With several story lines of interest at the 2015 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix, including a possible drivers’ world championship decider on the line this weekend, Mother Nature has decided to play boss and steal the headlines from arguably the world’s greatest sport of speed. Heavy rain, wind gusts, and even lightning in the region have affected Texas’s annual Formula 1 show in a major way, starting with Friday and now continuing into Saturday.
It remains to be seen how much of Saturday’s schedule — including Free Practice and Qualifying — will happen and when. Early in the day, Circuit of the Americas (COTA) issued a statement that, out of consideration of safety for its employees and fans, the track would discourage fans to come to the track on Saturday until noon. Flash flooding in the area overnight left some cars and drivers at intersections and other places on the roads in the region requiring rescue, according to local media reports. None have been reported, however, in the immediate area of the track.
Local residents say they have not had rain here since July — so the earth-quenching rains over the weekend are welcome to some of those who live in the Austin area. However, with Hurricane Patricia in Mexico to the south, rain run-off due to the hardness of the dry ground, and heavy rains stopping action on the track in Austin, many wish the weather had doled out the much-needed rain in more palatable doses.
Friday night, COTA sent out a media advisory that it would ask fans who had purchased parking permits for grassy lots near the track to change lots as indicated in the notice or to instead go downtown and catch a free shuttle from there to the track on Saturday. The concern is that grassy lots turn muddy in such conditions, and muddy parking lots can make for stuck cars and other problems COTA wants its fans to avoid.
Affected lots include G, L, and N, which were closed on Saturday; people with permits for those were urged to use the free shuttle from downtown (pickup at the Austin Convention Center at the corner of 4th and Trinity). Lot E permit holders were asked to use Lot F; however, Lot F permit holders were encouraged to use the downtown shuttle. Lot T permit holders were asked to use Lot Q, and people with 973 Park N Ride pre-paid permits were asked to use the paved Southeast Metropolitan Park. Paved lots A, B, C, D, and H remained open on Saturday.
As far as events on Friday, Free Practice 2 was first delayed, then cancelled, due to lightning in the region. The Masters Historic F1 support race group ran a few laps of practice, and the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup also made it out on track.
Fastest in Free Practice 1 on Friday was Nico Rosberg of Mercedes with a time of 1:53.989 in seven laps, according to Formula 1. Second fastest in the session was Daniil Kvyat of Red Bull driving six laps with a best time of 1:55.224. The defending World Chanpion, Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, drove fifth fastest in that session, getting in four laps with a best time of 1:55.693.
Weather reports for Saturday indicated 100% chance of precipitation with 89% humidity and a high temperature of 74 degrees F. Thunderstorms were expected in the area throughout the day.
Even in the rainy conditions, Free Practice 3 began on track at COTA at about 10 a.m. local time on Saturday. Drivers, including Nico Rosberg, slip-slided their way around the circuit in wet conditions, kicking up an impressive spray behind them. They had not only rain but wind to contend with as they worked on the challenges for the weekend.