- Formula 1 returns to America with the U.S. Grand Prix Sunday in Austin, Texas — but can it put fans in seats?
- The weekend ends a 28-month struggle between supporters and opponents of the event.
- The race is the next-to-last event on this year's F1 race calendar.
AUSTIN, Texas — Formula 1 is back in the U.S. this weekend, ending a drought since 2007 for the global grand prix series in America and a 28-month struggle between those who promoted the event and those who opposed it. But observers are anxious to see if the highly anticipated event can put fans in seats.
Drivers are already weighing in with reaction to the Austin track.
Ferrari's Felipe Massa said on Thursday "this track has more or less everything."
"You have crazy corners like Turn 1, which goes uphill with blind apex and then suddenly you are going down into a high-speed sector with big changes of direction," he said.
Massa added: "It's not an easy track to learn."
Sunday's U.S. Grand Prix will launch a 10-year relationship between the Texas hill country and F1 and will bring to a close the saga that is the story of the building of the new Circuit of the Americas track.
Exactly one year ago, the event appeared dead. Developers had suspended work on the new track. There were serious questions, internal squabbling among the management group. There was legal and legislative wrangling over state funding to support the project.
On November 17, 2011, Formula One Management's Bernie Ecclestone told the media the race would not be held.
At the end of the month, Ecclestone gave the developers 30 days to resolve their issues.
Tavo Hellmund, who is generally credited with initiating the project that has brought F1 to Austin, was the odd man out in reorganization, but the deal with Ecclestone was restored and as of December 8, the race remained on the provisional 2012 calendar.
Things were blessedly quiet for those involved with the project after that last hurdle was cleared. In September, Formula 1 race director Charlie Whiting toured the facility and gave it rave reviews and top ratings.
And so today practice begins. Qualifying will be staged Saturday and the race is set for a 1 p.m. (CST) start on Sunday. As many as 200,000 spectators are expected for the sold-out event and Speed will provide live coverage of practice Friday, practice and qualifying Saturday and the race on Sunday.
The race is the penultimate event on the season calendar, with the finale a week later in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel is seeking a third straight driving championship and two-time champion Fernando Alonzo of Ferrari still has hopes of disappointing Vettel.
Edmunds says: The event will, in all likelihood, live up to all the hoopla for supporters and serve a stinging rebuke on the naysayers.