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Austin F1 Watch Parties

Korean Grand Prix Recap

Upon wrapping up their second consecutive world championship title with three races remaining in the season, most drivers probably wouldn’t be racing the rest of the field so hard that they look like they’re still competing for the title.  One would also think that such a driver starting second on the grid Sunday will surely drive a bit more conservatively this weekend, trying to avoid the mayhem that inevitably ensues on the first lap while the drivers try to find their place.  But then, most drivers aren’t Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Renault.

About midway through the first lap, Vettel had already attempted two passing maneuvers on pole sitter McLaren-Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton - the second which paid off – and then opened a full 1-second gap at the start of lap 2.  By the end of the race he finished 12 seconds clear of 2nd place Hamilton, who struggled most of the race to keep at bay Vettel’s teammate, a quicker Mark Webber.  This battle for 2nd place was probably the most interesting one on the Sebastian Vettel took his rightful spot at the front of the pack mid-way through lap 1. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)track and resulted in Hamilton finished a mere 0.4 seconds in front of 3rd place Webber, who could not make a couple of passes on track stick.  The gutsy wheel-to-wheel driving didn’t stop there however, as McLaren-Mercedes’ other driver Jenson Button spent most of his race clawing his way back up to a 4th place finish, equaling his starting position on the grid.  He also spent much of the last half of the race fending off Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who finished 1 second behind.  Alonso’s teammate Felipe Massa finished 6th.  Red Bull’s 1st and 3rd place finishes were also enough this weekend to secure their second consecutive constructors championship.

What in the [Dell] World?

What comes to mind when thinking about Austin as a tourist destination? Most would recite our mantra as "The Live Music Capital of the World" with a proud, Texas-sized smile.

But recently, Austin has been referred to as high tech's "Silicon Hills," or the southern answer to San Jose, California's Silicon Valley of the high tech industry.

We'd have to agree. Just look at the companies located and headquartered here. When the F1 US announcement was made last year, we quickly defended the decision, citing Austin's ability to absorb hundreds of thousands of visitors throughout the year and serve as a great place to live and work throughout the year, due in large part to the numerous technology companies in our backyard.

Another Sunday Funday at Six Lounge

It figures. We go boasting about how construction at Circuit of the Americas is soooo ahead of schedule because of our drought, and then BAM! Rain, rain, rain. Some speculate that it is a result of the University of Texas Longhorns vs. Oklahoma University Sooners football game. Moving on...

Jenson Button and his Mini-Me!

Our fans still braved the rain and joined us once again at Six Lounge where we had more seating, more food and better audio setup to enjoy the Japanese Grand Prix.

And enjoy the race, we did! WOW, Suzuka, you did not disappoint! Congratulations to Jenson Button! We bet these F1 plush dolls are worth a pretty penny now! Check out Jenson's mini-me below:

And, we had a little fun with Sebastian Vettel's double World Championship win which was secured at Suzuka. Have you seen the viral Double Rainbow YouTube video? I have heard the term used over the past year, but didn't realize there was a video to match. I finally watched it last week and couldn't stop laughing.

Bring Your Wife, Bring Your Husbands, 'Cause We're Partying For F1 Up In Here!

Fans enjoy the Singapore Grand Prix at SIX Lounge in Austin, TXAlmost two weeks ago, the first downtown watch party at SIX Lounge was the initial kick-off to a central location party where fans could get together and watch the race, make new friends, and enjoy an afternoon cocktail and some food.

Not only was the race an exciting one, the party was a big hit with those who attended.  We were  pleased to see so many new faces who came to check out the event and learn more about F1.  SIX Lounge is a great place to get together so it's no surprise that we expect this weekend's event to be even bigger. Robert DeGroff will have his iRacing simulator running the Suzuka track, so come test your driving abilities on this awesome machine!

Downtown Austin Watch Parties Take Pole Position

Is there any doubt that Austin and Central Texan Formula One race fans rock? We don't think so! In response to our fans and friends wanting to gather in downtown Austin and watch the races, we've been trying out different venues: Doc's Motorworks Bar & Grill on South Congress, Icenhauer's on Rainey Street, Fado Irish Pub near 6th Street and now, Six Lounge, also blocks away from 6th Street. Each venue has offered something different while welcoming our fans and friends a comfortable place to mingle while watching the races.

Doc's had spectacular service and great food in a motorworks theme; it was formerly a filling station, but now it houses one of the best eateries and patios on the famous South Congress Avenue. Doc's served as our first meetup spot on August 20, 2011, after the Red Bull Racing F1 Show Car filming on Congress Avenue. Most of us were still giddy with excitement after being feet away from an F1 car just moments ago, and that energy continued as we met other fans over the course of a hot Saturday afternoon! Thank goodness Doc's kept us cool with cool drinks and even cooler A/C.

Fans chat at Doc's Motorworks after the Red Bull Running F1 Show Car demonstration in Austin

Final F1 2010 Austin Watch Party

Shortly after the formal F1US announcement on May 25, 2010, I was scouring the internet for any and all available news related to the return of Formula One in the US via Austin.  While trying to identify other F1 fans in Austin, I came across a group of people who gather to watch F1 races when they are re-broadcast on SpeedTV later on race day.  As I recall, I found out about an upcoming watch party at Steiner Ranch Steakhouse for the 2010 European Grand Prix in Valencia, Spain via Lionbridge Auto Leasing's Facebook page and countacted Tad Cole to get more details.  I immediately called Kevin and urged him to be at the steakhouse at 2pm Sunday to meet other racing enthusiasts and start networking.  He went, wearing his CARI shirt (which was fresh off the printing press) and joined about thirty other people viewing the race in the bar area, packed with flatscreens and cold beer.  He met Michael Ferweda, owner of Zinger Hardware and the original organizer behind the F1 watch parties, and several others who participate in Your Ride is Here and Hill Country Drives, both car enthusiast organizations that attract fans of racing and encourage charity participation.

Since the first event, Kevin became a frequent attendee and made it out to five watch parties from June through October.  However, with the final race of the 2010 F1 season coming up the second weekend in November, time was running out for me to make it to a party.  Since Southwest Air makes it so easy for me to get from Chicago to Austin (direct flight, best flight crew), I decided I had to be at the final watch party of the season.  Since Kevin’s first attendance the watch parties have switched venues to Cool River Café.  It’s a great spacious venue with surround sound pumping through the theater quality speakers and a 14 foot screen broadcasting the race.  Just like anyone else outside of the live broadcasting zone, Austin F1 fans have to stay socially unconnected and away from Facebook, Twitter and other digital news sources until they watch the race to prevent hearing the outcome.  I can personally attest that once you make the mistake of spoiling an F1 race to another fan, you will never make that amateur mistake again.  It’s like Tivo-ing a BCS bowl game so you can watch it properly in its entirety after work and then a co-worker telling you the outcome of the game in the middle of the work day.  You just don’t spoil it for others.

Fans watching the race in Cool River's Media Bar

On Sunday, November 14, Kevin and I joined about 50 F1 fans at Cool River for the last watch party of the season.  We ordered some Austin favorites – chips and queso to start, a few Shiner Bock beers to wash it down, a Chipotle Burger for Kevin and I had some tasty BBQ Sliders – small bite-sized BBQ cheeseburgers with toppings of your choice.  Shiner is a great Texan beer brewed for over 101 years in Shiner, Texas.  It is a Texas favorite and considered an “import” throughout the rest of the US, including Chicago.  I always get a chuckle when I see Shiner Bock listed as an import beer on a Chicago menu!  It reminds me of the lazy days of summer on a porch in the gorgeous Hill Country of Texas. 

We started mingling with other F1 fans while the Dubai Grand Prix broadcast in the background.  I was extremely excited to meet the wizard behind The Austin American-Statesman's twitter account, @StatesmanF1.  Dave Doolittle and I have been tweeting for months about the latest Austin Grand Prix developments, and we finally got to meet IRL ("In Real Life," as we say in the Twitterverse)! We enjoyed sharing stories and our predictions on how the Dubai Grand Prix would pan out.  I also had the opportunity to meet Michael Barnes while he took in the watch party and gave a different account as Social Columnist for the Statesman.  You can read his recap here.

We chatted with many enthusiastic fans including Mike McKinnon; Sondra Sondregger and Jack McCauley, owners of Velocity Adventures in Austin, Texas; David Hill, an enthusiastic sports photographer; Warren Peck, owner of Races2U (see below), and Ken Adams and Ryan Fox of Your Ride is Here. Your Ride is Here is a non-profit organization that provides cancer patients with transportation to treatment in a high-end automobiles.  Ken realized personally that "making every appointment was critical to the success rate. Therefore, reliable transportation was one of the most important aspects of my life during those two months."  Cancer treatment is hard enough; getting there should be as painless as possible.

Ken and Mark presenting Your Ride is Here

Your Ride is Here raffled off a helmet racing shield and a titanium rear wing shim, which was used in Mark Webber’s Red Bull car from the 2008 season.  Not only is a piece of a Formula 1 car a rare thing to come across, but the helmet shield was signed by Austin pro driver Rodrigo Sanchez, who was attending the party with his manager, Toni Calderon, and representing Racing For Mexico.  Earlier this year, Racing For Mexico announced their partnership with MexNet Alliance, "a non-profit organization composed of business professionals and entrepreneurs whose main aspiration is to serve and provide a model for accelerating the success of present and future Hispanic leaders in the US."  The money raised from the raffle of these two items goes to the transportation costs associated with getting patients to their chemotherapy treatment for Your Ride is Here.

We thoroughly enjoyed watching Sebastian Vettel winning the 2010 F1 race season and celebrated with – what else!? – a cold can of Red Bull! It was thrilling to see the youngest Formula One driver win his first championship.  You could feel the energy and excitement in the room as he crossed the finish line.  Everyone in the room hopes to see Sebastian and all the other F1 drivers and teams in Austin in less than two years.

We also enjoyed our first F1 simulator: a custom rig built by one of the loyal attendees of the watch parties (please share his name if you have it!), which allows you to sit in a life-size seat and drive a race car while the F1 2010 PC Game is displayed on a larger-than-life screen.  Below is video of Kevin giving it a go for the first time on the Spa track in Belgium.  Outside Cool River, Warren Peck of Races2U brings his slot-car racing setup for racers to test their competitiveness and skill against other racers.  He’s built an eight car digital slot racing track that allows fans young and old to race replica Formula 1 cars to their limits and beat each other to the finish line. As Warren describes, "These are not the slot cars we played with as kids. Real racing strategy is required, and it can be quite competitive."

Kevin on F1 Simulator from The Austin Grand Prix on Vimeo.


The watch party was a great way to network with other F1 fans inKerri in her CARI shirt at the watch party Austin in a casual and comfortable environment.  Cool River’s entertainment viewing area was well equipped with plenty of comfortable seating conducive to watching the race alone, with a small or large group of friends, or while meeting new racing enthusiasts.  They also have billiard tables off to the side and I hope the simulator and slot car races will be repeat visitors, as they provide interactive racing experiences which engages F1 fans with two hands on the wheel.  We look forward to meeting you at a 2011 F1 Watch Party!

Did you make it to any F1 Watch Parties in 2010, in Austin or elsewhere?  What is your favorite way to watch F1 racing, aside from the pit, of course!?

See more images in the Gallery - Final F1 2010 Austin Watch Party