Formula 1

Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton of the Mercedes Team have dominated Formula 1 racing this season, and Sunday’s US Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas was no exception.

Rosberg started on the pole, but Hamilton passed him on lap 24 and crossed the finish line 4.3 seconds ahead of his teammate, giving Hamilton his fifth straight victory and 10th of the year. Daniel Ricciardo of Infiniti Red Bull Racing took third, 25.5 seconds back, and the Williams-Mercedes team of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas finished fourth and fifth.

Hamilton’s 32nd career win also put him ahead of Nigel Mansell as the most successful British Formula 1 driver in history. 

“My family worked so very hard for many years to get me here and to be amongst the greats,” Hamilton said. “I could die and go to heaven right now, and I’d be good.”  

The Grand Prix was the third annual Formula 1 tilt at COTA and is the only U.S. stop on the circuit. Mercedes, Infiniti Red Bull, Ferrari and Williams-Mercedes have eaten up more than 80 percent of the total points this season. 

Three teams — Lotus Racing, Force India and Sauber Ferrari — were rumored to be considering a boycott of this race to call attention to the widening economic disparity between the larger sponsored teams and the smaller independent ones. Two other teams, Marussia and Caterham, went bankrupt earlier in the week, limiting the field to 18 cars.

In recent seasons, the most successful teams have been those with the largest budgets. Precise financial figures are a closely held industry secret, but each car costs more than $7 million to build and teams spend a minimum of $100 million per year to compete. 

The weekend also featured a post-race concert by Kid Rock and two smaller series races featuring Ferraris and Porsches.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., the 2014 Daytona 500 champion, made his first ever trip to Austin on Tuesday afternoon and said motorsports fans, especially in the states, should focus on NASCAR and not Formula 1.  

“I’m here to tell people that they need to come to see us race," Earnhardt Jr. said. "We put on a better show and that, you know, as exciting as it is to have Formula 1 be in America, come to America, and be back in the United States … NASCAR is where it’s at. It’s the best motorsports in the country for sure, possibly in the world, and to see the best show they need to come to Texas.”

Earnhardt Jr., who got his first career victory at Texas Motor Speedway in 2000, visited Sholz Garten for a meet and greet with fans to promote the upcoming NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in April. The race at TMS in November overlaps with the F1 race at the Circuit of the Americas.

“I absolutely think it’s foolish,” TMS president Eddie Gossage said of the scheduling conflict. “Nobody wins.”

The now two-time Daytona 500 winner has partaken in a whirlwind media and press tour since winning NASCAR’s version of the Super Bowl Sunday, appearing on The David Letterman Show on Monday evening and visiting ESPN headquarters Tuesday morning before flying to Austin. Comparisons of his victory in 2004 keep coming up for Earnhardt Jr. 

“I thought about that when I first came into the series, how long would I be chasing the Daytona 500," Earnhardt Jr. said. "Would it be eluding me like it did these other guys or would I never win it? And so when I won it early, it was a huge shock and the feeling that I had wasn’t really joy, it was more relief that I had that put out of the way. “

NASCAR’s most popular driver, who has won the award for 11 straight seasons, also joined Twitter after winning the race. He had an account for several years with over 200,000 followers despite zero tweets being sent out. Now, only two days after winning the race, he sits at over 500,000 followers.

“Tonight seemed like as good a night as any to join Twitter,” Earnhardt Jr. tweeted early Monday morning. “How is everyone doin? #2XDaytona500Champ.”

Public relations junior Reagan Lognion called working for Formula 1 "the experience of a lifetime" and plans to return, despite allegations that officials hired based on appearance.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Officials from this weekend’s Formula 1 race targeted female UT students to work at the Circuit of the Americas track and based offers of employment primarily on appearance, according to several female students involved in the casting process.

Race employment officials set up a stand in the Union last week to cast female students for service positions and hired them as greeters at the front gate, merchandisers or hostesses in the VIP clubs. 

Rachel Nicole Francis, an applied learning and development junior, said she was hired to work in the VIP Paddock Club at the race but decided not to take the job after the briefings before the race made her uneasy.

“They only took pictures of us and did not ask about our previous work experience,” Francis said. 

Textiles and apparel junior Lexi Smith said she thought casting was centered on appearance because she was approached to try out when walking around campus.

“I was just walking into the PCL … and they stopped me and asked me to try out,” Smith said. “They didn’t ask any other information about me, which was weird, and they told me to bring my friends to the casting.”

Public relations junior Reagan Lognion, who worked in the VIP Ferrari Club Lounge at the race, said it was “the experience of a lifetime,” and after she interacted with her coworkers, she felt the casting was determined more by personality than looks.

“When I met the other girls working in my position … I realized that we all had very similar personalities,” Lognion said. “We had to be talkative and outgoing to be able to do our job well. I think that was the deciding factor more so than looks.”

Madison Lasris, an aerospace engineering and linguistics junior who has worked at the race for the past two years, said an appearance-based employment hierarchy is normal at the event. 

“It was totally worth it,” Lasris said. “I did see, though, that while they definitely looked for girls who spoke different languages to work the race, they specifically told us in our job, ‘You’re working here because you look better than the girls in the other position.’”

Formula 1 race officials, including the female students’ supervisors, declined multiple opportunities to comment.

Professional BMX rider Aaron Ross, who lives in Austin, has ridden in nine X Games and was a commentator at the BMX segment of last
summer’s X Games.

Photo Credit: Erika Rich | Daily Texan Staff

Within the state of Texas, sports are a way of life. Home to two MLB teams, two NFL teams, three NBA teams, NBC’s Friday Night Lights and a mob of frenzied fans, Texas is known for its all-American, traditional sports culture.

But the decision by ESPN to bring the summer X Games, a competition featuring events including motocross, rallycross, skateboarding and BMX, to Austin next May has the power to change the culture of extreme, alternative sports here in Central Texas. It also has the power to change the perception of Austin. 

“Austin is known as the Live Music Capital of the World,” said local skater Colten Perry, an Austinite who was involved with the committee organizing Austin’s bid for the X Games. “But we could be known for extreme sports as well. I think the X Games are going to bring more of that here.” 

Austin was chosen last week by ESPN to host the summer X Games in May 2014. Austin, which is replacing Los Angeles, was one of four finalists. The X Games will take place next month in Los Angeles for the last time.

The city’s new Circuit of the Americas complex in South Austin, which hosts Formula 1, was heavily involved in bringing the X Games to Austin and will host most of the competitions next year. 

Aaron Ross, a professional BMX rider who is from Corpus Christi but currently resides in Austin, has ridden in nine different X Games. Despite not participating in recent games, Ross has stayed involved with ESPN and X Games and was the commentator for last summer’s X Games for the BMX portion of the competitions. 

“For the last 15 years, Austin has been one of the biggest BMX cities in the world,” Ross said.

Because of its outdoor-friendly residents, Ross said, Austin is the prime spot for the X Games and it made sense for ESPN to choose Austin over other options. 

“Austin is such a young city, such an outdoors city, everyone enjoys being outside,” Ross said. “It makes sense. It’s going to open a lot of doors and minds for this sport to what it is and what it can be.” 

With the construction of the Circuit of the Americas facilities and the Formula 1 competitions, Ross said Austin is emerging into the motor sports scene.

In addition, Austin is emerging as a landing point for professional athletes in the extreme sports related to the X Games.

“When someone decides to go pro, they move somewhere like Austin because we have tons of filmers, tons of photographers,” Ross said. “We have media here, we have big contests.”


Economic Benefits

While the announcement of the X Games moving to Austin resulted in a lot of excitement for local BMX fans, business owners might have a different reason to be excited.

Just as any national event would, the X Games is expected to bring millions of dollars to the city’s economy. Austin, already home to events including Austin City Limits, South By Southwest and Formula 1, could profit substantially from tourists visiting Austin for the weekend event in May 2014.

Paul Thornton, Circuit of the Americas director of events and entertainment, said events bring tourists with money to spend to Austin, which will result in more jobs, more infrastructure, better restaurants and shops as well as increases in property values.

Circuit of the Americas and the Austin Chamber of Commerce did not have an estimate for how much money the X Games could bring to Austin’s local economy, but both groups cited that the X Games brought Los Angeles more than $50 million in 2010.

“We expect that or more here because we have more capacity to grow,” Thornton said.

Ashley Nicole Hardy, Austin Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman, said the city can expect similar results that Los Angeles received, including 135,000 annual visitors.

Hardy said the X Games will be valuable to Austin because, similar to Formula 1, it brings international attention to the city.

“This is the second year in a row now that we’ve received something like this that wasn’t homegrown,” Hardy said. “Something like this makes Austin hyper-valuable in the global market.”

Tomas Pena performs a trick on his BMX bike at the Austin BMX & Skate Park on Saturday afternoon.

Alternative sports

While Austin may reap economic benefits, fans of the X Games and extreme sports athletes may see their pastime enter the spotlight. 

Perry, who has been skating for 13 years, emphasized how big the skate community and BMX community are in Austin and how much it would help those people. 

“It’s really important to help the skate community thrive and become bigger in the state of Texas,” Perry said. 

Perry is also involved in the Texas Skateboarding Club, an organization committed to promoting alternative sports to youth across Texas. 

“The skate scene here is so close, everyone knows each other and there are more and more people starting to skate,” Perry said. “It seems like families here in Austin are a little more open-minded.”

The presence of the X Games in Austin will also greatly help local businesses. Shane Riley, store manager at Fast Forward, predicts it will help businesses, including his, get more exposure and be able to help more people, especially beginners, ride. 

“The more people that know about Fast Forward and the more people that are excited about skating, the better it is for us,” Riley said. 

While local businesses and skaters are looking forward to how much Austin could grow as a result, some have expressed hesitation. 

“Some of the native Austinites are not as for it because they don’t want Austin to get bigger,” Perry said. “Most people, however, are so open to things here that I think it will be well-received and be a good opportunity for Austin.”

Circuit of the Americas is currently taking email addresses to notify fans when tickets go on sale for the Austin X Games in May 2014. 


X Games Definitions

X Games — Sporting event, controlled by ESPN, focusing on extreme, alternative, action sports. Motocross — Motorcycle racing on off-road tracks or circuits. Different types of competition featuring skill and speed.
BMX ­— Bicycle Motocross. Bicycle racing, motocross style, on tracks with obstacles and an inline start. Features trick riders, jumps and precision competition.
Rallycross — Automobile road racing. Closed circuit racing on a variety of courses.
Mountain Bike Slopestyle — Skill and trick riding on a natural course. No head-to- head racing.

The UT Solar Vehicles Team has been working on its solar car, the TexSun, for two years. The car cost $100,000 to build. The team will compete against other college solar car teams nationwide at the International Formula Sun Grand Prix in June.

Photo Credit: Erika Rich | Daily Texan Staff

Two years and thousands of dollars later, the UT Solar Vehicles Team is geared up and ready to race its car, called the TexSun, at the Formula Sun Grand Prix this week.

Beginning Monday and ending Saturday, the Formula Sun Grand Prix features solar cars built by college students nationwide. The winner of the race is not the car that passes the finish line first, but the car that completes the most laps without running out of power.

The race will be held at the Circuit of the Americas racetrack, which hosted the U.S. Formula 1 race last year. There are 12 teams registered to compete.

UT students who worked on the car say building it gave them the opportunity to use the skills they learned in class. Building the car is not cheap, and students faced challenges buying parts for the car.

Overall, students say the spotlight is on renewable energy. If solar energy can be harnessed to make cars run, renewable may eventually go mainstream and be used in aspects of everyday life.

“I like a challenge,” said team member Benton Greene, an aerospace engineering graduate student. “It is fun to design something, to meet some problem and see it actually work and get to compete against other people who designed for the same problem but had different creative ideas for how to make things work.”

The UT Solar Vehicles Team is made up of 50 students who worked on the car’s mechanical, battery, electrical, software, and body and wing teams. The team spent $100,000 constructing the car, said Neda Abdul-Razzak, the team’s president and a mechanical engineering and psychology senior.

“To be able to finish making the car is itself a huge accomplishment,” Abdul-Razzak said. “The main thing is that it is a learning process and a really good way to apply all the engineering theories we learn in the classroom by building an actual car.”

Built low to the ground, made of aluminum and mounted with a solar panel, the UT car weighs slightly less than 200 pounds. Computer systems, including a user interface and battery protection, are also used to conserve energy while the car is not in motion.

Abdul-Razzak said the first four days of the race are dedicated to scrutineering, a process where officials test the car and make sure it is up to safety regulations. The on-track competition takes place the last three days. The teams charge their solar panel twice a day at a specific angle so that the sun directly hits the components of the solar panel that convert solar energy to electricity. The car runs as long as the battery packs last.

The team got a significant donation from a UT alumnus to finish the TexSun. Bobby Epstein, chairman and founding partner of the Circuit of the Americas racetrack in Austin, contributed $50,000 to the UT Solar Vehicles Team.

Team members said the money was used to buy the most expensive and critical components of the car, including the carbon fiber, the solar panel array and motor. 

Budget, unfortunately, often plays a significant role in the outcome of a car, Epstein said. Because of this, he said the solar car challenge has much in common with Formula 1 races because car design, rather than driver, is often the key factor in determining victory. 

“I visited the workshop where the UT car was under construction, and I was impressed by their enthusiasm and depth of understanding,” Epstein said. “I also am certain there is no waste and that resources are maximized.”

Win or lose, at the end of the day the purpose of building the TexSun was to promote research into the use of renewable energy, Greene said.

“This event is a way to get more local people to learn more about solar energy and hopefully consider installing solar panels in their house,” Greene said. “Get the word out for green energy.”

After the Formula 1 weekend, I was surprised to read the article by Pete Stroud “Global attention from F1 threatens local identity.” Stroud claims to be an international relations and global studies sophomore, but, it seems, has trouble understanding what an international-scale event is.

The author claims that Austin doesn’t need additional international recognition because it already hosts ACL. In my experience, people outside the US are not aware of ACL, except for maybe some people with a deep interest in country music. At the same time, F1 is pretty well known around the globe.

Environmental worries sound nice, but one should compare F1 to IH-35 at 6 p.m. The “massive” F1 race is between 24 cars, and each of them runs on a single tank of gas. I would love for the horrible everyday traffic in Austin to be addressed with a normal public transportation solution – a.k.a. electric tram, such as in Strasbourg, France or Freiburg, Germany.

Formula 1 is a fun event and good for the city’s development. Austin deserves to be on the world map!
— Galina Aglyamova, integrative biology graduate student

Six cargo planes bound for Brazil and loaded with Formula 1 cars and equipment departed from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on Monday, as officials transition from the challenge of Formula 1 travelers to the annual Thanksgiving rush.

Jason Zielinski, Austin-Bergstrom spokesman, said with added Thanksgiving and Formula 1 airport traffic, the wait time could be roughly an hour for many passengers, and they should arrive two hours early as an extra precaution through the period up to and following Thanksgiving. 

“Overall, Thanksgiving is always the busiest holiday at the airport,” Zielinski said. “The scenario is that most people get four days off, and with it being a big family holiday, they often like to fly home.” 

He said because people tend to have less time off for Thanksgiving than other holidays, they tend to travel on the same days, usually departing on the day before or on Thanksgiving and flying back Sunday.

Airport officials advise passengers to arrive at least two hours early if departing Sunday or Monday after the holiday. 

Zielinski said wait times last year peaked at an hour, and wait times during the regular travel season normally get up to 45 minutes.

He said although most who flew into town for this past weekend’s Formula 1 festivities were expected to fly back this past Sunday and Monday, some will be flying back during the heavy Thanksgiving travel days, worsening congestion. 

He said because this is the first year Austin has held a Formula 1 Grand Prix, it is hard to predict how it will continue to affect air travel.

Zielinski said there was a spike in the number of personal aircraft traveling into the area during Formula 1 that was not seen during other major Austin festivals including the Austin City Limits Music Festival and South By Southwest.

He said to better handle congestion, Austin-Bergstrom added an extra checkpoint with four additional Transportation Security Administration lanes and now has four checkpoints and 15 security lanes.

He said airport traffic has risen by roughly 3.5 percent when compared to this time last year. 

Zielinski said air travel has declined nationwide, but because Austin’s economy has remained strong, air travel in the city has increased.

Austin-Bergstrom officials advise passengers to frequently check their flight’s status for cancellations and delays.

Undeclared sophomore Rocio Tueme will be one of 45 grid girls in the Circuit of the Americas Forumula 1 U.S. Grand Prix on Sunday.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

UT students are shaping the face of Formula 1 racing in the United States as they add Texas flair to the international race Sunday.

Undeclared sophomore Rocio Tueme will represent Austin as one of 45 grid girls at the Circuit of the Americas Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix on Sunday wearing an outfit designed by another UT student. Tueme heard about the opportunity from a friend and was chosen as a grid girl after a phone interview with the designer.

Grid girls serve as promotional models, and on the day of the race they hold flags representing the participating countries before the start of the race and interact with the racers and their teams down on the track.

Tueme said the style of the outfit she will be wearing represents the culture of the race’s location more than the traditional Formula 1 grid girl uniform.

“When you think about a grid girl outfit you think something really tight, and really short, and really revealing. This one is actually really inspired by Austin, it’s kind of like a cowgirl,” Tueme said.

Tueme has lived in Texas for 10 years and is originally from Mexico. Tueme said she does not diligently follow Formula 1 racing but watched a few races growing up because it is a popular sport in Mexico.

“Now I’m excited for this because I have watched the racers, and I have my favorite ones, so I’m excited to see them in person,” Tueme said.

Tueme said her favorite racers are Sebastian Vettel, who is ranked No. 1; Fernando Alonso, who is ranked No. 2; and Sergio Perez, who is from her home country and is ranked No. 15.

Ross Bennett, a local designer and textiles and apparel senior, designed the outfits.

“I designed this very hunting-inspired meets Dallas Cowboy cheerleader — so it’s like white-fringed skirts, a hunting jacket that has western yolks on it and a vest that matches it, too. Red cowboy boots, red lace underneath big turquoise jewelry from Kendra Scott, and that is how this whole All-American-big-Texas girl came to formation,” Bennett said.

In the search for the grid girls, Bennett said he wanted to showcase women with bodies representative of the diversity in America.

“I could have pulled all Texas blondes and shown them Texas, but I wanted to show America, so we have girls of all nationalities in the group,” Bennett said.

He said there is a high level of professionalism expected of the girls because an estimated 600 million viewers around the world will watch the race. Bennett said they looked for experienced girls, like Tueme, who are educated and speak multiple languages because they will interact with foreign dignitaries, ambassadors and celebrities.

“It’s very easy to find pretty girls, especially in Texas, but it’s hard to find girls that can actually talk and carry on a conversation,” Bennett said.

Dressed in the grid girl uniform, Tueme attended an event Monday that track owner Bobby Epstein and Mack Brown attended. She will attend the Aerosmith concert Friday night. Bennett said the girls’ contracts end Nov. 30, but the uniforms will be worn at private events, VIP parties and other events until next year’s race.

Printed on Friday, November 16, 2012 as: F1 employs students as models 

Australian Formula 1 driver Mark Webber, who visited UT's campus Wednesday, thinks Austin is an ideal city to host Formula 1 racing because of its passion for sports and competition.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Austin will join the ranks of 19 other cities around the world that currently host the international sport of Formula 1 racing this weekend.

Formula 1 driver Mark Webber spoke on campus Wednesday, giving the University a preview of the massive event that will hit the city from Friday until Sunday.

Webber said he believes Austin will be a good location for the event.

“It’s very balanced, and it’s very welcoming for international people to come here and take on such a big, global event,” Webber, an Australian who made his Formula 1 debut in 2002, said.

He said the University contributes to what makes Austin a good location for the event.

“There’s obviously a lot of people that come here to compete,” Webber said. “We’re sportsmen, and we love competition. I know a lot of the guys went to the football match the other night, and the mechanics said they loved it.”

Formula 1 racing is the highest class of single-seater auto racing sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile. Drivers compete in specially designed cars that can reach speeds of up to 220 miles per hour and race around circuits that are designed for high speeds. 

Construction began nearly two years ago on a Formula 1 track in an area southeast of Austin. Construction was still underway as recently as last week, but officials say they are now prepared for the race.

The circuit, which has seating for 120,000 people, has been sold out for the event. Officials say they expect roughly 300,000 people to travel to Austin for the race and festivities surrounding it.

Ali Putnam, media and community relations manager for Circuit of the Americas, the site of the race, said local establishments downtown will be hosting Formula 1-themed events.

She said with the large influx of people coming to Austin this weekend, traffic is expected to be heavier than usual. Circuit of the Americas leased 450 charter buses to shuttle people to the event, and Capital Metro will be expanding its service this weekend as well. Capital Metro has introduced a free bus route that will loop the downtown area because many downtown streets will be closed throughout the weekend to vehicular traffic.

Capital Metro is advising people to call their GO Line at (512) 474-1200 for information on bus service during the event.

Putnam said Austin saw an influx of employment opportunities at the new track.

She said 70 full-time positions and thousands of seasonal jobs were created. Putnam said Circuit of the Americas plans to host major events at the track every six weeks and rent it out to other organizations.

Putnam said she expects to see the event turn into an annual international event in Austin, with its own unique culture and offerings.

“We anticipate a number of international guests, so it is probably going to be an interesting mix of cultures,” Putnam said. “I think F1 will develop a style and flavor all its own.”

Printed on November 16, 2012 as: F1 Races to Austin

The union representing bus drivers on about half of Capital Metro’s 83 routes voted last week to authorize a potential strike, citing unfair labor practices allegedly committed by the contractor that operates those routes.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1091, which represents about 600 bus drivers and Capital Metro employees, accused McDonald Transit of declaring contract negotiations at an impasse in August. The declaration allowed the contractor to amend the existing labor contract to include changes such as lower wages for new drivers and higher health insurance premiums.

Dan Dawson, vice president of marketing and communication for Capital Metro, said UT shuttles would not be affected by the strike because McDonald Transit does not operate the shuttle service.

The vote comes a week before Austin hosts Formula 1 racing, an event that will require the city’s public transportation system to accommodate an influx of tourists.

Dawson said the union’s vote authorizes a potential strike but does not guarantee that workers will strike. Dawson said he does not know how the bus service would be affected because it is not clear how many drivers plan to strike. He said Capital Metro would use drivers from two other contractors, Veolia Transportation and First Transit, to staff routes designated as top priority if the union calls a strike.

“We are hoping that everything will go well and it will not come to that,” Dawson said.

In a statement Friday, Linda Watson, Capital Metro president and CEO, said Capital Metro has established plans to deal with a possible driver shortage during the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix, but that the strike would affect service on fixed routes.

“Regarding Formula 1, we are disappointed that the union has called for a strike authorization, especially given the level of coordinated planning that has occurred during the past several months to ensure that enhanced services could be provided for the benefit of the community and visitors alike,” Watson said.

McDonald Transit, a Fort Worth-based company, began operating 44 of Capital Metro’s routes in August. McDonald and the union have been negotiating a new collective bargaining contract since July.

McDonald Transit president Robert Babbitt said he would not comment on the situation because his company is still negotiating with the union.

Jay Wyatt, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1091, did not return calls for comment by press time.

In a statement Friday, Mike Martinez, chair of Capital Metro’s board of directors, said the union previously approved of Capital Metro’s current labor structure and that its action could jeopardize Capital Metro’s ability to serve the Austin area.

“Strikes should be utilized as a last effort after discussions break down, not a first knee-jerk reaction before all other options are considered,” Martinez said. “It is my hope that the members of ATU continue their amazing service and remain at the bargaining table with McDonald in order to resolve remaining issues.”

Printed on Monday, November 12, 2012 as: Grand prix approaches as bus drivers look to strike