There will be many breathing sighs of relief at the US owned corporation Liberty media. Finally the much hyped event sprung into life late on Saturday night as the race proved to be one of the more thrilling of the 2023 season.
For a while there were genuine hopes of a Ferrari win following Max Verstappen’s penalty for pushing Leclerc wide at turn one on the opening lap and even Checo Perez showed signs of a return to his street circuit form.
Norris huge shunt a ‘damper’ on Vegas race
Much of the jeopardy in the race was due to the highly unusual cold temperatures of the asphalt and with the cars laden with an extra 100kg of fuel at the start, fans could be forgiven for thinking they were watching an ice race in Finland.
However, a huge shunt for Lando Norris during the early part of the Grand Prix put a damper on proceedings particularly for those who are fans of McLaren Racing. Norris limped away from his car and was attended to in the F1 medical centre before being referred on to the downtown hosts-at in Las Vegas.
The team later blamed a ‘bump’ on the track which caught Norris out causing the big impact yet the British driver was keen to reassure his fans and later posted:
“Rough day. Big impact. But feeling okay!” Norris wrote on social media. “Thanks for all the messages, See you next weekend.”
McLaren boss blames ‘bump’ in track
However, his team boss is calling for revisions to the Las Vegas circuit before the sport returns in 2024.
“There’s a bump in that place,” Andrea Stella said afterwards.
“You can see all cars sparkle when they go through this bump. I think the combination of the bump and the cold tyres might have surprised him.”
The McLaren chief added: “I think that bump, if we carry on racing at nighttime, should be fixed, because the tyres will always be cold, low grip and it becomes a very tricky corner.
Las Vegas was seasonally warm this year
“Already during the weekend, we saw cases of oversteer in that place. So, independently of the timetable, we would strongly recommend that this bump is smoothened out.”
Formula One is set to race on exactly the same weekend in Nevada for the remaining 9 years of their contract with the city given it is the second slowest weekend for business of the entire year. With Thanksgiving coming the following weekend, citizens of the US tend to reign in their travel and spending before what is one of the biggest holidays in the United States.
Despite claims that the temperatures were cold, this particular November weekend was abnormal and much warmer than the usual average, so when F1 returns to sin city it is likely to suffer even more from cold track conditions than it did this year.
While the circuit was on the whole ‘better than anticipated’ as Sky’sTed Kravitz described, there have been a number of suggestions on how the event can be improved.
Qualifying time set to change
Almost certain to change is the time of qualifying which will be moved back from midnight local time to 10pm which matches the start of the Grand Prix. Whilst this may deter some European fans from watching it live, the pay per view sports channels offer full ‘as if live’ coverage’ for their viewers immediately following the conclusion of the race anyway.
One other adjustment to the circuit could be the 90 degree corner that meets the drivers at the end of the 1.9km back straight along ‘the strip.’ Given the top speeds of the cars there is a concern when it is colder that many will fail to stop and be forced to run straight on.
The turn can be smoothed out, though this will cause more trauma for the residents of Las Vegas. The intersection has no fixed middle of the road bollards and so the turn can cut across the strip gradually rather than follow the route of the road cars making a 90 degree left turn.
A chicane was added since the initial layout of the Nevada street circuit was announced. This was around the are of the Sphere and designed to reduced the speeds of the cars as the headed out of this section and up towards the strip.
Chicane added to Vegas layout
The original continuous 180 degree bend reminiscent of the one in Sochi was lost a number of F1 drivers and team management felt this ruined the flow of the original proposed track.
Since the accident of Lando Norris in the section after the chicane, it is now highly unlikely the organisers will revert as suggested to their original design and the chicane will remain.
There was a huge divide I opinion prior to F1 arriving in Vegas as to whether the event would be as Verstappen suggested, “99% show and 1% motor racing.” But on the whole following an exciting race, the Las Vegas F1 return was received in positive fashion.
Even Max Verstappen who grumbled the entire weekend about the track being “boring” and for being made to look like a “clown” at the opening ceremony appeared to soften his position when taking the chequered flag.
Verstappen slammed by ex-F1 driver
Ex-F1 racer and BBC commentator Joylon Palmer slammed Max Verstappen for his negativity towards the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
“Honestly, some of the comments before this weekend, even during this weekend, the negativity has been embarrassing. Max has been very critical of the event and it’s been a tremendous success,” Palmer told the BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast.
“We say the proof of the pudding is in the eating. It’s blooming delicious.”
Whilst the race did serve up jeopardy and plenty of overtaking, Palmer’s opinion that it was the “best Grand Prix of the year” suggests he clearly has become intoxicated by presumably his first visit to the City of Blinding Lights.
Excessive eulogising over quality of race
“I think the best Grand Prix of the year, certainly is in the top few. And it was a big crowd. Okay, some of the American tastes isn’t for everyone, big introductions.”
Palmer added to his criticism of Verstappen concluding:
“You can’t one minute say this is a shambles, this race, if Monaco is Champions League then this is National League, and then 50 laps later you’re singing ‘Viva Las Vegas’ in an Elvis suit. Come on.”
Verstappen criticisms had validity
Verstappen’s criticisms whilst stinging do have some validity. The crazy schedule for the drivers who are not really on Pacific Coast Time due to the extremely late timings of the track sessions is ridiculous. Particularly when three days later they have to shift from what feels like Japanese time 12 hours forward to the season finale in Abu Dhabi.
It could be as in Qatar that some of the F1 drivers with less experience and not quite top level physios did not prepare as well as they should have in the week prior to the race weekend.
However, lessons will be learned and F1 will return again to Las Vegas in what will surely be an even bigger event with larger than the 385,000 spectators F1 claimed were in attendance this year.