Last night was the kick-off of the 2012 FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX weekend in Austin with the inaugural premiere of the new documentary film ³1² by Exclusive Media¹s Spitfire Pictures. The film is an exhilarating and unvarnished true story of the rise of Formula 1, and a special look at the drivers who banded together to fight for a safer sport after the horrifying deaths of too many of their contemporaries. The movie was attended by F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone, legendary Driver Jackie Stewart, owner Eddie Jordan, former F1 Driver Emerson Fittipaldi, Paul Crowder, the Director of ³1², and Mark Monroe, writer of ³1².

“Formula 1 used to be hideously dangerous,” said Sir Jackie Stewart, “but the track in Austin will be very safe.”

The audience, filled with race enthusiasts, alternately cheered and clapped as the movie progressed, spinning the tale of the rise of the safety standards in the sport, as some of the very men who fought to bring those standards watched in the audience. Director Paul Crowder explained that this was a very special showing of the movie, as it was not the final edit. “It’s a high energy, action documentary, complete with great music,” he said. Writer Mark Monroe said that “Austin is the perfect place” for the movie to premiere as it “seems to be really on top with the film world, and Austin seems to be the chosen race for 2012.”

Tim Barnett, AMFM’s contributing writer of Boulder, Colorado, F1 enthusiast and principal of Caledonia Wealth Management, Ltd. asked Eddie Jordan, former owner and current lead analyst for F1 coverage on the BBC, about Lewis Hamilton’s decision to move from the McLaren to the Mercedes team. Lewis, now 27, has been with McLaren since he was 13; he was a part of their young driver development program and was eventually promoted to a full-time driver in 2007. He then won the world championship the following year

His decision to leave has been viewed as highly controversial, and possibly shortsighted, as McLaren is regarded by most to be the stronger of the two teams. Lewis was also offered a rumored $100 million (!) contract (an amount McLaren was unable/unwilling to match).

Jordan responded by saying Lewis was ready for a change and for that reason perhaps the move is a good thing for Lewis. He then referenced Michael Schumacher’s move from Benetton to Ferrari in the ’90’s and how many thought this was a crazy move at the time, but Schumacher went on to become the winningest driver in the history of the sport.

When asked if he thought Ron Dennis (longtime team principal for McLaren and further known for his perfectionist tendencies and rather unforgiving nature) would ever forgive Lewis for leaving. Eddie responded by saying Dennis doesn’t forgive anyone.

We heard Thursday from some of the big-name drivers out there; Friday gave some of the lesser lights a chance to share their opinions of the latest addition to the Formula 1 family. They were excited by what they had seen, caught out by the lack of grip but convinced the track would come to them in the coming two days.

“I think the organisers have given us an awesome circuit,” said Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg. “It’s good fun to drive and there is a nice variation of corners, which gives a nice rhythm to the track. In terms of the new generation of tracks, I’d say it’s one of my favourites.”

All of them pointed out the expected lack of grip on a “green” track, but they also factored in Pirelli’s conservative choice of tires and looked beyond that temporary challenge. “The first lap we did in FP1 was on a track that probably had less grip than anywhere else I’ve ever driven!” said Caterham driver Heikki Kovalainen – and the Finn is a 107-race Grand Prix veteran.

“As we’re at a new circuit that was to be expected,” said Kovalainen, “but the track layout lived up to expectations – it’s a proper driver’s track and as it keeps evolving it’s going to get even faster which will give us a chance to really find out what it’s all about.”

The front-line racers also had their say, with 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton emphasizing the Circuit’s two faces. “This is a great drivers’ track – it’s very tough to pull together three perfect sectors,” Hamilton said. “Personally, I find the final two sectors easier than the first; those high-speed changes of direction need a good set-up, and balancing that requirement against the demands of the slow-speed stuff is tricky.” The McLaren driver was also taken aback by the size of the American crowd. “What a great turn-out for a Friday!” he said. “I never expected to see so many people in the grandstands – it makes me feel even more excited for Saturday and Sunday.”

If Frenchman Romain Grosjean is right, the racing spectacle will only get better as drivers and machines begin to explore the Circuit’s full potential. “The most noticeable thing about the Circuit at this stage is the lack of grip; it’s really, really slippery out there,” he said. “The layout itself looks very nice – but we’re a long way off being able to push the car anywhere near the limit.”

On opening day, some 65,000 people attended the races. Tomorrow, Nov. 17th, the final free practice session begins at 9 a.m. CST and three rounds of knock-out qualifying starting at noon. Gates open at 7:00 a.m. Following the races, Collective Soul will entertain fans with a free concert in the Grand Plaza, located near the track’s main entrance off Circuit of The Americas Blvd.

Circuit of The Americas has launched a free mobile application in advance of the 2012 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix that will help fans prepare for their Grand Prix experience by putting useful information about the venue, transportation and parking, race-day schedules, entertainment, ticketing information and handy reference guides on Formula 1™ and the City of Austin at users’ finger tips.

Explore the track in full 3-D, including event-related entertainment and attractions;
View and purchase tickets to upcoming motorsport and entertainment events;
Access the schedule of events;
Plan trips to Circuit of The Americas ;
View frequently ask questions and the latest track news and social feeds;
Learn about the Circuit’s Green Initiative;
Use the Tour Guide to find out where to eat, drink, and play in Austin, Texas; and
Find out everything you need to know about the sport of Formula 1.

The free application, which is presented by AT&T, supports iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch products on iOS 5.0 operating platforms and above and can be downloaded at the iTunes store (www.itunes.com). The Circuit is also currently developing applications to support phones and tablets with Android operating systems.

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