A new Grand Prix is always an event in F1, and to say that the Las Vegas Grand Prix is eagerly awaited is an understatement. As a showcase for the 2023 season, the governing bodies have left nothing to chance and are betting big on this “show”, yet on the track everything will not be so simple.
With temperatures expected to be around 10 degrees at the start of the race and three long straights (two of 800 metres and one of 1.9 kilometres), tyre temperature management remains a major unknown on this track, as various teams have already explained in this article.
F1 has previous experience with terrible track conditions racing in Vegas
During the inaugural Formula 1 race in Las Vegas, The 1982 Caesars Palace Grand Prix, F1 faced similar issues with a track surface unsuitable for Grand Prix racing.
The makeshift circuit, set up in the confines of the famous hotel car park, presented a unique challenge for the drivers, with many expressing concerns about the surface and tyre performance. The track surface, a far cry from traditional circuits, was at the centre of the drivers’ complaints. As the cars wound their way around the temporary track, it became apparent that the surface offered little grip, complicating the drivers’ efforts to get maximum performance from their cars.
The combination of the abrasive parking lot asphalt and the searing Nevada heat contributed to excessive tyre wear and degradation, much to the dismay of the drivers.
1982 GP: Tyre management critical
Tyre strategy became a key factor in the outcome of the race, with teams and drivers meticulously calculating each stint to avoid the pitfalls of the punishing surface. Some drivers feeling that the tyres were not up to the task of withstanding the harsh conditions.
In the aftermath, there were calls for track improvements. Drivers and teams emphasised the need for a track surface more conducive to competitive racing and tyre longevity. Despite the allure of Las Vegas, the consensus was clear: if the Grand Prix was to remain a fixture, significant changes would be required to enhance the racing experience and ensure the spectacle lived up to the expectations set by the illustrious venue.
As Formula One continues to expand its presence in the United States, the lessons learned from the Las Vegas Grand Prix at Caesars Palace will undoubtedly come up again for the 2023 race there, but it appears that perhaps lessons won’t have been learnt from the first encounter at Vegas.
Pirelli and F1 face the unknown in Las Vegas
Questioned on the subject of next week’s Grand Prix along the famous ‘Strip’, Mario Isola, Pirelli’s managing director, shared the various avenues being explored.
“It’s a step into the unknown, I think for everyone. Las Vegas will be cold, it’s an urban circuit. So we’ve been working with the teams and asking them for simulations in advance to try and understand how much energy the car set-up puts on the tyres,” said the Italian.
“We have received information from the companies that make the tarmac to understand how abrasive it is and what level of degradation we can expect.”
“But there are still a lot of question marks over Las Vegas. We decided to use the three softest compounds in the range to try and generate some grip.”
Drivers will complain
However, despite all the precautions taken by Pirelli, Mario Isola is not expecting a miracle: “I imagine that the track will change a lot and that the grip will be very poor. So they’ll be complaining! [It doesn’t matter,” added the Italian.
“We’re going to manage this situation. But it’s a big unknown. A fast track, long straights, high speed and all the conditions are difficult to manage.”
“We only have data based on simulations, nothing else. So we try to do our best, but we take into account that the tyres are homologated so we can’t make a special tyre for Las Vegas like we can’t make a special tyre for Monte Carlo, for example.”
“So things are what they are and we simply have to choose the best option available to us,” concludes Mario Isola.
The Las Vegas Grand Prix will be run in a classic format, with three free practice sessions, which will provide plenty of time for the drivers to gather data.
F1 has renewed its confidence in Pirelli by extending its contract as sole manufacturer until 2027 so currently Formula 1 remains pleased with Pirelli as their chosen tyre partner.
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