It makes the 1,000 HP - $1,500,000 Bugatti Veyron seem like a Mazda 2.
June 10, 2012 9:02 AM   Subscribe

Driving a modern Formula 1 car poses a bit of a paradox. If you can’t drive it very fast you can barely drive it at all. The first F1 race of the current season to be televised for a general American audience is the Canadian GP. It’s run on the Ile Notre-Dam in the St. Lawrence River, and will be on Fox at 1PM Eastern time today. An interesting street circuit over The Palisades area in New Jersey, with the NYC skyline as a backdrop is in the offing for next year and, in a project that has been rife with controversy, the F1 circus is slated to return to the US in November of this year on a new track near Austin Texas.

F1 101 with amateur racer/journalist Steve Sutcliffe.

F1 102 with amateur racer/journalist Chris Harris
posted by Huplescat (120 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
2pm unless my channel guide is lying.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:07 AM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The pre-race show is on SPEED at 10:30AM Pacific for those with cable or satellite TV.

Canada is usually one of the more interesting races of the season.
posted by buggzzee23 at 9:14 AM on June 10, 2012


F1's are more like go-carts than cars.
posted by stbalbach at 9:25 AM on June 10, 2012


... and in Canada, the race is on CTV not TSN like the rest of the 2012 F1 schedule.

In terms of pre-race background, the BBC seems to be as good a site as any. Though I do wonder if there are any blogs etc out there that I should be checking out.
posted by philip-random at 9:26 AM on June 10, 2012


F1's are more like go-carts than cars.

I've heard that in terms of power-to-weight ratio, the only thing that truly compares to an F1 car is a high-end racing kart. Which I've had the opportunity to try. It really was so far beyond any other driving experience I've ever had that it felt like a different form altogether. Like driving a rocket ship. It just erupted when you hit the throttle ... and then at some point, you had to actually turn.
posted by philip-random at 9:30 AM on June 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Dipped into the Ferrari store in Union Square San Fran Thursday morning and it got me in the mood. Glad there's a race today!!
posted by spicynuts at 9:30 AM on June 10, 2012


Once you learn how an F1 car actually operates, it begins to sound more like magic than technology. There are endless examples of this, but OP's own is probably the most familiar: imagine if, in your car, you can only go around a corner at either 5 mph, or at 150mph and using a handbrake to make the corner. That's an F1 car, pretty much.

An F1 car can accelerate from 0 to 100mph and back to a full stop in roughly 6 seconds. The problem here is that technically, the engine can accelerate the car from 1 to 60 mph in less than a second, but nobody has yet invented tires that would withstand this.

I could go on. I just love F1, the most boring sports I know that I will just keep watching.

And by the way, this year's season is one of a kind, a renaissance if you will. Six races, six different winners from five different teams. This has never before happened in F1.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 9:35 AM on June 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yeah, some of us here aren't too happy with the 250 million dollar government handout while statewide, spending is being cut, cut, cut. Smaller govt. my ass -- those bastards are just there to enrich their cronies. Remember: Helping poor people not starve = Socialism and Stalin was a Socialist! However, 1/4 of a billion dollars worth of tax money handed to corporations = "free market economy."

:hurl:
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:36 AM on June 10, 2012 [16 favorites]


Live timing and other info is available from FIA on their website (requires free registration)
posted by buggzzee23 at 9:37 AM on June 10, 2012


What's nice is that during the rest of the year anybody can go on the course (the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve) on Ile Notre Dame. I put my 1989 Toyota Cargo Van through its paces there a few years ago.
posted by Flashman at 9:37 AM on June 10, 2012


They also want Travis County to improve the roads to their site, to the tune of 8 million.

Of course, I be shocked, SHOCKED! to find land speculation in Elroy right now.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:42 AM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


No mention of the Canadian F1 is complete without the Wall of Champions. It's namesake from the fact that world champion racers keep crashing into it.
posted by hellojed at 9:47 AM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


This video of Richard Hammond driving an F1 car really opened my eyes as to how impossibly difficult it must be. It literally makes him cry.
posted by lattiboy at 9:51 AM on June 10, 2012 [14 favorites]


Yeah, add me to the list of people who can't get excited about spending a quarter of a billion of MY TAX DOLLARS (as they like to say) to attract F1 when we can't fund the schools here in Texas. I'd rather spend the money on teachers, thanks.
posted by immlass at 9:52 AM on June 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


/hands Devil's Rancher a Sick Sack

If it makes you feel any better, this is the pregame show up here at least from a street side perspective.
posted by Phalene at 9:54 AM on June 10, 2012


philip-random: I do wonder if there are any blogs etc out there that I should be checking out.
The International Herald Tribune used to have a very good F1 blog, but since they got rolled into The New York Times it's not what it used to be. Lately, I mostly look at either the official FIA F1 site (v.s.), or James Allen on F1.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:07 AM on June 10, 2012


I use Autosport to keep updated with the latest stories from F1 (and other motorsports).

For those really into their technical gubbins (and I am) then Scarbs is a bit of a genius. Expect to be completely bamboozled with most of it, though, if you don't have a basic understanding of F1 car design and physics.

Most of the time you don't need to know the details of the technical aspects of F1 cars, but for me it definitely adds to the experience. When watching a race it can be unclear why two drivers of similar skill can end up with completely different lap times. People like Scarbs can help untangle those situations when he points out why one car has more downforce or better engine mapping, for example.
posted by milkb0at at 10:25 AM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, add me to the list of people who can't get excited about spending a quarter of a billion of MY TAX DOLLARS (as they like to say) to attract F1

Over the life of the contract it will be a net gain to the area, so don't get too upset about it. Building the circuit is a 10 year plan and F1 makes tracks (and local vendors) a LOT of money if you manage it right (and make the track effective as a business during the times when F1 isn't there).

I've heard that in terms of power-to-weight ratio, the only thing that truly compares to an F1 car is a high-end racing kart.

They're still a fair chunk out, though, so 'compares' is a bit of a stretch. From 0-10mph they are somewhat similar in the mind blowing stakes but an F1 car is still far, far violent in the power and delivery stakes an does it right up to 200mph. Karts are probably far enough ahead of what most people think of as 'a quick car' that it will open your mind to what is possible, though. F1 cars are so ridiculously fast that until you see them in the flesh/carbon/metal it is essentially impossible to quantify how spectacular they are. Everyone that sees them for the first time (or even first time after a long break) - even people like me that see high end racing cars all the time, right at track side - have to recalibrate their brains a bit. It's kind of the difference between watching a supercar accelerate and thinking 'holy crap that is fast' to watching a Top Fuel dragster and going "... what the fuck was that? Was it even a car?"

imagine if, in your car, you can only go around a corner at either 5 mph, or at 150mph

Aerodynamics are key, and this is replicated in any level of car that has a decent level of aero. F1 cars have stupendous amounts of mechanical grip (basically how you use your tyres) but also ridiculous amounts of aero-sourced grip. The grip level of the cars that I run at the moment (just to pick an example) have a mechanical grip threshold about 20-30mph lower than their ultimate speed through a corner. And these are pretty basic racing cars. New drivers find they feel the mechanical grip starting to fade and have difficulty going faster than around 7-10 seconds off the true pace of the car per lap. The issue with aero grip is that you have to enter the corner a LOT faster; you can't gradually build up to it because there is a band of performance where the car just feels horrible as you have decreasing mechanical grip and not enough aero to overcome that. It's kind of all or nothing. Push through it and enter the corner 10mph faster and all of a sudden the car is benign and balanced and the speed feels like nothing at all whereas going slower felt like you were going to die.

It's a proper mind-fuck, frankly.
posted by Brockles at 10:49 AM on June 10, 2012 [26 favorites]


I'm still puzzled why they are putting the F1 track in Austin. I know that developers look at the population of the "I-35 corridor" (San Antonio to Austin) and drool--and the SH130 toll road helps--but I just don't see Austin itself as much of an F1 town, and I'm skeptical of how many of those people further away on the 'corridor' will drive far enough to attend. I guess we'll see if we get those tax dollars back.
posted by tippiedog at 11:19 AM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm going to say something stupid, but I've been wondering about this.

Over the life of the contract it will be a net gain to the area, so don't get too upset about it. Building the circuit is a 10 year plan and F1 makes tracks (and local vendors) a LOT of money if you manage it right (and make the track effective as a business during the times when F1 isn't there).

What do they do with the track when F1 isn't there? Keep in mind this track is kind of in the middle of nowhere, as far as Austin is concerned. There's not a damn thing around it right now.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:20 AM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's not a damn thing around it right now.

Visit our luxuriously appointed model homes, at the new, exclusive F1 estates, just minutes from the vibrant lifestyle of Downtown Austin.

coming soon to a cow pasture near you
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:35 AM on June 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


What do they do with the track when F1 isn't there?

F1 will not be the only series running there, though. (According to Wikipedia) they've already scheduled MotoGP, V8 Supercars, and American Le Mans to run there from 2013, and they've also been courting IndyCar, though that seems to be pretty far from a done deal.
posted by daniel_charms at 11:36 AM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a prime spot for any other motorsport. Being out in the middle of nowhere is a boon when you don't need to worry as much about noise regulations or complaining neighbors. Think ALMS and MotoGP. The road improvements will been needed when you start trying to get tens of thousands of people packed in there.
posted by tmt at 11:37 AM on June 10, 2012


Over the life of the contract it will be a net gain to the area, so don't get too upset about it.

Sure, and feeding the poor and paying teachers don't pay for themselves. How can people be so psychotically short-sighted?
posted by goethean at 11:48 AM on June 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


The engines in F1 cars have to be heated up to operating temperature by circulating hot water through the engine before they can be started. The tolerances are so close that at room temperature they are essentially seized engines, and attempting to start them cold will destroy the engine.

A NASCAR driver was driving an F1 car for some demonstration show and asked about his vision being tinted by the blood rushing forward in his eyes under heavy braking, and the F1 driver told him oh, you get used to it.

At one point there was difficulty for F1 cars to get the materials needed for their brake discs and pads because the supplier was committed to delivering to it's other primary buyer contractually. That other buyer being the space shuttles.

The cars must weigh at least 600 kg with the driver, but the weight management is so important that most cars weigh much less than that, and are carrying about 160 kg as ballast, strategically placed to lower the center of gravity and improve handling.

The valves on F1 engines are limited to 18,000 rpms, but have run up to 20,000 rpms in races as recently as 3 years ago. The valves are assisted in opening and closing by compressed air because springs or other mechanical means aren't fast enough. The compressed air needed for an entire race is stored on board the vehicle in a titanium sphere.

F1 is just plain old bananas.
posted by dglynn at 11:50 AM on June 10, 2012 [27 favorites]


What do they do with the track when F1 isn't there?

As mentioned, other series will race there, but the key to keeping the place alive will be having a race school based there and also 'car club' days where the track is rented out so people can drive their street or performance/semi-street cars around and tell each other how awesome they are. Keeping constant, but low key, activity at the track ensures a good number of full time track employees which means that organising the main events is much better through time to do it. More permanent infrastructure allows events to be cheaper generally. In addition, corporate entertainment suites make loads of money for the big races and continue through the year if the circuit remains active. Performance driving schools (including police schools) often produce a lot of traffic and karting and racing events can produce good all year activity.

Sure, and feeding the poor and paying teachers don't pay for themselves. How can people be so psychotically short-sighted?

Yes, that's right. I'm psychotic. Just because I know that the business model of an F1 track (or other high level race event) produces a positive business model if done correctly that provides jobs and millions of dollars of tourism money per year to a region. Despite that money going directly into the local economy long term, this must be directly fucking teachers and the poor over.

How can some people be so psychotically blinkered that they only see the short term cost, and ignore the long term gain? I was pointing out that this is not a massive money sink that won't give back to the region, but you can translate my response whichever way you want, I guess.
posted by Brockles at 12:06 PM on June 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


That Richard Hammond video is great. Strangely, it reminds me of how I felt after I spent however many weeks learning how to play Forza without automatic transmission, brakes, and traction control. The first time I hit a corner at 115 MPH at Circuit de Catalunya and the tires just stuck and it went around like it was on rails, I probably had basically the same reaction he did.
posted by feloniousmonk at 12:29 PM on June 10, 2012


I'm kind of the opinion that that Hammond was full of BS with that. Top Gear is an entertainment show and this is the same guy who's film crew used used explosives to fake a rubidium-water reaction when they couldn't get it to explode the way they wanted.

Okay, I'm sure driving the car is more difficult if the tires are cold, but I seriously doubt the effect is that great, and you can keep the tires warm by weaving back and forth even if you're not going that fast. So frankly, it's probably bullshit they did just to make the thing more dramatic.

Plus, I mean obviously they could have just used different tires.
F1's are more like go-carts than cars.
perhaps if you put a rocket on the back of one.
posted by delmoi at 12:34 PM on June 10, 2012


I have no problem believing that the difference in grip is that big. You can even tell the difference in the simulators like Forza and Gran Turismo, especially on the medium compound, which I am pretty sure is what that car had. The back and forth motion does have some warming effect but it hardly registers on these cars. The tire warmers go from 80-100 C (127-212 F).
posted by feloniousmonk at 12:40 PM on June 10, 2012


you can keep the tires warm by weaving back and forth even if you're not going that fast.

That isn't true.

but I seriously doubt the effect is that great,

You'd be wrong.

It's like driving with blocks of wood with cold tyres and even if they have had tyre warmers on initially the heat just disappears if you don't maintain it, especially on such a cold day (likely 10 deg C track temps anda massive delay between the warmers coming off and any kind of motion, let alone no sign of decent speed). Within a minute I'd say he was effectively on cold tyres and so I'd say 80-90% of Hammond's issues were real. I think they made the most of his struggles for TV but weaving does very very little in terms of actually warming tyres, but it does make a slight difference to keeping heat in the tyres that is already there. You will still be on effectively 'cold tyres' even with weaving, though, under those conditions - the track temperature and lateral loading wouldn't be there to generate much heat in the tyres. It ins't clear from the TV quite how much g-force the F1 guys are putting into the car when they 'weave. They're throwing the damn thing around, I can assure you, which is also something that is outside Hammond's abilities in that car. It'd not just turning the wheel side to side. Tyres need to be very, very hot to give the grip and only very, very good drivers (ie many magnitudes above Hammond's meagre abilities) can drive a car of such power and response/control ability effectively.
posted by Brockles at 12:50 PM on June 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sorry, obviously engines are limited to 18K rpms, not valves. Distance between brain and keyboard appears to be increasing.

To make amends, here is a video comparing F1 cars to GT cars going through Eau Rouge
posted by dglynn at 12:54 PM on June 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Let's see if they get close to 10 years of F1 in (an area near) Austin before we start saying how much money it generates?

I'm as big an F1 fan as there is, saw Jackie Stewart win in Canada, Nigel Mansell win at Monza, but I'm plenty skeptical that this will be a net win for the Austin area/state of Texas.
posted by ambient2 at 1:07 PM on June 10, 2012


It is a shame they couldn't do a road course or something that is less of an investment. I guess there's nothing but the best for F1, but they're way more fun to watch anyway.
posted by feloniousmonk at 1:18 PM on June 10, 2012


How does one learn how to drive one of these things. I've never driven a car so I think it should be pretty easy for me to learn as I have no bad habits or preconceived notions. I am a blank slate, I won't have to forget everything I know about driving. Plus it will make for a cool factoid about me when I start wining. I suppose I'll have to spend a couple days in one of those baby versions they gave Richard Hammond before they hook me up with the real deal though.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:26 PM on June 10, 2012


Make that 7 in 7. It's shaping up to be a hell of a season. Anyone heard exactly why Jenson couldn't get his car on song all weekend? Chuffed for Lewis and McLaren; for a while I thought we were throwing away a good start to the season.
posted by arcticseal at 1:32 PM on June 10, 2012


You need to have started in carts when you were five.
posted by Chutzler at 1:32 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Over the life of the contract it will be a net gain to the area

Yeah, that's what they keep saying about the Olympics and the Super Bowl and every sports stadium ever, and it never pans out. Keep in mind that Austin isn't even a first-tier airport town and it's not a great tourist city either. For real tourist stuff you're heading a couple of hours south to the Riverwalk in San Antonio or three-four hours north to DFW. And it's not like the area can support the F1 track on its own (or on the very tiny chance it does, that money will be coming from other entertainment expenditures here, with no net gain in taxes).

I don't think you're psychotic, but I'd call your projection optimistic if I were feeling kindly and deluded if I weren't.
posted by immlass at 1:42 PM on June 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I've never driven a car so I think it should be pretty easy for me to learn as I have no bad habits or preconceived notions. I am a blank slate, I won't have to forget everything I know about driving.

Totally. I've never played soccer before, either, which basically makes me a shoo-in for the World Cup team, uh, next year.
posted by indubitable at 1:48 PM on June 10, 2012


You need to have started in carts when you were five.

That is what Big Racing wants you to think. Seems like an ossified industry just clinging on to whatever they have left. They are just begging to be disrupted. Once I get Team AH up on kickststarter and get the funding to get some cool racing clothes and a car I should be good to go.

Totally. I've never played soccer before, either, which basically makes me a shoo-in for the World Cup team, uh, next year.

Thats the spirit, don't let Big Soccer with its old boy network keep you out.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:52 PM on June 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Brockles: "Over the life of the contract it will be a net gain to the area, so don't get too upset about it."

Sure, if you believe a bunch of completely made up numbers. David Cay Johnston did an analysis on this and found that it was basically a bunch of bullpuckey. They're estimating more visitors on race weekend than there are hotel rooms within 150 miles, by a factor of 5 or 6. What this really does is use the power of government to shift spending from existing businesses and attractions to this new one, driving the old ones out of business. After all, how can they compete when their competitor is subsidized by the government?

So basically, you and I get to put a bunch of our money in some rich folks' pockets while driving out existing business. It's a great plan!
posted by wierdo at 2:06 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I should note that I am not in any way against driving cars around tracks at stupidly high speed. I think that's fantastic. I do not think it is fantastic to take away from all the other stuff we need to subsidize it, however.
posted by wierdo at 2:07 PM on June 10, 2012


How can some people be so psychotically blinkered that they only see the short term cost, and ignore the long term gain? I was pointing out that this is not a massive money sink that won't give back to the region, but you can translate my response whichever way you want, I guess.

Given the sad fate of so many other Tilkedromes (basically almost every single one that isn't maintained by an oppressive regime trying to show how modern and progressive it is), though, the COTA will be truly lucky if they manage to last 5 years on the F1 calendar, let alone 10. I don't think it's unreasonable at all to say that it's all short term cost with not much long term gain.
posted by daniel_charms at 2:07 PM on June 10, 2012


basically almost every single one that isn't maintained by an oppressive regime trying to show how modern and progressive it is

That seems like an accurate description of Texas to me.
posted by chrchr at 2:35 PM on June 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that's what they keep saying about the Olympics and the Super Bowl and every sports stadium ever

Those are once a year and once every 4 year events. Those are not at all comparable sports in terms of what they infrastructure can bring. The F1 track at Austin will create three or four large events a year that will be profitable individually once they are established. In addition, it is pretty likely that the circuit itself will be profitable in its own right if the planning is done correctly - well run tracks in such a great climate as Austin should and could easily be busy and turning over revenue for 360 days a year. This is not the same as an Olympic venue that sits idle most of the time, or a stadium that only gets used a few evenings a week/month at most. I suspect the F1 race itself will lose money the first two years or so as interest is gained in the US in F1 in general, but the track itself and the other events will be profitable faster and the area will see positive revenue locally for those first years and the entire project overall be a success within the 10 year initial span (before major circuit mods are likely) as long as the promoters and organisers don't do something stupid.

Bear in mind that this track, while created as an F1 venue, can exist and be profitable entirely without F1. Mosport (to pick a local example to me) is profitable and has a 6 month season, only really one big race (ALMS) and a bunch of medium races (Canadian NASCAR etc). Austin already has interest from all of the major players (F1, ALMS, GrandAm and Indycar) and the track can run (and attract fans and racing series for testing and racing) year round. I suspect a lot of leading ALMS, GrandAm, Indycar and second tier teams will see Austin as a very appealing test venue for winter running.

David Cay Johnston did an analysis on this and found that it was basically a bunch of bullpuckey. They're estimating more visitors on race weekend than there are hotel rooms within 150 miles, by a factor of 5 or 6.

It doesn't really matter because the track viability doesn't purely hinge on F1, but I agree that that kind of estimate for the first year is hopelessly optimistic and maybe even the second. F1 has a long way to go to in terms of visibility in the US to be able to draw those kinds of numbers. They really are figures that a mature event can achieve, not the first one. Hotels will be built if the race gets popular, but the track's profitability and input to the local infrastructure does not pivot purely on F1, no matter who tries to pretend it does. It's naive to think that F1 alone will make the place profitable, which seems to be the perception from people that try and compare it to the Olympics and the Superbowl. I suspect a massive amount of RV traffic will solve some of that issue, based on how the ALMS events seem to be.

Besides, F1 needs to wait until Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly see if they can get to F1 and if a US driver is in there (probably in 3-4 years at the earliest) that will be a major kick in the pants for attendance numbers. I have some doubts as to Rossi's likelihood to get there, but Daly has an outside chance. A US driver will be gold in terms of audience numbers, in the absence of any real US involvement in any other way (no teams, no real technical or manufacturer involvement).

Keep in mind that Austin isn't even a first-tier airport town and it's not a great tourist city either.

It's probably hard for someone who hasn't spent a lot of time in Europe in the F1 cities to realise just how phenomenal the travel infrastructure is in the US. It is far far easier to travel large distances in the US (and crucially the population is much more open to doing so) than Europe. Austin is not, by any means, the best location for an F1 track in the US (like, seriously weird place to put it given the options) but it is a very capable place in terms of airport capacity compared to a lot of places. Silverstone? Biggest F1 event of the year and there isn't any decent sized airports within an hour and a half travelling in a country that is notorious for crappy means of getting around. San Antonio is nearer to Austin than Stanstead Airport is to Silverstone and gives it two airport options. Imola? Also miles from a big airport and short on local hotels. Austin isn't the best, but it is far from being the worst.
posted by Brockles at 2:37 PM on June 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


The movie Senna was my introduction to the excitement and politics of F1. Both high drama, and big business. Still, these are amazing machines, and the drivers who push them to their limits have amazing skills.

In another vein, one of car racing's early goals was to push the state of the art in automotive engineering - and F1 has certainly done that over the decades. I look forward to the world rallying around events driven to advance solar and electric vehicle engineering.
posted by dylanjames at 2:55 PM on June 10, 2012


Those are once a year and once every 4 year events. Those are not at all comparable sports in terms of what they infrastructure can bring.

An F1 track even under the terms you describe is directly comparable to the infrastructure of something like a football/basketball stadium that's multiuse (i.e., has concerts and other events on top of seasonal sports) and the projections for those never pan out either. I'm in fact watching them not pan out in my hometown (Houston) right now. Using public money to build any kind of sports infrastructure is a taxpayer boondoggle. This one is particularly unsuited to the area--as even supporters admit--so there's no reason for anyone without an emotional investment in F1 or someone who expects to get a cut of the construction money to believe it'll pay off.

It's probably hard for someone who hasn't spent a lot of time in Europe in the F1 cities to realise just how phenomenal the travel infrastructure is in the US. It is far far easier to travel large distances in the US (and crucially the population is much more open to doing so) than Europe.

Having lived for several years in the UK, outside London, I'm very much aware of the differences between travel in Europe vs travel in the US. Having also lived in Texas for many years, I'm also well aware of our infrastructure here and the ways it's not likely to do a great job supporting F1. I live about 20-25 minutes' drive from the site of the track and the idea that the infrastructure to support these tourists is going to appear and thrive makes no sense to me.

Unless you're local to Austin, perhaps you should consider paying attention to what the Austinites (myself, fiercecupcake, and Devil's Rancher) in this thread are saying about our city's ability to support this track. The reason we don't believe the projections is because they're not credible to those of us on the ground here.
posted by immlass at 3:09 PM on June 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


Given that there is a significant amount of inactive ballast mass in the car, and given that tyre temperature is still a concern (at least for the critical first lap) even for the professional F1 drivers, I wonder why they don't design some sort of active tyre heating system. Is it because it's against the design rules or is it not technologically feasible? I've heard for example that active suspension was allowed in the past and later banned because it was so effective it detracted from the sport.

Working years ago at a defence firm outside Ottawa, I was surprised that such a male dominated company didn't have any form of office pool for hockey, baseball, football, or basketball. Then I discovered it was overwhelmingly made up of engineers, and not only was there an F1 drivers pool, there were detailed wagers on several aspects of each race as well as on the constructors championship.
posted by ceribus peribus at 3:20 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


How does one learn how to drive one of these things.

Find a sponsor. Everyone (drivers, crew, owners) starts at the level that they can afford out of pocket, and sponsors boost winners to the next level.
posted by Ardiril at 3:39 PM on June 10, 2012


That Richard Hammond piece is what anyone should show anyone else who says "racing isn't a sport."
posted by davejay at 3:46 PM on June 10, 2012


How does one learn how to drive one of these things.

From a technical, not financial, perspective: you start in go-karts, move your way up to faster and more powerful go-karts, until you're driving those karts that have a similar power-to-weight ratio as F1.
posted by davejay at 3:47 PM on June 10, 2012


Well, Brockles, the Melbourne Grand Prix has basically been pissing money down the toilet ever since they got it - in spite of the most optimistic assurations of every state govt of every colour. Of course, every event they proclaim a success - but they never factor in all the money the state govt kicks in.
posted by smoke at 4:00 PM on June 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Over the life of the contract it will be a net gain to the area, so don't get too upset about it.

That's a fairly specious claim. As far as any reports I can find, the last location of the USGP, Indianapolis, never made money on the race, even though it drew some of the largest crowds of any F1 race on the schedule. And, I know for a fact the local businesses in the area reported the USGP never really amounted to much in the way of added revenue.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:06 PM on June 10, 2012


immlass: "An F1 track even under the terms you describe is directly comparable to the infrastructure of something like a football/basketball stadium that's multiuse (i.e., has concerts and other events on top of seasonal sports) and the projections for those never pan out either. I'm in fact watching them not pan out in my hometown (Houston) right now. Using public money to build any kind of sports infrastructure is a taxpayer boondoggle. This one is particularly unsuited to the area--as even supporters admit--so there's no reason for anyone without an emotional investment in F1 or someone who expects to get a cut of the construction money to believe it'll pay off."

Yes, here in Tulsa we have what is, by most accounts, one of the most phenomenally successful arenas in the entire country. It's been a top ticket seller since it opened. It has three sports tenants, big name concerts almost weekly, plus a crap ton of other random events. It does make an operating profit of several million dollars a year. Problem is, it took over $200 million to build the thing.

I personally think the cost is/was worth it, but there is no evidence that these venues are in any way profitable in their own right. In specific circumstances, they may contribute to redevelopment of an area that increases the tax base enough to offset the cost. It's more likely that it's just shifting it around from one area of town to another in our case.

It's even worse if the venue is built in a rural area, because now some city/water district/whoever has to cover the costs of expanding services out there, and more importantly maintaining it for all time. And if that wasn't enough, the availability of cheap land ensures that any increases in property tax are minor when compared to the cost of building the venue or even providing services to it.
posted by wierdo at 4:27 PM on June 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


In every article where some journalist drives an F1 car, I always see the same thing. No matter who they are, even if they raced cars for living before becoming an automotive journalist, they aren't physically able to drive the car fast enough to get the tires warmed up.

I always love when they bring out the safety car. They have a professional race car driver in a VERY high performance sports car driving almost as fast as he can and the F1 drivers are back there yawning and trying to keep the tires warm.

This will give you a good idea just how much faster these car are than anything else. Oh, I found a couple more examples.
posted by VTX at 4:54 PM on June 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Rly
You can even tell the difference in the simulators like Forza and Gran Turismo
I've played tons of grand turismo (I got like 99% complete in gt 3) I never noticed that much difficulty driving f1 cars 'slow', although, I wasnt particularly trying to drive slow at the time. But I never had any trouble controling them.

In the game there are a bunch of different tires you can use, I usually used sticker tires (which require more pit stops). If you were only going to go a few laps, like hammond was, he could have used grippier tires.

Any way, I think it was all bs. He's proven to have faked shit in the past, they want to make things dramatic, there's no reason to think the car would be impossible to drive slow

posted by delmoi at 4:59 PM on June 10, 2012


cf: Cockpit cam of Stig driving an F1. Why do I have the feeling he's making this look deceptively easy?
posted by Dr. Zira at 5:08 PM on June 10, 2012


Tire compounds are always a compromise. If you make tires that work well at very low temperatures (like winter tires) they won't work well at all at higher temperatures. If you took a car with winter tires to a race track in the summer, they tires would basically melt and tear themselves apart.

It works the other way to. I drove a Camaro Z28 that had V rated tires on it once in late November (it was around 25F out but the roads were dry). I had to be VERY gentle with the throttle to keep from sliding around.

The tires on F1 cars are designed to operate at MUCH MUCH higher temperatures. If I remember right, they put Hammond on the intermediate tires (which are basically the softest tires they could have used) and he still couldn't get them warmed up (though I might be conflating that with an article with a similar premise).

I got up close to an Indy car that was on display a few years ago and poked at the tires. They were as hard as rocks.

Gran Turismo and Forza are simulations (very good ones that I love). Brockles works on race cars for a living so I'm inclined to take his word over your experiences with some video games.
posted by VTX at 5:18 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


delmoi: "I've played tons of grand turismo (I got like 99% complete in gt 3) I never noticed that much difficulty driving f1 cars 'slow', although, I wasnt particularly trying to drive slow at the time. But I never had any trouble controling them."

Try that in Live For Speed with a very strong FF wheel. You absolutely must drive much faster than you think possible/prudent, or you will fly off the course unless you are going very slow. Having never driven an F1 car, I can't say how it compares, but it's supposedly fairly good and matches the descriptions I've seen/read fairly well.
posted by wierdo at 5:19 PM on June 10, 2012


I'm pretty skeptical that F1 in Austin will last more than 3 to 5 years and wouldn't be surprised to see it disappear after 2 races but we shall see. As a location Austin has a great reputation and I'd love to go to visit the city and see the race but getting solid ticket prices has been like pulling teeth until yesterday. I found this interesting:

Prices range from $159 to $499 depending on seating location. All tickets include shuttle transportation from downtown Austin to the circuit, an unprecedented advantage over other circuits.

Source

I don't buy the argument that investing tax payer money in a venture such as this will benefit the taxpayer ultimately. It will benefit certain tax payers and help out some local businesses here and there as well as those who are already loaded so they'll be happy. Now perhaps it does benefit all, we'd just like to see solid evidence of that in cities around the world that fund sports stadiums and the like but it often sounds much like the privatization will make prices lower argument when so often it has not.

As for long term thinking, failing to invest in education will ultimately be a disaster long term. We see it all ready in the States where organizations like the Tea Party and FOX News aren't laughed out of relevance immediately. Look at Toyota deciding to build a plant in Woodstock Ontario instead of Alabama because the workforce in that particular area of the States was judged to not have the requisite education and skills.

They got a $125 Million is subsidies from the Canadians. But that wasn't what sealed the deal, because several southern states offered nearly double the subsidies. What sealed the deal was the quality of education that their potential workers in Canada possesed.

The extra subsidies offered by the U.S. state would have been eaten up by the need to train and educate the workers in those states to the standards of a modern mechanized and digitized automobile plant.


Source

Business and some will line their pockets with tax payer money and F1 doesn't need the U.S. market anyway. I don't think F1 will ever take off in the States and the chances of a successful U.S. born driver are very slim. Here in Canada we had Jacques Villeneuve win the world championship but F1 outside of Quebec is not big here either. I well remember a sportscaster on TSN comparing his ability to drive on the DVP as a proof that F1 drivers aren't athletic.

I highly doubt the majority of people buy any of the cars represented by constructors and engines in F1 based on the results in F1. Toyota and Honda are esteemed for their cars the world over and yet Toyota failed to win a single race and the last time Honda was in F1 they won one race and did well for one season but also spent a lot of time at the back of the grid. I don't see the U.S. as anywhere remotely essential to the success of the sport so the effort to stay there will, I suspect, be weak.

As for Hammond bullshitting about the tyres, well then, this would have to a grand conspiracy of not only Hammond but every F1 driver who talks about their first experience driving the cars and what they say to those who get to test them. This would be the kind of grand conspiracy we see in YouTube comments and the SpeedTV F1 forum.
posted by juiceCake at 5:20 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


This will give you a good idea just how much faster these car are than anything else.

Ben Johnson and two horses won a charity race against a stock car in 1998. A Formula 1 car would have totally beaten all of them; they're that fast.
posted by ceribus peribus at 5:26 PM on June 10, 2012


When the announcement was made a few weeks ago that tickets were finally on sale for the U.S. Grand Prix, I checked it out because I thought it would be a more affordable compromise than my dream trip to Monaco.

The good seats, i.e. the only ones under any kind of cover so that you're not broiling and which have a view of the pits, require a $5,500 Personal Seat License in addition to the ticket price. All the "premium" seats, require the purchase of a PSL, the cheapest of which is $1,500. Hell, they're going to charge $159 for a three day to sit on the grass.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:30 PM on June 10, 2012


My buddy does bookings for a distinguished speaker series here in Austin. He was complaining about how their hotel costs for speakers have quadrupled for the GP race time in November. He's not happy.
posted by Pecantree at 6:14 PM on June 10, 2012


I'm kind of the opinion that that Hammond was full of BS with that. Top Gear is an entertainment show and this is the same guy who's film crew used used explosives to fake a rubidium-water reaction when they couldn't get it to explode the way they wanted.

Perhaps you are not aware that Richard Hammond was in a pretty horrible wreck which nearly cost him his life.

I remember seeing him try to drive that F1 car, and knew he would never get it up to speed for it to corner. He lost much of his lust for really high speed driving after that accident, and he has been much more about powerful large machines or fast consumer cars than speed demon stuff like F1 or rocket cars ever since.

I personally don't blame him a bit. If I had survived the wreck he was in, I'd be hard pressed to drive fast in anything that didn't have a full passenger cage ever again.
posted by hippybear at 6:23 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


How many fat race car drivers have you seen?
posted by VTX at 6:23 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


ob1quixote, have you priced hotel rooms for the race? It looks like they’re charging Monaco prices. On top of that it costs an arm and a leg to get a parking permit on the circuit grounds, and COT is running a shuttle service in from Austin.

There’s plenty of farm land all around the race complex, and I suspect the locals would be happy to bring in people with RV’s to rent camping space from them. COT says they’ll be able to provide information on camping and RV facilities sometime before the race... probably after the local hotels are booked solid.

A lot has changed in the past 50 or so years. I went to the Watkins Glen F1 race, as a teenager working a low-paying job, in 1965. Tickets then were easily affordable, and we found cheap lodging with an old lady in town who had a spare room with an ancient feather bed.

In the woods just outside of the circuit people built tree houses overlooking the track, and hauled up coolers full of beer. I strongly suspect those guys spent more to build their tree houses than I spent for the weekend. The F1 drivers cited Watkins Glen as the best organized race of the year.
posted by Huplescat at 6:34 PM on June 10, 2012


What no one tells you is just how uncomfortable a nomex suit is on a hot day, or how much more difficult it is to drive when you have to pee. Some guys can just piss down their leg, but not me.
posted by humanfont at 6:50 PM on June 10, 2012


I was under the impression that the drivers normally sweat enough that they don't usually have to pee during the race.
posted by VTX at 6:56 PM on June 10, 2012


FYI, the sim that Brockles is driving in this video is iRacing, which I am totally addicted to and drive practically every day.

If you think the intricacies of real race tires is interesting, you should read about the attempts to model them in a simulator. Aero and mechanical components are relatively simple from a technical standpoint, but it seems that simulating the behavior of rubber on asphalt at the limits of grip is a dark art indeed.
posted by daHIFI at 6:59 PM on June 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


VTX, not only have racers peed their pants on the track, some have also had other accidents as well.
And then there's Tony Stewart, whose own close encounters of the No. 2 kind are part of NASCAR lore. During a race at Watkins Glen in 2004, an ailing Stewart radioed his crew to get a relief driver ready, pronto, because he was having major league meat sweats. A few minutes later, the radio crackled with a sheepish update from Stewart: "Never mind." After he won, everybody on Victory Lane waited more than 10 minutes while Stewart detoured to his trailer to change race suits. (When he finally met the media, he joked that he'd been fixing his hair.) So just how mortified was he? We can only wonder. While Stewart has spoken candidly about the fatal risks of his profession, he refuses to talk about his one-car accident. As a topic of conversation, dying in a race car is okay; pooping in one is not.

posted by daHIFI at 7:02 PM on June 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


He was complaining about how their hotel costs for speakers have quadrupled for the GP race time in November.

This is completely normal. All major race events (outside F1) cause hotels in the area to jack up their prices - usually between 50% to 200% of normal prices. This happens all over the world.

I wonder why they don't design some sort of active tyre heating system.

Because driving generates heat, so why waste energy, weight and complexity to generate heat that will be a by product of driving? You pre-heat the tyres and your driver gets on with it. The difficulty isn't cold tyres, but controlling the temperatures when they get hot to maintain the balance between front and rear temps and keeping them in the optimum range for the tyre to work.

there's no reason to think the car would be impossible to drive slow

The car is impossible to drive slow. You're using video game bs (as you put it) to try and explain a massively complicated machine with enormous power on a track surface that it is not at all optimised for (cold and wet) with an inexperienced driver. The tactile input and sensory overload you get from driving an F1 car is overwhelming on its own, never mind in shitty conditions with cold tyres. You're wrong.

FYI, the sim that Brockles is driving in this video is iRacing, which I am totally addicted to and drive practically every day.

Goddamnit I need to put a proper video up. That one was while I was still calibrating the actuators and setting the car up from the default 'brick' set up. I need to put a proper video up to at least let me hold my head up high. I am at 59.6s at Mosport in the Williams F1, which is the track I have spent the most time on. 1:11.6 is crap at Laguna.
posted by Brockles at 7:06 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Brock, please check your mefi mail, I would like to friend you on iRacing. Thanks.
posted by daHIFI at 7:12 PM on June 10, 2012


As far as any reports I can find, the last location of the USGP, Indianapolis, never made money on the race

and

Well, Brockles, the Melbourne Grand Prix has basically been pissing money down the toilet ever since they got it

Yes, but Melbourne isn't a permanent circuit (so can't generate any revenue for the rest of the year and also costs more to set up and return to normal each time) and Indy was just a fucking disaster from an F1 perspective from the very start. Montreal produces $85-90 Million of local revenue per year just from F1 on a track that is used about 3 times a year (3 times as much as Melbourne). Melbourne is (I think) ONLY used for F1, whereas Indy is used a couple of times a year or something stupid. I have no idea how they made such a hash of that, but part of the issue is that Indy spends a phenomenal amount of time sitting empty. It, also, doesn't generate year round revenue because it doesn't get used for testing at all, really. I have no idea how that track even makes money as an Indy track (if it even does).

An F1 track (with F1 in isolation) will almost never make money. But a permanent racing facility built to F1 standards is an entirely different prospect and will attract enough other activity to make money as a business in its own right. Not least, after that initial cash flow, Austin's F1 track will be head and shoulders above any other US track in terms of facilities for at least the next 10 years. It will likely attract every major race series for many years.
posted by Brockles at 7:32 PM on June 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why does YouTube make it so hard to find part 2 of any video?
posted by Soupisgoodfood at 7:58 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just as a data point, if anyone wants to see an F1 race live, going to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia will be cheaper than most other circuits, and yes that includes Texas unless you live with the track in your backyard. We went to the race last year. The infrastructure is great once you figure how to game the system slightly, the tickets are dirt cheap (100 bucks a seat in the grandstand at turn one, not the most expensive, but assuredly the best seats you can get. Stayed in a five star hotel downtown for slightly more than a hundred bucks a night, maybe one fifty.

Food is cheap, transport is cheap and after the race on Sunday afternoon when back downtown I got myself a couple street light banners advertising the race as the best post race souvenir ever.

People (not F1 fans) always ask why I'd fly myself and family to Malaysia to see a race when I could attend Montreal. Doing the math Montreal (and probably Austin) would likely cost three times more than a trip to Asia from here in Vancouver.
posted by Keith Talent at 8:02 PM on June 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd also guess that Shanghai would be inexpensive, as would Turkey.
posted by Keith Talent at 8:03 PM on June 10, 2012


F1 (the business) is a boondoggle. Ecclestonr flies in once a year and takes away a pile of money and forever after will threaten to move the race to China if the host city doesn't pony up more cash each time the contract comes up for renewal.

It's the sporting equivalent of a monorail.
posted by awfurby at 8:11 PM on June 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


When the announcement was made a few weeks ago that tickets were finally on sale for the U.S. Grand Prix, I checked it out because I thought it would be a more affordable compromise than my dream trip to Monaco.

Not great prices indeed, but I suppose some of us were expecting Indianapolis prices. The race in Montreal is cheaper than Austin. I'm scratching Austin. Can be in Montreal in about 90 minutes from Toronto via Porter.

I'd also guess that Shanghai would be inexpensive, as would Turkey.

Shanghai has slightly lower prices for tickets but airfare might be higher depending on where you're flying from. If anyone is selling tickets to Turkey walk away, Bernie tried to double the fee for Istanbul to run a race and now, surprise, surprise, there isn't a race there anymore (I have no doubt something similar will happen in Austin as it has Canada and elsewhere).


I'd love to see a race at Spa someday.
posted by juiceCake at 8:18 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


People (not F1 fans) always ask why I'd fly myself and family to Malaysia to see a race when I could attend Montreal.

Isn't the Canadian GP a track renown for producing some of the most exciting races throughout recent Formula 1 history? Although, I have heard that the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia is supposed to be fairly entertaining compared to the other newer Tilke designed tracks.
posted by quosimosaur at 9:54 PM on June 10, 2012


Huplescat: ob1quixote, have you priced hotel rooms for the race?
I hadn't, but that's kinda what I'm getting at. It looks like that for what it would cost me to sit under cover in the grandstands at Austin, I could buy a VIP package in Monaco and watch the race from a yacht moored near the Swimming Pool whilst sipping all-you-can-drink champagne.

By which I mean, despite Bernie's statement to Speed on the grid in Montreal, I think the U.S. Grand Prix is doomed. Again.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:41 PM on June 10, 2012


Isn't the Canadian GP a track renown for producing some of the most exciting races throughout recent Formula 1 history?

Montreal, Spa, Istanbul, Interlagos, and maybe a couple others are usually cited as the more exciting tracks. Personally I think nothing tops Monaco for batshit-insane entertainment, but many people hate it for the lack of passing and the frequent safety cars. Almost universally people list Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, and Valencia as the least exciting tracks. I believe Circuit Paul Ricard is thought of as a bit of a snooze fest, too.

By which I mean, despite Bernie's statement to Speed on the grid in Montreal, I think the U.S. Grand Prix is doomed. Again.

What statement? And which US Grand Prix, Austin or New Jersey?

And is iRacing the place to be these days? I still haven't moved much past GPL, because nothing else has the Targa Florio (and I still have the 5th fastest time on it with a 32:52.471!)
posted by clorox at 12:59 AM on June 11, 2012


If an auto racing track can make money, the various auto racing leagues ought to be banding together to build and operate them, and they shouldn't need or expect government support. Buy the land, build the track, invite the customers, and collect the big piles of cash the track generates.
posted by pracowity at 1:06 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why does YouTube make it so hard to find part 2 of any video?

When part 2 does not appear in the sidebar on the YouTube page, I usually have good luck finding it by going to the page of the YouTube user who uploaded part 1 and looking through their list of uploaded videos. YMMV.
posted by hippybear at 3:41 AM on June 11, 2012


If an auto racing track can make money, the various auto racing leagues ought to be banding together to build and operate them, and they shouldn't need or expect government support. Buy the land, build the track, invite the customers, and collect the big piles of cash the track generates.

It could be that they need the government funds to make the business work. As long as the government ends up with a net gain from increased tax revenue, I'm okay with that, especially if it ends up being sales taxes on fancy junk that only rich people buy.

It also could be that they need or expect government funds but, from business standpoint, if they think they can get someone else to pony up some of the cash, why wouldn't they try?
posted by VTX at 6:08 AM on June 11, 2012


Privatize profit & socialize loss. It's a great time-tested business model.

I think if the government wants to spend 250 million on a race track, then they should just build one and own it.

Oops, socialism again.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:20 AM on June 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


And is iRacing the place to be these days?

I think so. RFactor's physics model needs some work but the new RFactor 2 beta is a bit of a mess to use. iRacing has much less track and car choice (No decent selection of F1 tracks for a start, hugely US orientated car selection) but it is far m ore plug and play.

Once Rfactor2 comes out to general release maybe look at it again, but iRacing is pretty damn good.

the various auto racing leagues ought to be banding together to build and operate them

NASCAR owns a lot of tracks already. Most racing series can't generate enough capital nor can they operate in the sort of timelines for return that track ownership needs. Tracks are 10+ years projects at least and there is no series outside F1 that has the stability to invest over that kind of period. Especially when they would be limited to the tracks they own and can't chop and change to suit market needs (which is what they do now). It'd limit the flexibility of the series.
posted by Brockles at 7:40 AM on June 11, 2012


clorox: What statement? And which US Grand Prix, Austin or New Jersey?
The race in Austin is going to be called the U.S. Grand Prix. The race in New Jersey will be known as the Grand Prix of America. To me that seems backwards since the Austin track is called the Circuit of the Americas, but there we are.

I can't find any video of Ecclestone's statement at the moment, and I've already deleted it off my DVR, so all we have to go on is my memory. Speed TV's Will Buxton was interviewing new Circuit of the Americas track ambassador Mario Andretti on the grid before the race. Bernie Ecclestone came over and grabbed Mario by the arm to lead him away. Buxton asked Ecclestone about how things were going in Austin. Ecclestone replied with something along the lines of, "Oh yes, we're looking forward to racing there for many years to come."
posted by ob1quixote at 8:18 AM on June 11, 2012


Yes, that's right. I'm psychotic. Just because I know that the business model of an F1 track (or other high level race event) produces a positive business model...

I was referring to the decision makers, not you.
posted by goethean at 8:27 AM on June 11, 2012


That might have been clearer if you'd, you know, quoted them rather than me before making that statement.
posted by Brockles at 8:56 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just as a data point, if anyone wants to see an F1 race live, going to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia will be cheaper than most other circuits, and yes that includes Texas unless you live with the track in your backyard. We went to the race last year.

Went to the race at Suzuka year before last (the year qualifying rained out), and the consensus among several of the F1 fans we met who had seen races at more than one circuit that year (a surprisingly large number of folks), was that Singapore was probably the "best" in terms of affordability and convenience.
posted by notyou at 9:07 AM on June 11, 2012


I was under the impression that the drivers normally sweat enough that they don't usually have to pee during the race.

Not always. Usually, if they are properly hydrated, then they don't need to pee any more than anyone else. But if they don't sweat as much as they expected to they can need to pee and just have to go. I know of one driver that used to pee in the car pretty much every race because the time between needing to be in the car and all the pre and post race bullshit meant he was in the car for around 1 1/2 hours for a 30 minute race and he always drank too much while he was waiting. He wasn't the most popular driver for that, but the fact that he was fast meant he was begrudgingly forgiven mostly.
posted by Brockles at 9:07 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Brockles: "Over the life of the contract it will be a net gain to the area, so don't get too upset about it. Building the circuit is a 10 year plan and F1 makes tracks (and local vendors) a LOT of money if you manage it right (and make the track effective as a business during the times when F1 isn't there)."

Sounds like an investment in future revenues (instead of current education), which might pay out, at a cost of scarce dollars today, and the alternative (better-funded schools) almost certainly will pay out (a better educated populace = greater income potential, smarter electorate, more ability to meet changing economic stresses, etc.). You haven't convinced me this is the best use for today's tax dollars.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:21 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


You haven't convinced me this is the best use for today's tax dollars.

Wasn't even trying to - I have no opinion either way. I was just trying to clear the error that the entire project began and ended with the F1 race, was a guaranteed money sink with no positive impact for the coommunity and the further conclusion that this will fail if the US GP fails.
posted by Brockles at 9:40 AM on June 11, 2012


Driving a car that is too much for you is, in my experience, uniquely thrilling and terrifying. I imagine a car that requires driving faster than you can think is even more so.
Sure would like to try it some time.

ob1quixote writes "The good seats, i.e. the only ones under any kind of cover so that you're not broiling and which have a view of the pits, require a $5,500 Personal Seat License in addition to the ticket price. All the 'premium' seats, require the purchase of a PSL, the cheapest of which is $1,500. Hell, they're going to charge $159 for a three day to sit on the grass."

What the SMEG is a personal seat licence?

pracowity writes "If an auto racing track can make money, the various auto racing leagues ought to be banding together to build and operate them, and they shouldn't need or expect government support. Buy the land, build the track, invite the customers, and collect the big piles of cash the track generates."

From a business perspective why the heck would you leave funds on the table? Misplaced anti government militant Ron Paul libertarianism?
posted by Mitheral at 9:56 AM on June 11, 2012


What the SMEG is a personal seat licence?

A PSL gives you the exclusive opportunity to purchase the seat for a given period of time. Pretty common in other North American spectator sports.

PSLs with 25 years remaining in prime spots at the new Dallas Cowboys stadium are going for ~$150K per seat on the secondary market.

What's a SMEG?


----------------------
Somehow I got through that with absolutely no snark or bitterness.
posted by notyou at 10:23 AM on June 11, 2012


Smeg
posted by goethean at 1:41 PM on June 11, 2012


F1 makes tracks (and local vendors) a LOT of money if you manage it right (and make the track effective as a business during the times when F1 isn't there).

I'm sure it makes the track owner a ton of money. It's not exactly clear why anyone who's *not* the track owner should find that a particularly compelling rationale for spending tax dollars on the project, though.
posted by asterix at 2:56 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not exactly clear why anyone who's *not* the track owner should find that a particularly compelling rationale for spending tax dollars on the project, though.

It's not exactly clear? When Montreal gets close to $100Million per year from the event injected into the local economy? How is that not clear? All those people that attend need to eat, they need to sleep, they need transportation and souvenirs.

The track owner will not make mega money from the F1 race. It's possible they won't even make much money themselves on the actual event, but may be profitable through the year as a whole. The surrounding area has a captive audience of hungry, thirsty and demanding wallets to cater for. Over time, if the event is a success, you will see a huge chunk of US and foreign-sourced income coming into Austin.

Something that hasn't come up much is that the US GP isn't just about Austin. It's about the US in general. The companies that put money into F1 want to be in the US and it is a market they simply cannot get to at present. Having two races in a population of 310 million is something they very much want. Finding relevance and common ground with the US is important to the sport as whole and manufacturers have been pushing for a US presence for years. There have been many false starts, which is why I am more confident this will be a better go of it than the half-arsed attempt to catch on the (irrelevant) Indy coat tails with a crappy Oval infield track.

Austin will not be an instantaneous massive race. But it will evolve into a big event, I think. Austin's infrastructure will adapt to accommodate it. What people aren't realising is that Austin is head and shoulders more capable than many of the massive events in the UK from 20 years ago (Brands Hatch, Donington and Silverstone) that had hundreds of thousands of people attend them. Traffic at all of those at one time depended on a double lane one-way system as the only access in and out of the event. It may be carnage in terms of traffic in the first year, but there are decent looking plans in place for this event. The people dismissing this as a money pit with no return and with no value at all to the surrounding area 'except the rich' are deeply lacking in understanding of the event itself and the infrastructure it needs and produces.
posted by Brockles at 4:39 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sure it makes the track owner a ton of money.

How are you sure of this?

The people dismissing this as a money pit with no return and with no value at all to the surrounding area 'except the rich' are deeply lacking in understanding of the event itself and the infrastructure it needs and produces.

No one has said it's no value "at all" and has no return. Everyone realizes that there is some return to local businesses. If we look at Montreal for example, last year, we have these figures:

Last year, the race generated about $18-million in tax spinoffs and $4.7-million in dividends from ticket sales (including $1.25-million for the province, $1.56-million for Ottawa and $313,000 for the city.)

Source

That money goes to local businesses and such is not in doubt, though how long F1 remains there is highly in doubt, as is the actual value of F1 being in the States (at least it's debatable). Everyone understands the very basic nature of events = people attending events = people buying things from local merchants and staying in hotels and dirtying washrooms for our sons and daughters to clean because they didn't get a decent education and their parents couldn't keep their jobs because multinationals don't see a viable workforce in the area. Getting people educated enough to get jobs that allow them to afford houses and go to such events would be wonderful. That's not happening though, it's eroding, and rapidly.

What's in dispute is, is this equation worth it long term for our tax dollars to invest in it when tax dollars are being taken away from fundamental building blocks that also end up with people being able to buy things and profit because they have a chance at getting jobs. Funding the high end consumer businesses is fine and dandy, but some of us don't care for it to happen at the cost of the very fundamentals society is built upon.

It really gets to people. I can understand why.

It's interesting to see that the Indianapolis Speedway and Bernie were apparently "in talks" not to long ago. That went nowhere.
posted by juiceCake at 5:06 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


How are you sure of this?

I'm not, actually. My point was that even if it *is* true, it's not a good argument for spending a ton of taxpayer money on this sort of thing.

(I've been following the whole situation for other reasons: if this track does eventually get built, people are talking about it as a MotoGP/World Superbike venue. But as this short article points out, the motorcycle racing community has some serious questions as to whether or not that'll ever happen.)
posted by asterix at 5:12 PM on June 11, 2012


Last year, the race generated about $18-million in tax spinoffs and $4.7-million in dividends from ticket sales (including $1.25-million for the province, $1.56-million for Ottawa and $313,000 for the city.)

That's only the direct revenue from the event itself and is about a quarter of the money that the event and the attendees bring as a whole. Interestingly that article confirms that Montreal makes a yearly profit on 100,000 people. Looks to me like Austin can accommodate more when they get realistic on ticket prices.
posted by Brockles at 5:26 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I totally couldn't figure out why FOX had even bid on F1, much less outbid everyone else - It's high technology, dominated by foreigners and has very little violence. Kind of the anti-NASCAR. The only thing that would make less sense would be FOX getting the FIL world lacrosse championships - Or maybe Super Nanny.

The fact that the US track has been plopped down in Texas makes it all clear.
posted by Orb2069 at 1:27 AM on June 12, 2012


I think a new clause may have to be added to the old saw about a person being unable to understand something when their salary depends on it.
posted by wierdo at 3:59 AM on June 12, 2012


As another Austinite on here, I'm echoing the skepticism on the success of this endeavor to do more than line the pockets of principal players of this event. Anybody remember Manor Downs and all the imaginary piles of cash that was supposed to bring to the area?

Also, good luck driving anywhere near the airport/183/71 area during F1 week in Austin.

Ah well, at least it will be refreshing hearing folks complain about the rude behavior of the jet setters as opposed to the usual harumphing about SXSW and the Texas Relay weekend. Pity we're going to shell out millions to get that bit of schaudenfreude.
posted by SenorJaime at 6:02 AM on June 12, 2012


F1 vs high end sports car vs normal car, and a similar match-up on Top Gear with Clarkson narrating, and another, this time in French.

It's been established that F1 is ridiculous, and it's been claimed that the level of down-force generated by an F1 car at-speed is enough that it could drive upside-down. All the technology at use is most impressive compared to any car in use on the street, which makes for expensive cars, but that level of performance makes the track more expensive. Running boards were discussed in another thread - there's a piece of wood on the bottom of the car which regularly makes contact with the ground - while going really fast - and there can only be so much wear and tear on the board during a season or else you're disqualified. Which means the tracks must be quite flat and free from debris, among a long list of other requirements.

All this drives up the cost - a race track made to F1 standards is expensive, much more expensive than one that is not. The estimated cost to bring Laguna Seca up to spec for FIM (motorcycles) was several million dollars and a corporate sponsor was brought in to help pay. (Not a direct comparison, but if someone has better numbers I'd love to hear them.)

Trackipedia lists several tracks in Texas. How well have they done for themselves in bringing business in? Yeah, they're not F1 grade, but if we're arguing the track has other uses, it wouldn't be the only game in town.

The three race tracks within four hours drive of where I live are in the middle of nowhere, and for good reason - race cars are loud! Which means that a good portion of investment will not be conveniently located for the current layout of Austin. So while a really awesome racetrack is awesome, are there real alternatives that would generate outside investment in better places? Because another football stadium isn't going to do that, but would have an easier time getting funding.


As for your big-break into F1? Get really really really good on superkarts!
posted by fragmede at 11:56 AM on June 12, 2012


That's only the direct revenue from the event itself and is about a quarter of the money that the event and the attendees bring as a whole.

Indeed it is. I did read the article I linked to. No one is disputing whatsoever that events of this nature bring some money in.
posted by juiceCake at 12:42 PM on June 12, 2012


Bringing Laguna to F1 specifications would be easily 10's of millions. It might not even be possible as the run off requirements mean that you'd have to do something at the corskcrew that would involve adding earth where there isn't in massive proportions. While Laguna has good bike run off and, lets say, 'pretty good' ALMS level run off at best it is woeful for an F1 car. It is categorically not safe in its current specification for an F1 car. Most of what is there is in completely the wrong places (Turns 3, 5 and corkscrew particularly).

Even after the major earthworks required, resurfacing and access requirements (ambulance access to all the track isn't great at Laguna) the paddock and pit buildings are typical US in that they are completely unsuitable for F1. There are no garages with pit access at all and those that are there are tiny. They're asking for $20 Million of changes at Montreal and I'd say that place is about $20 million ahead of Laguna already. F1 will never race at Laguna.

How well have they done for themselves in bringing business in? Yeah, they're not F1 grade, but if we're arguing the track has other uses, it wouldn't be the only game in town.

None of the road courses host a high profile road course event though, which hugely limits potential. Like, at all. Most of them are run as country club tracks that tick along nicely and will make jobs and income for about 50-100 people directly full time. Race events, however, will have many hundreds of local people needed for traffic control, concessions, ticket sales, clean up and set up and a track that has a high profile event is much more likely to produce testing requirements and so encourage teams to set up at the track if the local industry is favourable (good quality machining and fabrication plus some composite technology capacity).
posted by Brockles at 12:45 PM on June 12, 2012


I suspect long term the most successful and consistent races held at this venue will be the lower Nascar events and maybe eventually, the highest level should they decide to race there. As mentioned previously, I could be wrong, but I don't see F1 staying there for very long, particularly at the pricing schemes they have now. The circuit does look pretty awful in terms of layout I have to say.

A few months ago the whole event was in doubt and they actually stopped construction for a few days.
posted by juiceCake at 12:51 PM on June 12, 2012


F1 will never race at Laguna.

Agreed. Compared to F1 it looks like a track out is some guy's dusty backyard, and it's a pretty awful track layout to boot, not that F1 doesn't have a few terrible circuits in terms of layout as well.
posted by juiceCake at 12:53 PM on June 12, 2012


Laguna Seca is awfully short for an F1 race. Lap times would be down around a minute or so.

And there's basically no seating there now.

Still, we've had lots of fun attending ALMS races there. Just wander around the place for four or six hours, visit the Corkscrew, mosey down around back and watch the cars power out of that turn and grind up the hill.
posted by notyou at 12:53 PM on June 12, 2012


I suspect long term the most successful and consistent races held at this venue will be the lower Nascar events

I very much doubt it. Unless the France Family own a stake in it, they have Texas covered and usually only race on road courses if there is no oval to play on instead. I also hope not as Nascar on that track would be a damn waste.

I think ALMS will be a big winner at COTA, as will GrandAm (again France family allowing, although those cars suit road courses better, obviously) and Indycar may well join in. There is a big lack of a decent race track in the South East that isn't Florida so I think it will be relatively popular for regional and national racing, with big weekends around the big boys.

it's a pretty awful track layout to boot

Totally not seeing that at all. What do you think is wrong with it? I thought it was pretty encouraging, frankly, with at least three viable overtaking spots which is more than a lot of places.
posted by Brockles at 12:57 PM on June 12, 2012


I very much doubt it. Unless the France Family own a stake in it, they have Texas covered and usually only race on road courses if there is no oval to play on instead. I also hope not as Nascar on that track would be a damn waste.

They have expressed an interest in it. Yes, I'm aware of their other Texas venues. As mentioned, it would be for the lower Nascar events, not Sprint Cup. The primary reason is that Nascar is the most popular form of motorsport in the States and I don't see the circuit owners not trying to get races there.

Totally not seeing that at all.

And that's fine. It's an opinion and opinions differ. I quite like most of the Tilke circuits for example, but others feel they are awful. The sequences from 2 to 10 and 12 to 18 will force a compromise setup not unlike Indianapolis. I'm more a fan of rhythm circuits rather than disruptive ones from a driving standpoint.
posted by juiceCake at 8:37 AM on June 13, 2012


I'm more a fan of rhythm circuits rather than disruptive ones from a driving standpoint.

Yeah, but it's a race track, not a driving track. There has been a recent trend with circuit design to produce nice flowing driving tracks that suit the Club of Porsches style demographic and are fucking awful for racing. Alan Wilson is the worst protagonist for this and his tracks are very pleasant to drive on but piss awful for racing on because the 'disruption' is what generates passing areas.

Honestly, I could happily picket the Wilson design offices as he has stuck his fingers into so many tracks that when we were looking for test circuits to teach new drivers proper braking and passing zone styles and techniques he'd had his fingers in so many tracks that there just weren't any. Miller Motorsports Park, New Jersey Motorports Park, The stupid modifications to Lime Rock (how do you add tight chicanes and NOT produce any passing zones?) and even Autobahn are lovely and challenging to drive but mot have either one passing place of any depth or none at all. Nice driving tracks, boring race tracks.

They have expressed an interest in it.

From the article it seems to be for GrandAm they are considering it, which makes perfect sense. NASCAR (Cup and the other clones) itself has no real place on a proper road course, but that's a whole different discussion.
posted by Brockles at 8:53 AM on June 13, 2012


Yeah, but it's a race track, not a driving track.

Thanks, but I was aware that it is, in fact, a racing circuit. I disagree that rhythm circuits produce awful racing. Sepang, Jerez, Imola (old layout), Monza (old layout), Hockenheim (new layout), Nurburgring (new layout), Mosport, come immediately to mind with passing areas.

From the article it seems to be for GrandAm they are considering it, which makes perfect sense. NASCAR (Cup and the other clones) itself has no real place on a proper road course, but that's a whole different discussion.

Sure, but the race at Montreal has been a great success for Nationwide on a road course so there may be a fit there.
posted by juiceCake at 12:57 PM on June 13, 2012


Mosport, come immediately to mind with passing areas.

Mosport is terrible for passing. There's only really one passing place for a car of equal ability (into T5a) but even that is tough because of how close the exit of T4 is. You have to be quite a bit faster than your rival to pass at Mosport, which doesn't usually make for good racing. It's as easy to defend as it is to pass at, so it can produce very processional races. Great driving track, though. The rest have clearly defined passing areas after at least two long straights into a tight corner, which is all I can think of when you say rhythm vs layout in track design.

Sepang, Jerez, Imola (old layout), Monza (old layout), Hockenheim (new layout), Nurburgring (new layout), Mosport

I guess I am struggling with your definition of rhythm circuit, then. Presumably it's terminology because each of those have good separation between corners with long straights except for Mosport. I can see Mosport being a rhythm track (and would definitely agree) but the others that I added into the bank of tracks (Miller, NJMP, that kind of thing) don't have defined passing areas like the other tracks you list.

I assumed that rhythm meant 'corners blend into each other', which I don't see the tracks with two or more defined straights as being.
posted by Brockles at 1:09 PM on June 13, 2012


We're to far apart in our viewpoint. That is not what I mean by rhythm. You can have hard braking, long straights, etc. but it's not a jerky circuit where you spend buckets of time on and off the throttle through long stretches where you can't really get the maximum out of a car but have to compromise. It's difficult to explain, but the wavy sections at Austin, from what I've seen in simulators, are awful. Once the race actually occurs of course, then we'll see for sure.

As for Mosport, while it is considered one of the most difficult tracks in the world, full of blind corners, there are only three places you can't pass - corners 5a and 5b, and while you can pass in C10, it compromises speed on the grand stand straight which will mean you will get repassed going into C1. Favorite passing places are entry of C1 and C2, anywhere in C3, entrance to C4, C8, anywhere in C9.
posted by juiceCake at 1:31 PM on June 13, 2012


Favorite passing places are entry of C1 and C2, anywhere in C3, entrance to C4, C8, anywhere in C9.

I contest that with some vehemence - Mosport is my local track and I have driven it lots and also engineered lots of drivers there. You can pass slower traffic anywhere on any track, pretty much, but it is almost impossible to pass a car and driver or comparable ability into any corner at Mosport other than T5 without a big mistake from the guy you are following. Are you talking about getting around other cars in a different class (like at ALMS races, for instance?) or talking about racing for position with a comparable driver/car combination?

T1: It's flat out from T10 into here and proper cars hardly brake (only a lift), also it is very punishing on line. The straight isn't long enough to pass anything over than lapped (ie much slower) traffic.

T2: Oh hell no. Being off line here is a guaranteed spin. No way can you pass here when you have a short distance between T1 and T2 to start your move.

T3: It can be possible to divebomb the inside here, but again there is very little straight to work with and you can carry a LOT of speed into T3 and it is an early apex, which prevents a proper pass in most cases. There's really only a pass here if the guy in front of you makes a mess of the corner and turns in too late. Even then the speed differential is not that big.

T4: Same as T2. Being off line puts you off camber or screws your approach, so any pass attempted here will result in a spin or a compromised exit into T5 that will lose you the spot.

T5: Yes, you can pass here. You have to overslow at the apex and make sure you keep the guy wide and manage his track position to ensure you can still be set up for the apex of %b, but this is by far the easiest place to pass at Mosport.

T5b: No, you can't pass into here, but as long as you keep your mid corner speed down you can keep any position you gained into T5a.

T8: Any proper race car hardly slows here, so it is very, very hard to pass here. Anything with wings will be turning into this corner almost flat out, so unless you slipstream on the straight (hard given how uphill and critical the T5b exit is) and pass before the crest of the hill or just after, going into T8 off line will allow the guy you are passing to maintain the outside line and cut you off into T9.

T9: There is really only one line here, so you can only force your way past a slower car here, but it is very hard to do without losing the place back at T10.

T10: Not enough room between T9 and T10 for a move and, as you say, you'll just screw your exit and lose the place back in a drag race into T1.

Basically, if the guy you are chasing gives you a passing opportunity at anything other than T5a, then he's not very good, your car is much faster or they screwed up royally. There is so little leeway at Mosport with relatively equal cars.
posted by Brockles at 1:56 PM on June 13, 2012


Delighted you protest it with some vehemence. I just spoke to a GT3 champion who raced there extensively and let's just say it's another classic case of entirely divergent opinions. Enjoy the vehemence.
posted by juiceCake at 2:03 PM on June 13, 2012


He laughed out loud at the notion of passing at 5a. Quite fascinating the different perspectives. On these matters I suspect no one will convince the other. One reacts with laughter, another with vehemence.
posted by juiceCake at 2:09 PM on June 13, 2012


but again there is very little straight to work with and you can carry a LOT of speed into T3 and it is an early apex, which prevents a proper pass in most cases.

I meant early turn in, not apex here. The apex is very late at Mosport.

Quite fascinating the different perspectives.

Apparently. I've not heard any other people advocate Mosport as being full of passing places but lots of quite the opposite. A GT3 Champion implies a low downforce/predominately mechanical grip car (Porsche, presumably?), which is certainly different from what I am used to but even so I've seen many, many pro and semi pro drivers struggle to pass at Mosport and lots of completed overtakes at T5. I agree that T10 usually results in failure but people will always still try it.

Aero cars and their relatively high speed through T1, 2 and 8 pretty much precludes passing into there without some kind of error, so the only way I can explain that difference is that higher levels of aero change the character of the track significantly, which is possible. All my stuff at Mosport has been relatively high aero cars and they only really brake of any consequence twice on the track (T5 and T9). I know the Porsche GT3's are very fast in a straight line and have to brake really hard for a lot of corners, so maybe the difference is there.
posted by Brockles at 2:34 PM on June 13, 2012


Ok, just looked through a bunch of GT3 track videos and I don't see quite as many passing opportunities as your friend suggests (although Gt3 racing is pretty frantic, but the reason why my kind of racing (high aero, less power generally) doesn't have the same passing places is as follows:

Turn 1 - no braking on new tyres, only a lift on worn tyres. No passing possible due to no difference in speed unless you can force a mistake out of T10.

Turn 2 - no braking, just a lift. Same as T1

T3 - too easy to defend, braking too deep into it

T4 - flat out, no lift or brake. It's just a curvy straight so no overtaking possible.

T5 - You can pass here, but it's hard. You have to have a run on the car in front of you out of T3 but be far enough back that you don't run into them through T4.

T8 - Flat out on new tyres, only a lift on worn tyres. If you don't pass them on the straight in the slip stream, you ain't passing them here.

T9 - Possible, but unlikely due to the amount of braking you need to do between the second apex of T8 and T9. Very, very brave, but an outside chance of success. It's difficult mainly because it's hard to stay close enough to the lead car to do so and still have aero grip through T8. If you're close enough on the way in, you often scrub the speed off and drop back with understeer.

T10 - You have to see a mistake to either plan a better exit and get them on the straight or just before T1.

Again, the cars I deal with only really brake hard at T5 and T9. Everything else is a quick dab (T9) and relatively gentle trail braking (T3). Without a mistake, the heavy braking areas are you only hope.

So clearly the cars I deal with have a very different speed differential than the cars your friend is talking about. Presumably higher HP cars with lower grip generate braking areas at T1, 2, 4 and 8 that produce passing areas that higher aero just wipes out as possibilities. Clearly the track is very different to the two different styles of car.

I'll see if I can get hold of the engineering data for a GT3 Cup car I know of. Might be interesting.
posted by Brockles at 7:37 PM on June 13, 2012


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