Formula One found a natural home in Austin. While the US hasn’t always warmed to the sport, Formula One loved Austin and Austin reciprocated.
'Keep Austin Weird' is the unofficial city slogan and since, to most Americans, Formula One is the definition of weird, it fits the bill perfectly. Austin marries its Texan heritage with a modern identity as one of the biggest technology hubs in the world, creating an unusual downtown fusion between ultramodern and good ol' fashioned hospitality.
It bills itself as the live music capital of the world, and whatever your musical tastes, there's always an act in town you'll enjoy. One thing we have noticed in the first two years of racing in Austin: Texas in November is cold! But this year the race has been bought forward a few weeks, which should warm things up a little.
So Daniel, what turns you into the head cheerleader for the United States Grand Prix? What do you like about Austin?
Everything! I love Austin. Great track, great city, great food, great fans, great people in general, great hotel. Basically... great.
I really like racing at COTA; the track is really good. It has a lot of high-speed corners, heavy braking, long straights, a bit of everything really, so it's great for racing, very enjoyable.
Slow down there Skippy. Start with the track: what do you particularly enjoy about the Circuit of the Americas?
For a modern-day circuit with lots of runoff, they've done the best job possible. They've created a track that's safe but managed to ensure it's still fun. It's probably the best overtaking circuit on the calendar.
And after a hard day of overtaking, what's on the agenda in the city?
Well, I love live music and I love bars and I particularly love live music in bars – and as that's what Austin's all about, it's the sort of culture I can really appreciate. I'll also enjoy some beef. Definitely the city to visit if you like ribs or brisket. Amazing stuff.
But you stay out in the countryside. Where the snakes are...
That's right. We stay out in a hotel on a ranch – which is pretty awesome. There's a river, a golf course, and yes, the occasional snake. The snakes are OK though. They're pretty cool. They're not like Aussie snakes.
They're more scared of you than you are of them – particularly if you've got your beard on. Are you planning whiskers again this year?
I'll probably do something – but no promises. Don't want to put pressure on myself.
COTA is of course the circuit at which you made your grand prix weekend debut in 2013 for Toro Rosso. Is it a place of good memories for you?
Definitely. As you say, I made my F1 debut there and that was a big moment in my career. The race last year was I would say unlucky in that we had really good pace but I had to pit for a vibration with the tyre after overtaking Kimi, but yes, I have very positive memories of the circuit.
Well, I love live music and I love bars and I particularly love live music in bars – and as that's what Austin's all about, it's the sort of culture I can really appreciate.
The circuit is a bit of an F1 'Best Of', with sections influenced by classic sequences from a number of tracks. That could lead to either beauty or beast, which is it?
The first one. I really like racing at COTA; the track is really good. It has a lot of high-speed corners, heavy braking, long straights, a bit of everything really, so it's great for racing, very enjoyable. Sector One is exciting. There are a lot of high-speed changes of direction. It's kind of like Maggots-Becketts at Silverstone and it feels great through there in an F1 car. The circuit also has a lot of changes of elevation, which is something I think every driver appreciates. It's a good track.
What about the city? Is it a similarly entertaining experience?
Yes, I like it there. It's a really good atmosphere. Great food. America does feel different to race in. It's got its own style, which I like.
Your team-mate seems to really get into the wild west vibe. Is it the same for you?
Maybe not quite as enthusiastically as Daniel – that would be hard! But I like it, yeah, it's Texas, it's cowboy country and it's good fun.