‘Pivotal’ year for Formula 1 in Austin amid declining attendance

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, of Britain, races during the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix auto race at the Circuit of the Americas, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, of Britain, races during the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix auto race at the Circuit of the Americas, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Drivers and fans are preparing for the start of Formula One weekend at Circuit of the Americas.

Attendance for F1 in Austin has gone down each year, according to numbers provided by a spokesperson for Circuit of the Americas. In 2012, attendance was 265,499. Last year the numbers decreased to 224,011 during a rain-soaked weekend.

The race weekend includes performances from Taylor Swift, Usher and The Roots. Organizers also lowered prices on most tickets, are guaranteeing to refund money if it rains two inches or more in the 24 hours before the official start of the Grand Prix on Sunday, and a promise that restrooms, concessions and bus loading zones will be on solid ground to avoid mud.

“I know there are a lot of people like me who aren’t necessarily interested in the racing, but are interested in Taylor Swift,” said Kennedy Smith, a University of Texas student planning to go to this weekend’s concert Saturday.

Less than a year ago, the race weekend was not a sure thing. The U.S. Grand Prix was listed as “provisional” in an F1 news release about the 2016 schedule.

“This year is incredibly pivotal because of the monsoons of last year,” said Michele Skelding, Senior Vice President of Technology and Innovation at the Austin Chamber of Commerce. “This year is absolutely stoked to be that year of a catalyst.”

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