Circuit of the Americas braces for traffic chaos as F1 returns to Austin

Alex Gassman

by Alex Gassman

Circuit of the Americas traffic during the United States Grand Prix

The United States Grand Prix returns to Circuit of the Americas on the 20th – 22nd October.

With the sport of Formula 1 coming back to Austin and no public transport, hundreds of thousands of visitors are once again likely to cause gridlock on the rural streets surrounding the circuit.

United States Grand Prix record attendance

Last year over 440,000 visitors attended Circuit of Americas (COTA) over the three-day Formula 1 weekend. That was the highest number of fans ever to have attended any Formula One event.

Usually Sunday is the busiest day of the Grand Prix weekend as that’s when the race is held. But this year the COTA F1 event will be a Sprint weekend.

2023 Austin F1 schedule US GP

That means that there will be a competitive Formula 1 session of each of the 3 days of the event:

  • Friday will feature practice and qualifying
  • Saturday will feature a sprint qualifying and a sprint race
  • Sunday will feature the Grand Prix

See the full Austin F1 schedule for a detailed timetable of events.

It’s expected that equal numbers of fans will head to the circuit on Saturday and Sunday, with only slightly fewer there on the Friday. 

This, combined with continuing increase in popularity for the sport of F1, could well push the total attendance numbers up towards half a million.

No public transport

Circuit of the Americas is located on the outskirts of Austin in a rural part of Texas surrounded by ranches. There’s no public transport to or from the venue, so the only way to get there is by road.

The surface streets surrounding the circuit are all two-lane and were never designed to carry the volume of cars that COTA now sees during the United States Grand Prix weekend.

The nearest highway is the SH130 but this is a couple of miles away from the circuit. Getting from there to the track during GP weekend is chaos. In 2022 some fans reported it took over 2 hours to get from the highway to the circuit at peak times.

Parking Nightmare

COTA has a number of official parking lots around the track, but these are incredibly expensive.

They start at $275 for the further-away lots and go up to $500 for the premium lots closest to the COTA entrances.

The official parking lots can hold thousands of cars. That many cars trying to leave a lot on to small surface streets at the same time is a recipe for gridlock. In previous years fans have reported waits of over 3 hours just to get out of the COTA parking lots at the end of the day.

All the roads on the map below, surrounding the circuit, are small two-lane streets.

COTA parking map and road layout for Circuit of the Americas

Driveway & yard parking

A number of enterprising locals will rent out their yards or driveways during the Austin Formula 1 weekend for parking.

These options, like Pat’s Public Parking, will always be cheaper than the official lots and can often be better positioned to make a quick escape at the end of the day. Usually you’ll have to walk further to get to the circuit, but the trade off is less time in traffic.

This is undoubtedly the best way to park at Circuit of the Americas for the Austin GP and avoid the worst of the traffic. Our guide to parking at COTA has more information.

COTA Shuttle Buses

There are air-conditioned COTA shuttle buses that run from three locations around downtown Austin to take people to the circuit during the F1 event.

They’ve recently expanded the roads around the main circuit entrance and pledged a total of 600 shuttle buses for the 2023 United States Grand Prix to try and keep up with demand.

Rideshare

There is a designated drop-off and pick-up point for Uber / Lyft at the local high school. Fans can then jump on a free bus to get from there to the circuit.

But last year, Lyft wasn’t working after the Grand Prix and cell phone signal was non-existent. Many fans found themselves waiting for hours just to try and grab a ride.

Take your time

With the expected number of attendees getting close to half a million for the 2023 United States Grand Prix, it’s likely that there’s still going to be traffic mayhem getting to and from COTA.

If you’re making the journey yourself then prepare for the worst. Allow lots of extra time, fill a cooler with ice and leave it in your car for the journey home.

Or hang around after the racing and enjoy the Austin F1 concerts instead and let the worst of the traffic depart.

Alex Gassman

I‘m Alex. I write F1 and motorsport travel guides based on my experience as racing driver and full-time motorsport nerd. I’ve traveled the world watching F1 and other racing series.

I started oversteer48 with the aim of helping other motorsport fans who are planning on watching some racing themselves.

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Kim

Thanks for the heads up. I was just going to go from fort Hood Texas down to Austin to visit my brother who’s flying in. He’s a race car driver but he’s there as a fan of formula 1 but there’s no way in hell I’m going to take that drive just to see my brother. I’d rather fly to his home. State is cheaper and faster

Kim

He got in to Austin at around noon today which is Friday and I warned him how horrible the traffic is etc etc. But he can afford a limousine that just dump them off. Hell I wouldn’t doubt that he wouldn’t hire a helicopter to drop him off… Lmao must be nice right?!!

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