As I packed my bags for Austin, I couldn’t help but think to myself how nice it’ll be to trade a few chilly New York City fall days for the hot and dusty climate of Texas. I first met Margo while she lived there; Austin’s South Congress area, around the corner from a western wear store with a huge flashing neon cowboy boot. As she helped me with my usual last-minute rush out the door, I felt it would be cruel to rub it in that I would soon be rolling around her old haunt like a tumbleweed in the sun, face smeared with barbecue sauce, cold Lone Stars in each hand.
Then I checked the weather. Four days, four raincloud icons. Some had lightning bolts. “That can’t be right,” I mumbled. I shook the phone as if it was an Etch A Sketch, hoping the clouds would dissolve.
Evidently, Patricia, the most powerful hurricane to ever make landfall in the western hemisphere also had plans to attend the United States Grand Prix. And, unlike me, she was already on her way.
The USGP was my first time ever photographing a Formula One race. I owe my presence there to Road & Track, who published many of these photos and my story on being an F1 rookie over on roadandtrack.com. It was a hugely exciting thing.
Having a hurricane threatening the entire event was nerve-wracking, but, now that it’s over and done with, I’d say the crazy weather and the immense rain was a gift from the racing gods.
The rained out practice sessions and agonizing weather delays on Friday and Saturday built drama at COTA like an old western movie. The teams were sizing each other up, strategies were touch and go, minute by minute. All eyes on the radar. Then, on Sunday, just an hour before the scheduled start of the GP, the rain backed off for the first time in days, the starting lights went off, and it was a full blown wild west shootout in Texas.
The wet track minimized Mercedes’ horsepower advantage and helped create loads of wheel-to-wheel battles from the front to the rear of the grid. Teams that ordinarily had no business sniffing around the gearboxes of the Mercedes and Ferraris were now suddenly right there in their mirrors. A stark contrast to the fuel managed, tire-obsessed single file F1 processional we’re sometimes subjected to. We finally got to see these guys really drive.
Hamilton would hang on for the win, and in doing so secured his third Formula One World Driver’s Championship. Austin’s GP ended up being arguably the best Formula One race ever held in the United States. The rainy weekend left us all soaked (and taught me a thing or two about proper rain gear) but also with some incredible opportunities for photography. Hope you enjoy these photos, and I’d highly suggest watching this race in replay, if you haven’t already.