It’s not often an international champion is crowned in Austin. Formula One did just that, awarding it World Drivers’ Championship to Lewis Hamilton. But, the most difficult opponent all weekend may have been the rain.
Hamilton won his third Formula One World Drivers’ Championship at the U.S. Grand Prix. Formula One’s fourth visit to the Capital City featured a tight race with multiple lead changes. Its three most successful drivers in recent years battled it out to the end. Hamilton overcame a wet track early and passed his teammate and rival, Nico Rosberg, late with ten laps to go. Rosberg held off four-time world champ Sebastian Vettel for second place, which iced the championship for Hamilton.
“For whatever reason we’ve had good races. I can only imagine for you guys that it was an exciting race to watch,” Hamilton said. “For me, it was one of the most exciting races that I'd had for a while. And while we only have one race here, we’ve had an amazing turnout. Lots of Americans, people from different parts of the world have come here to enjoy Austin...great food, great ambiance, great atmosphere.”
That turnout was almost compromised thanks to the rain. Downpours canceled activities out at Circuit of the Americas throughout the weekend, from qualifying sessions to autograph sessions. Organizers tried to make the best of it, honoring Saturday tickets on Sunday, but flooded parking lots presented a logistical headache for COTA and visitors.
Brandon Baston of Cedar Park was making the long trek with his daughter from parking offsite.
“So we're actually parking over off of Elroy Road. There was just a gravelly space on the side of the road – a good place to not get stuck in the mud today,” Baston said.
Paul Foreman of Austin was frustrated with the process.
“It was supposed to be a showcase for Austin and Texas and I’m not sure we’ve done it right,” Foreman said.
It wasn’t a tough slog for everyone. Because of the rains and flooded lots, race officials implored fans to take the downtown shuttle, which saved Susan Gallion and her husband a lot of hassle.
“We went to the convention center, parked the car and got on the shuttle. No delays,” Gallion said.
Rain or shine, Lewis Hamilton seems to like the track. He’s won three of four years here. He says Formula One will get more traction in the United States with more stateside F1 events.
“I think we have more races here. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have two races here,” Hamilton said. “It’s such a big place.”
Formula One moves on to Mexico City this week – practice starts Friday. The forecast: rain.