Circuit of The Americas today began the final countdown to the 2012 FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX by officially christening its new, Grade 1 racing surface with a “First Lap Ceremony,” featuring a collection of celebrity drivers, local dignitaries and VIP clients, and a sampling of the types of race cars that will compete at the Circuit during the 2013 motorsports season.
The invitation- only event was presented by Pirelli, the exclusive tire provider for Formula 1TM racing, and featured members of the Lotus F1 Team.
It was a day of exploration and celebration at the premium sports and entertainment facility, which is nearing completion and will host its first F1TM event Nov. 16-17. The Circuit’s official ambassador—and former Formula One World Champion driver—Mario Andretti cut a black-and-white checkered banner that crossed the starting grid area before taking to the circuit in a Lotus 79 Formula 1 car—the very car in which Andretti won his World Championship. The anticipation on the legendary driver’s face was evident as he settled into the familiar vehicle, sped past the pit lane and raced up the steep, 133-foot climb leading to the Circuit’s signature first turn.
“It’s everything I expected and more,” Andretti said after his first practice laps. “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.”
Andretti, who is the last American driver to win the Formula One World Championship in 1978, relished the chance to check out the full circuit, which he did in numerous laps in a variety of cars. Andretti was originally scheduled to drive a modern Lotus F1 Team car, the R30, on the track; however, after technical issues were experienced during initial laps conducted by Lotus F1 Team test driver Jerome D’Ambrosio, the car was unable to run for the remainder of the day.