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Austin’s Circuit of the Americas was given a ‘First Lap Ceremony’ with Formula 1 cars on Sunday, with 1978 World Champion Mario Andretti in action. The brand-new Texas venue will be hosting the returning United States Grand Prix next month.
As the penultimate event in the 2012 F1 season, Texas is likely to play a crucial part in this year’s championship battle. At the weekend, a selection of celebrities - such as actor Patrick Dempsey - were present as well as F1 tyre supplier Pirelli and the Lotus team. Andretti cut a black and white chequered banner which crossed the starting grid, then took to the track in his title-winning Lotus 79.
“It’s everything I expected and more,” he smiled. “The track is phenomenal. It has all the features that you are looking for, giving you the opportunity to overtake, while negotiating some tighter corners. You can tell a lot of thought has gone into it.”
One of the current breed also sampled the circuit, as Lotus reserve driver Jérôme d’Ambrosio – who competed in the Italian Grand Prix while Romain Grosjean served his one-race ban – also attended the event.
“It’s been a great day today,” the Belgian reported. “There’s a real buzz about the Circuit of The Americas and it was fantastic to get out on-track to demonstrate the R30 (Renault F1 car of 2010).
"It’s a very enjoyable layout with a couple of really good places for overtaking, some long and fast sweeping ‘S’ corners and some really good high-speed changes of direction like Becketts at Silverstone. It was a shame not to get more laps, as an engine issue meant we were unable to continue running, but I had enough time to get a really good feel of the circuit.”
Austin’s race will come on 18 November, just one week before the finale in Brazil; it will mark the first American F1 event since Indianapolis in 2007, won by Lewis Hamilton. Last week, it was confirmed that the new Grand Prix of Americas, taking place in New Jersey, has been put back to 2014 because of construction delays.
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