Formula One is experiencing a huge growth spurt in its global popularity and particularly in America where the sport has traditionally struggled to ‘crack’ the USA audience. This season saw the inaugural Miami GP hosted around the Miami Dolphins complex and such was the demand from the public that tickets for the weekend sold out in just 30 minutes.
Las Vegas is to be added to the F1 calendar for 2023 but Formula One will not be debuting in Sin City having raced there in 1981/82.
Watkins Glen had been a regular host for Formula One in the US for over a decade however when dropped in 1980 it was the turn of Las Vegas to step up and host the global racing series.
F1’s history in Las Vegas
The event was held on a makeshift circuit in Caesar’s Palace hotel car park and was set up to be wide enough for overtaking with ample run off areas and a surface as smooth as any at the time.
However the counterclockwise layout placed tremendous strain on the drivers’ necks and when Piquet clinched his first title there in 1981 he required 15 minutes to recover from heat exhaustion after barely making it to the finish.
The 192 event was also held in intense heat and won by Michele Alboreto in a Tyrrell but the track was very unpopular with the drivers due to its flat and repetitive nature.
Ceasars Palace lost a fortune on the event as only tiny crowds turned up for the spectacle and many of the entrants described the circuit as the worst one Formula One had ever visited.
A whole new approach for F1 in Vegas
The 2023 F1 event in Vegas will be a whole different affair from its predecessor. The 3.8m street circuit features 17 corners and a 1.2 mile straight which runs along Las Vegas Boulevard also known as ‘the strip’. The cars will sweep past the iconic Hotels and fountains before arriving at the newly acquired block by F1 where the paddock and pit lane will be built.
Last weekend saw F1 roll into Vegas for a ‘lunch party’. There were demonstrations from drivers, stage interviews and an after party where Lewis Hamilton joined the DJ’s whipping the crowd into a frenzy.
F1’s return to Vegas will be probably be the biggest money spinner for all concerned in the history of the sport and the grandstand tickets are more expensive than even Monaco.
Vegas is all about ‘the spectacle’ and for Formula One not to bomb again as it did in the 1980’s the on track action must be exciting for the fans who are watching.
F1 fans views a priority
Street circuits notoriously restrict the amount of time fans in attendance actually see the cars just because of the nature of the every day buildings along the route. A purpose built circuit like Austin in Texas does provide for the crowd to see the cars for longer with the naked eye.
However, Formula One’s plans to place enormous screens and deliver super-fast Wi-fi to all the spectator areas should ensure those parting with hard earned cash with know at all times what is happening during the race.
Mercedes driver George Russell was at the Vegas launch party and was able to walk the circuit the cars will race on in about a years time. His reviews were mixed and despite the high speed nature of the track, Ryssell isn’t convinced it will be to the drivers’ liking.
Russell: F1 drivers won’t be that excited
“I think it’s super exciting, this race,” said Russell. “It’s wild already. This time next year is going to be crazy. I can’t wait for it.”
Russell though added: “I don’t think this is going to be the most exciting one to drive.
“But for you guys watching, I feel like this race is designed for good racing, for overtakes and entertainment.
“And I think the Sunday [race starts 10pm Saturday night] for us is going to be super-exciting. But to be honest, I don’t really care as long as we’re at the front.”
Given the investment Las Vegas will be on the Formula One calendar for many years to come, but if Russell is to be believed, it will never hit the heights of challenge for the drivers like the traditional European tracks like Spa and Silverstone.