and a short three months ago (April), makes the less than four month deadline seem completely within reach for COTA. With 700 workers on site at any point during the day, there is no shortage of hands to get this project completed. The guard rails are in place and bolted together and the FIA required fence is taught and ready for race operation. All together, the only thing remaining to finish Turn 1 is the final layer of asphalt for the race surface and some cosmetic details.

Speaking to an Austin Commercial representative (the general contractor), I learned that FIA Safety Delegate Charlie Whiting's June visit to the Circuit (post Canadian Grand Prix) was very positive. Concerns about completion where squashed when compared to recent F1 tracks like Korea and India, both of which staged races but fought the clock late into the night before their respective events. COTA's FIA inspection is scheduled a minimum of 60 days before F1 arrives on track, which makes the weekend of Sept 15-16 the true target for circuit operation.

Continuing on the racing line to our next stop at Turn 11, our ride was smooth and free of previous bumps and rattles from a dirt surface; only the circuit's inherent undulation and natural character came through. Despite traveling only 30 miles per hour in a large shuttle bus, we were able to get a taste of the complex maneuvering that will be required by future drivers; they will certainly enjoy the challenges the first half of the circuit presents.

Stopping at Turn 11 was an opportunity to survey the progress in just one month since Mark Winterbottom's visit to the circuit. This hairpin turn is surprisingly narrow so cars must make their move early coming out of Turn 10 and secure their position before entering Turn 11. In terms of progress, the access road behind the barriers looks complete while the kerbs and fencing are just behind at about 50% completion. Like the majority of the track, the run-off area and track surface are ready to receive final treatment.

Traveling down the main straight to Turn 12, it's hard to not focus on the Tower under construction. With many of the prefabricated steel sections in place, the commanding white tower dominates the western side of the circuit even though it has yet to reach its 251 foot peak. 8" steel tubes painted COTA red will create the canopy of the Tower and stretch down to the amphitheater below. Some evidence of these red tubes adorns the back side of the Main Grandstand and will also be part of the Grand Plaza entrance on the far west side of the track. We didn't stop to look at the Tower, but I'm looking forward to investigating it in the future to understand how the amphitheater and Tower will connect.

Our final stop - on the main straight - was the heart of the on-site action today. With the paddock building on the left, the Main Grandstand on the right, and Turn 1 in the background, the activity and excitement levels here are electric. The Main Grandstand's canopy structure is complete and the first piece of canopy covering has just been installed. The glass windows of the paddock building are practically done and the main scoreboard and starting line gantry are in position. Much remains to satisfy the typical paddock club clientele from what's visible on the track below, so crews are likely beginning to focus more on the buildings and guest amenities as the track and safety elements near completion.

In total, the pieces of the puzzle that will transform this circuit into America's new home for motorsports are secret no more. The world's greatest drivers will soon compete on this track; the top three will grace the podium, spraying champagne over the edge and rewarding their teammates and crew members for their hard work. Thousands of fans have dreamed about the return of an American F1 race for over five years. Within a matter of months now, all the glory will be within arm's reach.

Need seats at Circuit of The Americas? Buy your USGP tickets from TicketCity.

Piecing It All Together: From the White Board to the Dirt Mound

Out of all the photos from last week’s site visit at Circuit of The Americas, only a few adequately capture the magnitude of the project. In fact, it takes 17 frames compiled together to create the following high-resolution panoramic photo. This is a panoramic photo taken from atop Turn 1, the most south-eastern point of the circuit, facing west. The far left of the photo is the south side of the property, and as you pan your view to the right, you are looking north.

Compiled from 17 photos, this panoramic shows the racetrack site from atop Turn 1.

We rode down the hill and made a pit stop in the temporary job site offices. Inside, we were greeted by grandstand seating options, restroom hardware and miscellaneous fixture options. Though it might seem trivial, selection of this hardware is a critical part of the project, and when done right, each doorhandle and light fixture intgrates seemlessly with the design. Just behind us, a detailed and colorful ten foot long rendering was tacked onto a white board, but it extended well past it. This was the first full size print out availible, so I also compiled numerous frames of it to deliver this high-res panoramic rendering, which mirrors the above panoramic shot from Turn 1.

Panoramic view from the top of Turn 1. Conceptual rendering from COTA, all rights reserved.

WOW! What a view! From this position, you can see the start/finish line, the pit and paddock building, and Turns 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 16, 17, 18, 19, & 20.  Very few tracks in the world offer this comprehensive of a view from a single location.  The seating from this vantage point will be highly coveted and possibly limited; but there will be numerous seating options throughout the circuit that provide multiple views of the track, versus a 5-second drive/fly-by.

The magnitude of this project is starting to sink in, rivaling the scale of an Olympic complex or a Walt Disney World theme park. As the Austin Commercial construction team works towards an August deadline, daily progress amounts to significant visual changes, and the reality of the project inches closer to (pardon the pun) the finish line.

In case you missed our first article of this update, Turn 1: Austin's Zenith, check out the gallery below.


on 2012-01-20 23:07 by Kevin Olsen

If you're having trouble seeing the high-res photo, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the photo from the article; it will open in a new window.
  2. In the new window, right click on the image and choose "View image." This will shrink the image to fit on one page. Hover your mouse/cursor over various areas of the image and you will see a "+" magnifying glass.
  3. Click once on the "+" magnifying glass to zoom in on the desired area, and then click again on the "-" magnifying glass to zoom out.
  4. Repeat the zoom in and zoom out process on various areas of the image.

December Construction Analysis of Circuit of The Americas

COTA Paddock Building-Nov 1, 2011, source: COTA//Overview

Vertical construction is taking shape at Circuit of The Americas with more and more evidence of progress each day. Recent photos published by COTA give us an inside look at the stages of construction at various portions of the facility such as the retaining walls around the turns and the highly complex paddock building.

For those interested in the technicality of it, we're going to take a closer look at the photos and provide an architectural analysis of the construction in progress. I could rattle on about the different types of A325 steel bolts, or hold a conversation about the Dead and Live loads of the building speaking only in Kips (1Kip = 1000lbs), but that wouldn't likely be all too appealing. Instead, we're going to use photos and illustrations to explain what's happening at Circuit of The Americas.

Retaining walls at COTA-Dec 21, 2011; source: COTA

Example of retaining wall; source: Building Construction Illustrated//Retaining Walls

From photos released as early as October 26th, we can see evidence of retaining wall construction around the track. With a high degree of elevation variability, the track design calls for a substantial amount of retaining walls to assist in the retention of earth and allow for drastic shifts in elevation. Keep in mind that soil can only be modified to 1:4 rate (1 foot rise per 4 feet length) and anything beyond this requires a retaining wall to hold it back.

In these photos from COTA, we can see retaining walls from approximately 8ft to 15ft tall, all constructed with site-cast concrete. Site-casting is the term for concrete structures thatExample of Wall form-work; source: Building Construction Illustrated are constructed on site with wooden or metal forms to shape the concrete. From the illustration of an example retaining wall, we can see that there are two pieces, the footing at the bottom, and a wall which sits on top.  The footings are poured first, and then the wall is poured, both with lots of steel reinforcement to increase strength.  From the photos of the retaining walls, we can see evidence of these different components as workers construct form-work and tie steel reinforcement to prepare for the addition of concrete.

While not the most glamorous of features at COTA, retaining walls are an essential part of the design of the facility. They provide a tool for designers to add elevation shifts and minimize the cost of reshaping the land, and therefore an integral part of the 133ft of elevation change at Circuit of The Americas. 

Drilling foundation piers for paddock building-Oct 13, 2011; Preparing second level form-work-Dec 20, 2011; source: COTA//Paddock BuildingExample of spread footing foundation pier; source: Building Construction Illustrated

The construction of the paddock building is the most visible portion of the facility at this point in time. Positioned just in front of the main straight and playing host to a highly dense set of activities, this is the most complex portion of the facility and likely to the be the most architecturally interesting.

In the first photos released in October, we can see the foundation piers for the paddock being drilled with large machinery. The design of these foundation piers is extremely critical due to the type of soils in this region which are comprised mostly of expansive clays (Houston Black, Ferris-Heiden, and Burleson if you want to get specific). While it's not possible to determine the exact type of pier being used for the paddock building from the photos, the expansive clay would likely work better with spread footings like in the illustration, or even conventional concrete piers drilled to subsurface bedrock 50-80ft below the surface.

Columns for the paddock building-Nov 1, 2011; source: COTAOnce these piers were finished, the site quickly began showing evidence of progress as columns and foundations were poured for the Paddock. The columns, like the retaining walls, are also site-cast, and as you can see in the photo, require a lot of reinforcement and form-work to support the shape and size of the column. Once poured, they can support substantial weight and long spans between columns, allowing the most amount of flexibility for customization and providing each racing team with a large open garage to work within.


 Form-work for second level concrete slab, and concrete column form-work; source: Building Construction Illustrated



The construction of the circuit will be quite interesting over the next year.  From an architectural perspective, it's difficult to get a sense of the project because a majority of work this past year focused on ground manipulation and infrastructure.  As the buildings start to take shape and we see vertical construction fully underway, a clearer picture of Circuit of The Americas will come into focus.

The past year in Austin has been one for the record books with some of our lowest precipitation counts in history. While this has wreaked havoc on many industries in the state, construction has continued to progress at the circuit, as evidenced by increasingly visible signs of progress.  While the impact of the delays from the contract negotiations has yet to cause the site crews to go into double or triple shift days, we'll continue to monitor the construction progress and update you as we race towards our 2012 inaugural race.