Gerard Butler, Antonio Banderas Rev Up the Star Quotient at Formula One's U.S. Grand Prix
AUSTIN -- Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith, Val Kilmer, Gerard Butler and Sting were among the celebs checking out the Formula One race cars on the start grid of the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, on Sunday before watching driver Sebastian Vettel set a record eighth-straight victory.
The Grand Prix’s second outing in Austin brought out a larger contingent from Hollywood, which is helping to burnish the F1 brand in the U.S. The elite international auto-racing event seems to gradually be taking hold Stateside (where NASCAR racing has dominated). Last year’s inaugural race also attracted some entertainment names, including directors George Lucas and Ron Howard.
“What’s amazing about this place is not only the race itself but the event that’s being created through the true Texas hospitality of this city,” American F1 champ Mario Andretti said while relaxing on the terrace outside of Ferrari’s headquarters behind the pits. Andretti is also an official ambassador for the Austin race facility, Circuit of the Americas.
The organizers at Circuit of the Americas made an effort to invite film, TV, music and sports talent this year. But many Hollywood folks also seemed to have made the trek to Austin on their own.
Oscar-winning sound designer Per Hallberg was at the race visiting friends who are involved with the Marussia F1 team. The Swede said it was his first Grand Prix visit, though he’s been a fan of the sport for years.
“I’ve always wanted to go the Monaco Grand Prix, but I’m almost always busy on a film when that race happens [in late May]," he said. "I decided it was finally time for me to go. And Austin is closer to Los Angeles.” But Hallberg was quick to add he’ll be straight back to work on New Line’s Into the Storm on Monday morning.
The Grand Prix event also infused the relatively down-to-earth city with some serious bling this past weekend. Austin’s streets were overrun with Ferraris, McLarens and Rolex-wearing Europeans and Latin Americans. Adding to the glam were various celebs, many of whom were making the rounds at pop-up clubs and parties downtown. Butler, Adrian Grenier, Joy Bryant, Jennie Garth and chef Gordon Ramsay were among those at the Amber Lounge, where rapper Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas performed.
Boxer Jake LaMotta and actors Matt LeBlanc and Rick Yune rolled into another F1 pop-up, My Yacht Club, where a table with two Methuselahs (six-liter bottles) of champagne went for $50,000. (The club is donating a portion of the sales to its host venue, Ballet Austin.)
Austin additionally put on a free Fan Fest — four nights of live concerts on multiple outdoor stages around downtown, with Los Lobos and Lou Gramm among the performers.
A Best of Great Britain event on Friday night kicked things off by motoring in Texas Gov. Rick Perry in a Union Jack-covered McLaren to mingle with former U.K. F1 drivers Sir Jackie Stewart, Damon Hill and Martin Brundle.