IN HIS 1971 NOVEL “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” Hunter S. Thompson sends his alter ego Raoul Duke to the Nevada desert to report on the Mint 400 off-road race. I recently had reason to travel for motor sport, though my companions and I were comparably sober during our long weekend in Austin, Texas, the home of Formula One’s United States Grand Prix. The race takes place on the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), which was built in 2012 about a 20-minute drive from downtown. The track is 3.4 miles and the race runs 56 laps.
Flying out to Austin, I could see that F1’s star is rising in America. Fans sporting gear for teams like Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes thronged the airport gates—and my friends confirmed this on their end too. More than one traveler mentioned the Netflix show “Formula 1: Drive to Survive,” a documentary series following F1 drivers from the 2018 season onward. COTA—and the roads leading there—were indeed packed over the weekend.