Formula One returns to Nevada for the first time in 41 yers and what a difference those four decades have seen. Vegas itself has grown beyond all recognition, such that even household names like the Mirage are soon to be demolished to make way for even newer and shinier skyscrapers along ‘the strip.’
F1 too has evolved beyond measure. It is now truly a global sport not predominantly just European and the wealth of the teams is immeasurably more than could be conceived back in 1982.
Wolff issues Casino ban for Merc employees
Of course sin city has a kind of allure that few can resist but the old days where the grease monkeys could party late into the night after completing their duties is also gone.
Shiny grease free garage floors have replaced those oil stained versions and the engineers too are on a stricter leash. Toto Wolff issued a ban earlier this week on Jewish Hamilton and any of the Mercedes team members from gambling whilst in Las Vegas.
“As I said, I’ve never been to Las Vegas, but we’ll do our best to make sure everyone in the team stays away from the casinos,” he told Motorsport.com.
“I don’t gamble and I’ll make sure no one else gambles either!” said the Mercedes boss.
Hamilton Casino visit ends badly
Whilst Lewis Hamilton may be slightly miffed by Toto’s Vegas regulations, he also may be quietly relieved given a Casino mishap he had when visiting New Zealand. It could even be this unhappy moment in Hamilton’s life which forced Wolff to enact the Casino ban amongst his entire team.
Hamilton has been spotted at Casinos around the world during his F1 racing career and has been a regular visitor to the famous Casino in the square in Monte Carlo.
Yet as in life, not all Hamilton’s visits to the gambling dens of the world have had a happy ending. During 2016 when Hamilton was to lose out to his team mate, Nico Rosberg, over the drivers’ world championship the Brit visited a Casino in Auckland but was to face a clash over his attire.
Hamilton was asked to remove his cap and sunglasses in line with the Casino’s dress code policy but he became enraged at the request taking to social media.
Hamilton boycots SkyCity Casino
“Don’t ever go to the sky city casino in Auckland, they treated me like dirt,” said Hamilton. “Can’t believe how rude they were. Worst casino experience ever!”
The Skycity Casino then issued a response, saying: “So sorry to hear @lewishamilton didn’t have a good time with us last night.
“We pride ourselves on being good hosts – we’re following up with him.”
At the time the British publication ‘The Mirror’ revealed Lewis was apparently unaware he had broken the Casino’s dress code which required all guests to remove hats and sunglasses for security and gambling reasons.
Mercedes ‘focused’ on task in hand
Sunglasses can create a reflection of the card holder’s hand and so the Casino was seeking to protect Hamilton and others from potential card sharks.
Clearly this must have been explained to Lewis as he later deleted his angry post replacing it with one of gratitude.
“Thank you for having me Auckland even though it was way too short, I’ll be back tho!”
It could be the debacle from 2016 has decided Toto Wolff’s mind that Casino’s and his staff are not a recipe for success during an F1 weekend where Mercedes are seeking to hold off Ferrari in the constructors’ championship and Hamilton is trying to hunt down Perez for second.
Vegas difficult to move around
Hamilton appears excited about the upcoming Vegas F1 extravaganza as he explained to Sky Sports: “Driving in the nightlights I’m going to feel like I’m in the Casino movie! It’s pretty cool.”
Toto Wolff has a more jaded view of the whole operation F1 Vegas and believes it is much more about ‘the show’ than it is about the racing.
“I think everyone is looking forward to the Las Vegas race,” said the Mercedes boss.
“Racing in this city is comparable to climbing Everest, hats off to Liberty Media for organising this race. I don’t think I’m the only one in Formula One who has never been to this city, which is quite difficult to get around.
Wolff dismisses Vegas race as ‘a show’
‘”We don’t know how to get from the hotel to the circuit and back, but I’m sure we’ll find a solution. I’m looking forward to the race.
“First of all, I think we are there more for the show than the racing itself if you look at the layout of the track,” Wolff told Planet F1. “But you know, I’m actually not that into it. I’m more like, I’ll go there and do my thing and be gone again.”
The track layout is not expected to become memorable and most of the overtaking will get done down the 1.9km straight under the neon lights.
Formula One raced in Vegas during the 1981 and 1982 seasons, partly due to the fact that the funding for a New York race had fallen through.
Previous Vegas F1 trip a failure
The circuit was built in Caesar’s Palace car park and was described by John Watson: “It was probably the least appealing Grand Prix circuit I think I’ve raced on.
“‘If you put three paper clips side-by-side that was the layout.
“The facilities weren’t great for the teams, but that wasn’t the reason it fell by the wayside — it was fundamentally because the big spenders didn’t show up.”
This time around Las Vegas has been promised a legacy by Formula One of around $1.2bn in economic benefits to the city and surrounding areas. Yet there have been recent reports the race is not sold out and that hotel prices have collapsed from well over $1,000 a night to around $200 all with the usual additional taxes of course.
Promises of riches for Vegas residents
Of course there’s no guarantee the high rollers will be in town for F1’s greatest show on earth and only time will tell whether the promised benefits indeed actually accrue.
This year the residents of Vegas have suffered as the infrastructure has been established which will see the race return to sin city for nine more yeas at least. The build for the race going forward should be less disruptive as the anchor points for the lighting stanchions and other permanent fixtures requirements are now in place just like in Monaco.
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