Pageantry and politics: Paddock home to F1 drama

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Behind the speed, behind each turn, and in an area the average Formula One fan will never see, there is a place where the prelude to every Grand Prix unfolds. It is a place that some could mistake for Hollywood.

Or Washington.

“As much as the race is exciting, what goes on in the paddock is very intriguing,” said Craig Slater, a reporter with Sky Sports.

The paddock area sits behind the main grandstands and it is where race teams set up their garages and temporary buildings to run their race operations. Teams fiercely competing with each other on the track are neighbors in the paddock. It is also covered with media members and having covered races from the paddocks across the world, Slater has seen storyline after storyline unfold.

“There is a lot of stabbing in the back. Behind the scenes everyone is trying to find out what everyone else is doing,” said Slater. “It is full of rumors and innuendo. It is a soap opera, basically.”

Tavo Hellmund helped design the Circuit of the Americas and the paddock area. While coming up with a design, Hellmund said the paddock had to be big enough to accommodate NASCAR even though the focus was F1. As you walk through the paddock area, each race team has a temporary building opposite the walkway from where the pit garages sit. Each building is stocked with many amenities including patio tables where servers deliver various delicate meals throughout the day.

There is no telling what, or who, you may see walk in and out of those buildings.

“They have got their data, a few offices, and it is a place for them to entertain clients and sponsors,” said Hellmund about the team buildings. “A lot of deals get done back there and a lot of famous people are walking around.”

Saturday was no different. Keanu Reeves and Tony Parker were surrounded by cameras as they walked in and out of the “Paddock Club” reserved for VIPs.

“Famous politicians, rock stars, actors,” said Slater about the people he has seen walking the paddock around the F1 circuit. “There is nowhere else quiet like it.”

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