The Circuit of the Americas has proven popular with F1 fans as an all-round great place to watch live motorsports. COTA’s elevation changes create ideal viewing from the grandstands and general admission areas and the best seats offer views of many corners and vast amounts of the track. With new grand Prix in Miami and Las Vegas, which US race is the best one to attend is up for debate. When it comes to views of the track though there’s no contest – COTA reigns supreme.

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Best Grandstands at COTA

In Texas, it isn’t so much about which grandstand to choose, but which row. For most grandstands, the view from the upper sections tends to be spectacular in the sheer vastness of what you can see. Lower rows in the same grandstand can be quite average.

grandstand cota
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Start / Finish Straight – Main Grandstand and Trackside Bleachers

Grandstands on the main straight offer the best seats to enjoy the build-up to the race, the pitlane action and the podium ceremony. You’ll also be first in line for the track invasion.

There are three sections in COTA’s main grandstand, as well as the adjoining trackside bleachers. This gives fans with varying budgets the chance to experience being in the heart of the action at the US Grand Prix.

Trackside Bleachers

The main straight seats known as the trackside bleachers occupy an area to either side of the main grandstand. Facing the track, there are 3 blocks to the left (west) and 6 blocks to the right (east).

It’s the seats on the right of the stand that offer more desirable views. These seats line the first few rows of the grid and are closer to turn one. These reasons make them better seats than the west side bleachers and the more expensive Lower section of the main grandstand.

The trackside bleacher seats on the left are opposite parc ferme – where the post-race interviews take place – and the podium. Come the chequered flag, as others make the mad dash for the track invasion you can sit comfortably in your seat as you doff your Stetson to the top three finishers. On the downside, fans here don’t have a close-up view of the grid or the pit garages.

As with any bleachers, these seats are not highly rated for their comfort, being flat and hard and hot under the Texan sun. Foam cushions are available to buy at the circuit for about $10 but bringing something with you is advised.

The stands can feel a little cramped when full. Space is minimal at front and rear, though most will find there is ample space left and right. Trackside bleacher seats lack any kind of cover, leaving you exposed to sun, rain, and perhaps the odd hurricane.


Main Grandstand – Lower

Along with the trackside bleachers, the lower-level seats are the closest you can get to the grid at COTA. This section lines the track from about the number 10 grid position to the final slots.

This really pays off for the post-qualifying interviews – the top 3 qualifiers park up here. For the frantic race preparations, the cars sitting on the track seem almost close enough to touch.

Once the sessions get underway though it can all be a bit of a blur. Besides the pitstops, you might end up watching the action on the giant screens rather than risk a neck injury trying to keep up with the cars on track.

The lower section is not covered, but it is shaded from the sun during the Grand Prix, leaving only the possibility of a rain shower to dampen your spirits.


Main Grandstand – Mezzanine

Nicely elevated mid-way up the main grandstand, the view from the Mezzanine level lets you see further than the lower rows and is perfect for experiencing all the action on the start / finish straight.

Turn 1, though distant, is clearly visible thanks to the steep uphill nature of the circuit. Add to that a roof over your head and these are some of the best seats on the main straight.


Main Grandstand – Club

A seat in the highest level of the grandstand offers a broad panorama over the start / finish straight, the pit complex and the last and first corners. Club ticket holders also enjoy a more exclusive experience with access to a nearby lounge offering food and drinks.

What’s not to love? Well, there’s no such thing as a free lunch and these premium nibbles are no exception, coming with an equally premium price tag. And that’s if you can get in – poor organization in past years has meant some guests have had to wait in line for a long time to access a packed lounge.

That doesn’t mean this option should be avoided, but it’s certainly worth keeping in mind and getting to the Club lounge early. Or, choose other seats for Sunday and make the most of the Club Lounge on Friday or Saturday when things are much more relaxed.

It’s also worth pointing out that though most seats in Club level are covered, some aren’t. Row 6 upwards is under the roof so fans seated in the lower rows may still have to suffer Austin’s changeable weather.


Turn 1 Grandstand

Simply some of the best seats to watch the start of an F1 race, not just in Austin but anywhere. It can be an exciting, carbon-fibre-strewn melee into turn 1 on the first lap of a Grand Prix. COTA’s tight, uphill left-hander is no exception, but that’s far from the only benefit of this very special grandstand.

The steep 133-foot run up the hill to turn 1 gives the elevated vantage point of the Turn 1 grandstand a dramatic view, and not just of the first corner. The view stretches from the final turn to turn 2 and includes the start / finish straight and the pit stops. There are even distant glimpses of the track all around the lap.

About the only drawback is the not-so-giant giant screen opposite the grandstand. Luckily a digital leaderboard at the pitlane exit makes keeping up with position changes easy.

Tip: Bring a pair of binoculars to look at the screen, and for the abundant people-watching opportunities in the pitlane and on the grid.


Turn 2 Grandstand

The Turn 2 Grandstand at the circuit exterior is an exciting spot for the start of the race where the cars are still very much bunched together. The rest of the time though it’s one of COTA’s poorer grandstands and is only saved by views to further away sections of the circuit.

From higher up, some of the more distant reaches of the circuit are visible. The uphill run to turn 1 and the long turn 17/18 that winds its way around the tower help to keep fans engaged in what would otherwise be a mediocre view at best.


The Esses: Turn 4 Grandstand and the Infield Grandstand

Inspired by Silverstone’s Maggotts / Becketts / Chapel section, the esses are an iconic part of the circuit. It’s not a common place for overtakes, but it is thrilling to watch Formula 1 cars show what they can do through this fast series of s-bends.

Turn 4 Grandstand

The stars ‘n’ stripes run-off area in the foreground and observation tower in the background make this a memorable view. These classic local landmarks lend a distinctive look and make any photos you take scream COTA.

The Turn 4 Grandstand offers a side-on view of this sequence of corners that lets you watch the cars approach and roar away. To appreciate the downforce of an F1 car this is a phenomenal grandstand. Spring for upper rows if you can to get the biggest possible view.


Infield Grandstand

A more recent addition to the grandstand options at Circuit of the Americas is the Infield Grandstand. This is another fantastic vantage point to see cars take on the famous esses.

And it’s one with a quite different view from the aforementioned Turn 4 Grandstand. Positioned in the circuit interior at turn 6, the view is a head on one of the pack hurtling towards the grandstand.

This view allows you to take in the entire section of the esses in one view without having to turn your head. Provided your seats are high enough to see over the debris fencing it’s a great photo op too.

The only downside of this view is that it doesn’t give the same sense of speed that a side-on view can provide. If you buy tickets for the Infield stand, be sure to check out some of the nearby general admission areas too for a different perspective.


Turn 9 Bleachers

The Turn 9 Bleachers are perfectly placed on the crest of a hill over the outer section of track near turn 9.

Cars first appear down the hill from the exit of turn 7, as you look down on the racing from on high. Through a sequence of corners, the cars wind their way up to your level before they turn away and dart off downhill towards the turn 11 hairpin.

From here the long back straight carries them towards turn 12. Watching from a distance, the entire straight in sight, you can really appreciate how much distance an F1 car can cover in a few short seconds.

For the sheer expanse of the view in from of you, the variation in track, and the elevation changes, this is an engaging place to watch from. It only falls short because of the lack of wheel-to-wheel action at this part of the track.

At many circuits, this would be a hands-down favourite. But with the standard of grandstand views so high at the Austin circuit, the Turn 9 bleachers are merely a solid low-priced option.


Turn 12 Bleachers

If you’re looking for a grandstand with a broad view over much of the circuit then Turn 9 Bleachers are some of the best at COTA. Seats here enjoy views of the track from turn 1, through the esses, right around to the final turn 20 – a staggering 15 corners on a 20-corner race track.

True, many parts of the track are distant and the cars pop in and out of view, but you get a sense of being able to follow the racing for the best part of a lap.

Turns 13, 14 and 15 are at a reasonable distance and turn 12, at the end of the long back straight is directly in front of the grandstand. The tight left-hand turn is a common overtaking spot under DRS.

Seats in lower rows have a good view of the nearby corners. But to see further and maximize that incredible view it’s worth paying extra for the upper rows.


Turn 15 Grandstand

From the top level, this is another crowd-pleasing COTA view of many corners and worth every cent. But from the lower rows, things are pretty average with little more than an underwhelming view of turn 15.

Sat at turn 15, high up in the stand you can follow the racing from the back straight where cars brake hard into turn 12, where overtakes are common.

The duelling continues around the next 3 corner sequence before darting off and out of sight around turn 16. This section of the track is reminiscent of the stadium section at Hockenheim – one of the all-time greats of motorsport spectating.


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General Admission at Circuit of the Americas

There are some very attractive views from general admission areas around the Austin circuit and is an excellent choice for fans on a budget. It’s also worth checking out some of these spots if you have a grandstand ticket and feel like a change of scenery.

The undulating topography means there are many areas with an elevated view and can be even better than some of the lower rows of grandstands.

Turn 1 is arguably one of the best spots to unfold your camping chair. It’s rare in general admission to enjoy such a magnificent view of the main straight and pit complex and there’s no better place to watch the start of the race.

Be warned though – this area is very popular and crowded and getting the best spots will mean lining up well before gates open on Sunday.

It’s pure joy to watch an F1 car at speed through the snaking Silverstone-Esque turns 3 to 5 section. And just because you’re in general admission doesn’t mean you have to miss out on this. Views are mostly through the fence but it is worth spending some time in this area.

There’s a spectacular, view from a pedestrian bridge that crosses over the track between turns 2 and 3. The bridge is mostly covered and you’ll only be able to stand on the steps if you want to enjoy a clear view of the action. Worth seeking out for a photo opportunity though maybe not a practical option to spend the entire afternoon.

As we’ve seen, most of the best spots for general admission are in the first sector of the circuit. But a raised bank next to the penultimate corner affords an elevated view over the end of the lap and pitlane entry.

A good race strategy for general admission fans is to start at turn one where you can watch the start. When you feel you’ve had your fill of that view, meander around the track in either direction. Return to turn one later in the race for the pitstops and the checkered flag.

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About Me

I’m Danny, an incurable Formula 1 fan for over 30 years and founder of The F1 Spectator. My aim is to inform and inspire, arming you with helpful tips and advice for your next F1 trip.