Last night the 2012 FIA Formula 1 Championship Series came to an official close with the FIA Prize-Giving Gala in Istanbul, where the F1 Champions were presented their hard-earned trophies. While much of the world watched enthralled as the season’s drama played out, America was only rekindling its love affair with the second most popular sport on earth with the return of F1 to Austin, Texas. AskMen sent Nicolas Stecher to check out the sights and sounds of Austin and let us in on what we’ve been missing.

The first thing that hits you is the sound. A wall of high-pitched wailing wallops you in the guts. The vibration of a thousand banshees assaults your ears with the elegance of a morning star. Even from the door of the shuttle bus, dozens yards from the entrance, the volume is terrifying. A silver-haired man with a wide grin on his face walks by dressed in crimson head-to-toe, waving a giant Ferrari flag. He has the same dumb look of pride that a 9-year-old dressed like Lord Voldemort at a Harry Potter premier might sport: jazzed and ever hopeful. It will be a couple of hours till he and his Ferrari team will taste the alkaline belch of defeat, but for now, his mood is invincible.

“Have a great day, gentlemen — beautiful day for racing!” says the man scanning my ticket in a thick Southern twang, more stoked than any ticket taker I’ve ever experienced in my life. “Go and enjoy some fast cars!” he enthuses, contradicting the common narrative that Texans don’t give a rat’s ass for Formula 1. Much of the talk when the Austin race was announced was pessimistic, implying that Formula 1 was too highbrow, too Yoo-ro-pee-an for straight-shooting, salt-of-the-earth Texan folk. Given the swells of crowds who’ve flowed through the gates since sunrise, gulping tallboys of Bud and slathering themselves white with sunscreen, those doubts have been vanquished.

After World Cup Soccer (ahem, football for the rest of the non-American world), Formula 1 is the largest, most popular sport on earth. Its yearly revenues surpass $2 billion, and, in 2010, a global audience of 527 million viewers watched 20 races spread across the globe — from Bahrain to São Paolo, from Melbourne to Montreal. While nearly half of the Grand Prix circuits reside in Europe, the U.S. hasn’t hosted a GP since Indianapolis in 2007. Now it has returned to Austin, to America’s first purpose-built F1 track — a $400 million, 3.4-mile ribbon of black asphalt twisting through the Texas shrubbery dubbed the Circuit of the Americas.

The record for the biggest crowd ever assembled at a live event in Austin was set this past October at a University of Texas football game where some 101,851 people were in attendance. What about the city’s Formula 1 race? The crowd was 117,429 strong, with the circuit’s three-day total topping at 265,000. By all accounts, a thorough repudiation that America is not hungry for F1.

Continue reading Formula One Austin: The World’s Most Technologically Advanced Sport Returns to America after the Jump…