Updated 11/15/2012 02:32 PM
Drivers, fans flood Austin for U.S. Grand Prix
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Olympic silver medalist and University of Texas alumnus Trey Hardee gave Formula One driver Mark Webber a lesson Wednesday in one of the sports he has mastered.
Webber says there are a few similarities between race car drivers and decathletes.
"We try to do a lot of different sports, which put as many strings in our bowl as possible,” Webber said. “Running, cycling, swimming, kayaking."
Webber says fitness helps F1 drivers build up endurance, handle the extreme heat and G- forces. He comes to Austin with two wins so far this season.
Webber's currently fourth place in the running for the Formula One World Championship. He has high hopes that Central Texas will be the U.S. toehold F1 needs.
"I think the important thing for Austin, Texas and America is to see the longevity of the event. That's the important thing,” he said. “We know there is a great chance to have a great weekend this weekend, but also to focus on keeping the event here for a long time."
Formula One fan Steve Riter flew in Wednesday from Los Angeles. Back in the 1970s, he and his wife attended several U.S. Grand Prix races in California.
"I bought a seat license, so I'm going to be here for 15 years. Coming here every year," Riter said. "For Christmas, she asks for tickets to the Grand Prix. That's what she really and truly wants for Christmas. None of my friends believe it."
Riter’s wife’s bright orange blouse and his McLaren team jersey are no coincidence. Riter says his fondness for the team traces back to his early childhood.
"When I was seven years old, I went to my first race,” he said. “I saw Bruce McLaren driving in his car with Denny Hulme in the CanAm series. I've been a McLaren fan ever since."
Which he hopes will happen thousands of times over as many Americans get their first taste of F1 this weekend.