Former Formula 1 champion Mario Andretti, current Lotus F1 test driver Jerome D'Ambrosio, and Rolex Grand-Am sports car driver Patrick Dempsey all took laps at speed today on the brand new Circuit of the Americas course outside Austin, Tex. Andretti lapped in a Lotus 79 Formula 1 car—the very car in which he won his World Championship.
The course is "everything I expected and more,” Andretti said after his first practice laps. “The track is phenomenal. It has all the features that you are looking for, giving you the opportunity to overtake, while negotiating some tighter corners. You can tell a lot of thought has gone into it.”
Andretti, who is the last American driver to win the Formula One World Championship in 1978, relished the chance to check out the full circuit, which he did in numerous laps in a variety of cars. Andretti was originally scheduled to drive a modern Lotus F1 Team car, the R30, on the track; however, after technical issues were experienced during initial laps conducted by D’Ambrosio, the car was unable to run for the remainder of the day.
In addition to providing a first look at what is setting up to become the defnitive road course in North America, watching the two drives back-to-back provides a fascinating window on the evolution of Formula 1 technology.[HINT: Suspension advances have been particularly telling!]
Following his time on the track, D’Ambrosio was excited about the Circuit and its main event, the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix, which gets underway in less than a month.
“It’s been a great day today. There’s a real buzz about the Circuit of The Americas and it was fantastic to get out on track to demonstrate the R30,” D’Ambrosio said. “It’s a very enjoyable layout with a couple of really good places for overtaking, some long fast sweeping ‘S’ corners, and some really good high speed changes of direction like ‘Becketts’ in Silverstone. It was a shame not to get more laps, as an engine issue meant we were unable to continue running, but I had enough time to get a really good feel of the circuit. It’s an enjoyable track for a racing driver and also fantastic for the fans as the viewing areas are very well placed; there should be plenty of action. The first corner is quite special and it will be interesting to see it when people are dicing for position in the race.”
Rolex Grand-Am driver Patrick Dempsey lapped in a Ferrari GT 2. “It’s a very fast track with a great rhythm to it,” he said. “For F1 it’s really important. I don’t think they’ve ever had a home base in America that has worked. It’s a really good opportunity for F1 to come back into this country and start a new tradition. This is a market that they need.”