The hype over the Formula One return to Las Vegas is reaching a climx and so many unknowns are soon to be revealed. The exact date for the race was carefully selected and according to reports in the American media, this weekend is the 2nd slowest in the year for business in sin city.
Next weekend sees the citizens of the USA celebrate one of their biggest holidays in Thanksgiving and in recent years this has become a boom weekend in Vegas with some people choosing the on offer Thanksgiving Buffets rather than having to cook for the extended family at home.
F1 doing Vegas a favour?
All of this plays into a narrative that Formula One is kind of doing Las Vegas a favour. Liberty Media have spent well over $600m on building permanent infrastructure as the race is contracted for ten years. Further, economic benefit models suggest Las Vegas will see an all encompassing inflow of around $1.2bn.
The economic studies claim further the USA’s biggest annual sporting event – The Super Bowl – which Vegas hosts next February will in contrast bring in a mere $600m in incremental benefits.
The Las Vegas F1 weekend schedule is interesting and for the first time since South Africa in 1985 a Formula One race will take place on a Saturday, shifting all the other track sessions forward one day.
There are a number of reasons the race has been scheduled on a Saturday with the primary reason being Sunday in the US at this time of year sees wall to wall NFL aired throughout the day. Ironically the big evening game on Sunday is the Las Vegas Raiders v New York Jets – to be held at the Allegiant stadium…. Las Vegas.
Vegas race time a compromise
Not only would a Sunday race clash with the biggest sport in the US, but it would mean the time of the Grand Prix would be in the early hours of Monday morning for the big European market. Despite the phenomenal growth in interest in North America for Formula One, the biggest number of eyeballs still remains firmly amongst the historical homeland of the sport in Europe.
Las Vegas Grand Prix CEO Renee Wilm said: “That was actually a compromise to make sure we are broadcasting at a time when our European fans can get up with a cup of coffee and watch the race at six or seven in the morning, very similar to how we [in the US] watch European races.”
Yet ironically the scheduling of the race may leave the US fans of F1 feeling short changed given whilst the time is 10pm (Pacific Time) it will in fact be 1am (Eastern Time) for the residents of cities like New York, Boston and Miami.
Just as was the case with the inaugural Miami Grand Prix, there will be a ‘launch party’ on Wednesday.
Track layout simple
According to F1.com: “The free launch party – set for November 5 – will bring the spectacle of Formula 1 to the high energy of the famous Las Vegas Strip, and fans be be able to hear the roar of the engine, smell the burning rubber and witness the power of Grand Prix cars up close and personal as several F1 drivers will be doing demo runs and hitting high speeds in front of some of the world’s most iconic landmarks.”
Yet the question on the lips of most F1 fans will be – ‘will the racing be any good?’
The truth is given the way the new breed of F1 cars have performed significantly differently from circuit to circuit, nobody really knows which teams will benefit from the Vegas track layout.
There are three straights over 800m long and the back straight is a whopping 1.9km long which will see the cars achieve their actual top speeds.
“Intense for everyone”
The time of the race will also affect teams differently. Temperatures at this time of year in Vegas are usually about 10 degrees celsius, though with warmer than usual weather predicted this may be in fact 5 degrees warmer than the average in recent years.
Former F1 driver Pedro de La Rosa believes the combination of the new track and the scheduling of the event will be a challenge for the drivers and teams.
“It’s intense for everyone,” De La Rosa told the F1 Nation podcast but then countered this suggesting the physicality of the event will relatively easy for the drivers.
“But really, it’s not an issue because there’s many things that are for the drivers easy in Las Vegas.
“Easy track for the race drivers”
“The temperature will be helpful. Dehydration levels will be very low or non existent, the cooler it is the easier it is for the driver, the more oxygen there is in the air,” he continued.
“So basically your pulse rate becomes lower, and there are long straights in Las Vegas.
“Every long straight means that you take a breath, you have time for a drink. You don’t need to stress yourself for a few seconds.
“So it is very easy. I think it will be an easy track for the race drivers.”
Mercedes set for difficult weekend
As to which cars should go well it could be a difficult weekend for Mercedes as trackside director of engineering Andrew Shovlin revealed.
“It’ll just depend on exactly how cold it is,” he said. “Because if the track is down in single figures, that’s often a region where you go winter testing.
“You do a run, it’s very difficult for the tyres to either get them switched on, or there may be graining and things. And then sometimes you just wait until it warms up a bit. So actually having to race and qualify in those conditions, it will be interesting.”
Both Ferrari and Mercedes have struggled with the harder tyre this season in conditions much more favourable to get the rubber “switched on.”
The resurgent McLaren team may well be positioned best to challenge Red Bull’s Max Verstappen particularly given Lando Norris’ five podiums in the last six races.
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