More than forty years after the first two races, Formula 1 returns this week to Las Vegas (Nevada, United States) for a nighttime grand prix that is billed as spectacular, with its share of questions and last-minute difficulties.
And while the Dutchman Max Verstappen (Red Bull) has been convinced for more than a month that he will be the world champion, the big circus of Formula 1 is stopping in the United States for the third time this season at this year’s penultimate Grand Prix after Miami. in May, added to the 2022 calendar, and Austin in October.
Since the American company Liberty Media took control of F1 in 2017, it has implemented an expansion strategy in the country of Nascar and IndyCar. And this is reflected in the strong growth of interest, especially fueled by the Netflix series “Drive to Survive”, with an explosive audience on ESPN.
The City of Games Grand Prix will not be held on Sunday as usual, but on Saturday (for the first time since South Africa in 1985) and at night, starting at 22:00 (7:00 a.m. Sunday Paris time).
In 1981 and 1982, driving enthusiasts clashed in the parking lot of the iconic Caesars Palace. 41 years later, F1 has thought bigger with a track on the Strip, which should offer a grandiose setting near the Sphere and its giant screen ball, the Bellagio or Caesars Palace again.
“It’s hard to get more exciting than that!” We’ve been talking about Las Vegas for a long time, so it’s great to finally be there. Las Vegas is such an iconic city (…) it always seems unreal to organize a Formula 1 race there,” said French Alpine driver Esteban Ocon.
The last section before the Grand Prix is not easy after several months of work (resurfacing of roads, construction of a permanent building for the paddock) which made traffic difficult for residents and thousands of hotel industry workers.
“The big question for frontline employees is, will they benefit from all this? “, asks Jacob Orth, a tourism influencer in Las Vegas, who was interviewed by AFP. “They are the ones who suffered the inconvenience of this installation. Will these eight months of chaos be beneficial? How can a three-day event make up for it? »
Greg Maffei, the head of Liberty, wanted to “apologise to all the residents” of Las Vegas this week, to whom he promised revenues of 1.7 billion dollars (about 1.56 billion euros). “We hope that this year was the most difficult, with several works, and that it will be easier in the future. »
In recent days, ticket prices have been falling for an event that is not yet sold out.
“One of a kind”
From a sporting point of view, the track unknown to drivers is 6.2 km, the second longest of the season behind Spa-Francorchamps, including a straight line of 1.9 km.
“I went to the simulator to learn the track and I must say that the circuit is unique. There are long, medium-speed corners, some pretty sharp braking zones, fast corners, and then a huge straight down the Las Vegas Strip. I think it will be quite spectacular at night with all the lights,” says Pierre Gasly, French Alpine driver.
At this time of year, the Mojave Desert city’s temperature drops significantly at night, dropping below 10 degrees by race time, conditions drivers and their teams rarely encounter.
If Verstappen is assured of a third world title, his teammate Sergio Perez (Red Bull) and Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) are still fighting for the runner-up spot. The same fight for Ferrari, who will try to keep the runner-up title among constructors behind Red Bull, already crowned, against Mercedes.
After Vegas, F1 will travel to Abu Dhabi to conclude its 2023 season on November 26.