At the end of 2015, the Circuit of the Americas was reeling. That year’s race had seen a desperately low attendance due to poor weather — it doesn’t just rain in Texas, it pours — and the state of Texas was thinking about reducing the amount of money it gave to COTA to host Formula One racing. And, of course, F1 was then threatening to leave the Austin, TX venue in response. I can think of no clearer picture of the back-and-forth, always-on-the-brink-of-destruction relationship between COTA, F1, and the state of Texas. Now, though, COTA has been confirmed as the venue for the United States Grand Prix through 2026.
COTA has always had a place in my heart. When Teenage Elizabeth first started watching motorsport, I decided that I would move from small-town Michigan to Austin, TX for three reasons: music, school, and racing. The first race I ever attended was the 2014 United States Grand Prix, and I had gone into it thinking that I “need to get it out of my system” — that if I attended that race, I’d be able to move on from the racing bug.
It wasn’t to be. That year, I won a contest to met then-Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo. I painted my first race car banner. I skipped class to explore downtown Austin, which had been shut down to road traffic due to a combined Halloween and Grand Prix party. By the end of the weekend, I was planning on going to Europe the following year to watch F1, and I was looking up how much season passes to COTA would cost. The track was integral to my love of racing and even became the venue for my pre-wedding honeymoon (we love you, IndyCar!).
But the relationship between COTA, F1, and Texas was never a great one. The track was consistently signed as an F1 venue for a one or two years at a time, and there was always the threat that it could be killed at a moment’s notice.
The wet race in 2015 was just one example. Almost every year, COTA was on the chopping block — and with the arrival of the Miami Grand Prix in 2022, COTA’s fate didn’t seemed totally assured for the near future.
But I’m glad that The Powers That Be have decided COTA is worth keeping for the next five years. F1 is growing in America at a rate we’ve never seen before, and I just don’t think the Miami race will scratch the itch of a whole country. Miami is expensive, the views won’t be great due to the nature of the street circuit, and it’s still a work in progress. At COTA, you can still nab General Admission tickets for a reasonable price and still see much of the track. It’s going to remain the venue for new fans who just want to try to “get racing out of their system” because it’s kinda-sorta affordable (at least in terms of F1 races in America).
So, here’s to another five years of great racing at COTA. We’re glad to have you back.