Vegas hype climaxes but divisions over the event grow

Las Vegas and Formula One are this weekend morphing into a single entity where neither is a stand alone entity. The iconic Vegas strip has been bastardised by F1’s incredible track illuminations which make the established neon looked somewhat faded glory.

The cost in terms of disruption to the locals has been immense, more so than probably for any other F1 street race but much of this has been one off construction which will not be required each year for the remainder of the 10 year long race contract.



Las Vegas is no longer itself

The lighting gantry which dominates the streets where the cars will race now has its fixing points permanently embedded in the Vegas streets as too does the barrier and fencing. Erecting these in the future will be a relatively swift job.

But the reality is Vegas is no longer itself. Yes the iconic landmarks are all present and visible but this city for one weekend a year will be a completely different experience for those who visit than during the other 51 weeks a year.

Even the USA’s biggest sporting event – the Super Bowl – which Vegas hosts in February will not have the visual impact that Formula One has forced upon the city.

Las Vegas has truly been merged with Formula One into an amazing chaos which eventually will see the most sophisticated racing cars in the world hurtle through the melee.

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Liberty Media ‘own’ vast majority of seats

The opening ceremony was held away from the strip in the impressive new facilities which Liberty Media has created and the vast number of seats available in the area now owned by Formula One is truly incredible.

This is of course a reflection of how F1 has decided to pitch its destination venues with huge amounts of high end hospitality which has echoes of Miami. However this is on a whole new level when compared to the Florida event.

It is interesting to see the fairly limited grandstands along the strip when compared to the area owned by Formula One. Whilst these are dotted around the Bellagio fountains, the Venetian architecture and the iconic Caesars Palace, the view of the cars from here will be extremely limited as they hurtle past at over 200 mph.

From a TV perspective, the views will be spectacular but as with every street circuit for many of the spectators the live action they see will be momentary for during each of the 51 laps of the race itself.

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NO Vegas media centre

Formula One have already upset the journalists who travel with the global circus as there is no media centre provided. A local hotel has been commandeered but already grumblings have arisen with Scott Mitchel-Malm of the race stating:

“The inconvenience of being punted into a neighbouring hotel here, having to fight against swarms of hospitality guests any time it is necessary to go into the paddock, has gone down like a lead balloon.”

This may become a worrying trend for the F1 writers given they are subject to a similar inconvenience in Jeddah where the media events also take place outside the restricted space of the paddock.

Some of the drivers have already expressed their discontent following the opening ceremony and Max Verstappen described being paraded in front of the bright lights, loud music and fans as making him feel like a “clown.”

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More “Destination F1 races” likely

Yet clearly F1 destination events are here to say and in all likelihood there will be more further down the line. Of course the kind of spectator attracted to these occasions will be markedly different from the regular racing fans, but in a season where 24 events are on the calendar there is surely room for both.

Lets remember that since Liberty Media have taken over the sport, we have also seen the revival of historic venues such as Zandvoort and Imola and to that end Las Vegas is not a vision of the future of Formula One, just an example of its new diversity.

Some will argue Liberty Media have over reached and recent reports of plummeting hotel and ticket prices prove this to be the case. Yet Las Vegas has gone about its debut into modern Formula One in a different manner to Miami. There the organisers did a soft launch in year one, restricting the number of tickets to ensure they had all their logistical boxes ticked and that the event was reported to be a positive experience for the spectators.

Las Vegas has typically gone “all in” and there are still questions over how the tens of thousands of fans will get in and out of the densely populated grandstands around the end of the lap and through the turn four complex onto the first straight which is lined with more hospitality boxes than it appeared were possible to site at a single event.

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Its “99% show and 1% sporting event”

Temporary road bridges have been built to allow access to the ‘infield’ area though its probably that once inside the fans will be ‘locked in’ until the end of the on track sessions each day.

The unknown is how the racing will pan out. Max Verstappen has criticised the circuit layout given its “lack of corners”.

When quizzed about the race, which has cost F1 owners Liberty Media well in excess of $500million, Verstappen said: 

“It is 99 percent show and one percent sporting event.

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Verstappen: “track not very interesting”

“I just want to always focus on the performance side of things, I don’t like all the things around it anyway, I know in some places they are part of it but let’s say it’s not in my interest.

“[The track is] not very interesting. Just not many corners, to be honest. It will also depend quite a bit on how grippy it is. This is not really my thing.”

Come the post mortem on Sunday, we’ll know whether the Las Vegas circuit delivers exciting racing or not. Yet even that is relatively unimportant given F1’s history of going to tracks where the on track action is less than thrilling.

What is true is that the Las Vegas mega event is here to stay and Formula One has managed something no other global event has ever achieved, which is to make Las Vegas its own beautiful chaos – and that will never change.

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