Paddock Postcard from Austin 18 Nov 2012
They do things bigger in Texas. F1 paddocks are always teeming with interesting people, but the one at the Circuit of The Americas was heaving. It wasnt just sportsmen and women, either. The roster of famous faces read like a Whos Who of movie stars and makers, chart-topping singers and political figures, besides professional athletes.
1978 world champion Mario Andretti was much in evidence all weekend, as was Dario Franchitti, while fellow racers Jackie Stewart (and family), Emerson Fittipaldi, Keke Rosberg, Tony Kanaan, Rubens Barrichello, Danny Sullivan, Adrian Fernandez, Gil de Ferran, Brett Lunger, Bob Bondurant, Ben Spies, Ken Schwanz (with #58 Simoncelli cap), Scott Jasek, Kourtney Bigelow, Bubba Shobert, Conor Daly and Willy T Ribbs made appearances, together with NBA player Tim Duncan, pro golfer Nick Watney, Olympic athlete Michael Johnson, Anaheim Angels CJ Wilson, former Dallas Cowboy Mike Renfro, former Detroit Lion Doug English, former Green Bay Packer Greg Koch, former Houston Oiler Dan Pastorini, former Chicago Bear Brad Shearer, and former Denver Bronco Jeff Campbell.
From the film and television world came producers George Lucas and Ron Howard; actors Michael Fassbender, Rupert Grint, Kyle Chandler, Luke Wilson, Patrick Dempsey, Matt LeBlanc, James Woods, Erik Valdez, Todd Allen, Virginia Welch, Billy Miller, Max Meggs and Scott Elrod, plus reality TV stars Jesse James and Matt Nordgren.
Artists, musicians and entertainers included singers Enrique Iglesias, Jack Ingram, Lupe Fiasco and Jimmy La Fave, entertainers DJ Afrojack, DJ Cruella and DJ Kaskade, and Koreas YouTube sensation, PSY.
Political figures included former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband, Space Shuttle Commander Mark Kelly, while the likes of former Jaguar F1 engineer Guenther Steiner, Dennis Dean, Timmy Mayer and Nick Craw from the FIA, former Lotus tyre man Kenny Szymanski, veteran photographer Michael Tee, Renault COO Carlos Tavares, and Carlos Slim Snr were also in evidence.
Red Bulls Mark Webber was put through his paces by decathlon world champion and Olympic silver medallist Trey Hardee - guest of the team throughout the weekend - on Austins University sports fields.
It was great to catch up with Trey - but I think hes safe: his career wont be threatened by me, said Webber. As usual with any sport, the good guys make it look very simple, but when you try it yourself that really isnt the case. Its always nice to have the best in the business offer to help you out though. I improved a little bit but not, as we say, enough to trouble the scorers.
There were plenty of US-inspired helmets on display too. Red Bulls Sebastian Vettel opted for a 'wild west theme, whilst McLarens Lewis Hamilton went for the Stars and Stripes with his lid, which was emblazoned with an American flag.
Throw in a reception with the State Governor, many downtown Formula One-related displays, and a brilliant historic F1 support race, and you had all the ingredients which blended together to give F1 racing the best possible welcome back and the perfect start for a whole new chapter of its life in the United States.
For more pictures, check out our Paddock Postcard gallery.
For tickets and travel to 2012 FORMULA 1 races, click here.
For FORMULA 1 and F1 team merchandise, click here.