Thousands in Austin this weekend for F1 Grand Prix

AUSTIN -- Formula 1's U.S.Grand Prix is back in Austin.

The big racing event kicks off Friday at the Circuit of the Americas track in Southeast Austin. F1 drivers roared onto the track for their first practice run.

There will be other events throughout the day at the track, including medical inspections, track testing and a second practice session Friday afternoon.

Of course the main event, the U.S.Grand Prix, will be held on Sunday.

Meanwhile downtown Austin will be busy with this year's Fan Fest. Thursday night crowds came out for the free music, food and games. The fest runs through Sunday.

Close to 250,000 people will be in Austin for the race and the University of Texas football game. Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo says he wants to assure fans that his officers are doing everything possible to keep them safe while they are in Central Texas.

Police focus will be on the COTA track, as well as downtown Austin. Chief Acevedo says since the Boston Marathon bombing last April, security protocols for large events in major cities have improved.

Now there are more frequent briefings with other law enforcement agencies to discuss any possible threats. Police are also using more K9 units in crowds. Many of them are explosive-sniffing dogs.

We are going to have a large footprint. Not just at F1 at COTA, but throughout the city like we always do. And I'm pretty confident that, although you can never have 100 percent certainty that nothing will go wrong, I can tell you that we're doing everything humanly possible to make sure that we have an uneventful event, Chief Acevedo said.

Another measure police have come to rely on in crowded events are security cameras. Chief Acevedo says the department not only uses those that belong to the city, he's also working to get cameras that belong to private businesses tied into the police surveillance system.

The large crowds could make parking and traveling on Austin's roads even more difficult than usual, so there are several plans for all those cars and trucks. There's a shuttle out to the race track. It's in a different location than last year.

This year the downtown shuttle will run from the Austin Convention Center to the racetrack and back for $5 a person. It will pick passengers up at 4th Street and Trinity from 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Another popular way to get out to the track is by bicycle. Last year hundreds rode bikes out to Richard Moya Park on Burleson Road to catch a free shuttle into the race. That service will run all weekend from 7 a.m. to 7p.m.

Andy Wallace is visiting Austin with friends from England.

We were really looking forward to coming to America for this and seeing the race in America. You know we watch it around the world, but we decided to make this trip today to see how the Americans do it, he said.

Capital Metro is also extending its MetroRail service this weekend, so you can take the train downtown and hop on a shuttle.

At the race? Share your photos with us.

For more travel tips go here.

Go here for road closure information.

For more information on Austin Fan Fest go here.

For more information on Formula 1 in Austin go here.

For full coverage of F1 from KVUE go here.


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