Two words: Las Vegas

 Its lights out and away we go in the notorious Las Vegas, the city that never sleeps. But this time, the gamble did not take place in one of the many casinos present in the Nevada city, but on its streets. Indeed, the motorsport has returned to Vegas after more than forty years: previously held in the parking lot of the Caesar Palace, the hotel which represents the glory of the Roman Empire, the 2023 Formula 1 season watched drivers compete on an all-new circuit encompassing the very best the City of Lights has to offer. 

 However, what can be classified as one of the most exciting races of this season did not actually appear so at the beginning.


 The Formula 1 Heineken Silver Las Vegas Grand Prix was announced last year, in March, with a video on the official YouTube channel of the circus. An announcement which excited many fans, already imagining the whole show America would have put into motion for such an iconic city. After all, if the glamour and the parties surrounding the Monaco Grand Prix are already considered the highest of the season, knowing the expertise of American entertainment fans already predicted a weekend of celebrations, concerts and events non-stop. The enthusiasm was then fueled by the official presentation of the track, with an opening night featuring Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez driving in the city’s streets with light underneath their car’s floor. The latter even got to drive within the casino Wynn, proving once again that RedBull comes up with the greatest marketing strategies. Though, expectations began to crumble with time. 


 The first unsettling feature was the high prices. With the popularity burst that the Netflix reality, Drive to Survive, brought to Formula 1, the racing weekends have gradually become more and more expensive: just to give an example, the cost of a three-days ticket for the grand stand at the 2024 Monza Grand Prix is set to be 1.100€, the exact sum of renting my current room for two months! However, the tickets’ cost for Las Vegas started from a minimum base of 500€, nearly arriving at 10.000€ for VIP passes, which is definitely not a sum many people are able to spend, considering also the additional costs of plane tickets and hotels in a city that is already expensive for many. 

 Another controversial topic was then the track itself, due to its configuration. Known now as the “hanging pig”, the circuit has three long straights which, both for fans and drivers, do not present much excitement: even though surpasses are thrilling, watching drivers mastering narrow turns with a speed equal to the one a normal family car reaches in highways is more engaging for pilots themselves and motorsport enthusiast. And with the knowledge acquired during the whole season, fans were expecting another uneventful race due to the power of Red Bull’s DRS in the straights: the expectation was seeing Max Verstappen grab pole on Saturday and then gain an advantage of ten seconds in the span of five laps, followed by Sergio Perez to complete another 1-2 for the Austrian team.

 Moreover, the concern with the conformation spiked when the sessions’ schedule arrived. Formula 1 is a sport that moves around the globe, and with that comes the issue of time zones: but while fans were expecting a timetable more American friendly, the circus adjusted the various sessions based on the city’s well known habit of never sleeping, programming the race at 1 a.m. local time. Fans were enraged, not just because it would have meant not just returning to hotels to a god forsaken hour, but also since Las Vegas, being in the middle of a desert, registers the lower temperatures during the night hours: with few corners, which are the point tires warm up, and long straights, where tires’ temperature drops, drivers were afraid of having no grip, thus slipping and crashing more often than not.


 In addition to the low expectations for the weekend, the situation escalated quickly on Friday: a loose drain cover heavily damaged Carlos Sainz’s car, resulting in the discovery that the track was not deemed adequate to host the race. The FIA shortcoming resulted in the first practice session stopped after just nine minutes, due to the necessity to fix the many covers. An operation that required so much time that the FP2 was delayed, and people were obliged to leave the track: in fact, the city’s regulation stated that it was not possible to stay beyond 1.30 a.m. – with the only exception being the race – security intervened to escort outside people, using force on the more hardcore fans. So, imagine the rage resulting from having spent a high sum of money just for ending up watching just nine minutes.


 The turntables arrived however with the race, first of all with an eventful start: Max Verstappen, starting in p2, braked too late forcing Charles Leclerc out of the track. Further, Fernando Alonso was hit and turned, colliding with Valteri Bottas who was then hit by Perez, whilst Sainz collided with Hamilton, resulting in the first spinning clockwise. The outcome was the release of a Virtual Safety Car in order to give marshalls the time and security to clean the track from any debrits. But chaos returned in lap 7, when Lando Norris’ McLaren lost control of the rear end and ended up in the wall: the driver was fortunately fine, but was brought to the medical centre for further controls while the Safety Car was deployed. And the rest of the race did not disappoint: surpases, and neck-to-neck fights in the middle field. Even Red Bull was called to battle, first of all against George Russell, who took the opportunity to bump once again in Max Verstappen’s single-seater, and then against Ferrari’s driver Charles Leclerc, who even managed to snatch the second place in the last lap with a brilliant surpass which has been denoted as the overtake of the month. The entire grid also underwent changes, with the final result seeing drivers gaining many positions: Oscar Piastri started 19th and ended the race 10th; Esteban Ocon began 17th and concluded 4th!


To put it simply, the weekend definitely did not start with great expectations but ended up being one of the most exciting ones of the season. And while I cannot state that the following statement will apply to all my readers, I can certainly say that I had the same turnaround as Max Verstappen: from comparing the show to a circus, to chanting “viva Vegas” during the podium. 



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *