Giles Richards explains that Formula One uses excessive stimulation and unrefined entertainment to conceal the issues faced by Las Vegas.
After the wild night in Las Vegas, the following morning could have been filled with regret and penitence for Formula One. However, as the track was taken down and the Strip resumed its typical chaos on Sunday, F1 could look back on being among the fortunate few who benefitted from the weekend. Though they may not have made a lot of money, they were perceived as successful.
The race was very exciting and could possibly be considered the best of the season. Concerns about the track being too similar to other street circuits were proven wrong. The drivers were surprised by the amount of actual racing and passing that took place. The track’s unique shape, resembling an upside-down pig with three turns (14, 15, and 16) where many passes occurred, was able to produce great results.
However, reaching the finish line had been a challenging voyage. The events of Thursday night, where the first practice was cancelled due to a drain cover hitting Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari and fans being denied entry to the second session, were a disastrous start. Additionally, the offer of $200 (£160) to spend at the Las Vegas GP shop as compensation was seen as insulting, especially considering the high price of tickets. As a result, a lawsuit has been filed in pursuit of damages for the 35,000 attendees who were unsatisfied with the insufficient resolution.
The local community continued to express dissatisfaction over the weekend. Small business owners and employees were negatively affected by the city’s disruption. Some reported an increase of over two hours in their commute, while others were unhappy that the circuit restrictions diverted customers from their establishments.
The session times were as follows: qualifying took place at midnight and the race at 10pm. These times were agreed upon in a compromise with the city to minimize any disruptions caused by road closures, but they were quite challenging for the teams. In the paddock, the exhausted staff spoke volumes, and many team leaders and drivers expressed their concerns.
These matters can be resolved before next year and there is room for improvement. During this time, the city will evaluate the effectiveness of the agreement for both parties. It is estimated that there will be an increase in revenue ranging from $1 billion to $1.7 billion. If the race meets these expectations, it is likely that Vegas and the sport will continue their partnership for the duration of the current contract, which is 10 years.
It is commendable that the event was successfully organized in a short period of time, considering it was only confirmed in March 2022. The planning and execution required significant resources and dedication. As seen during a walk around the track, there were a large number of workers managing traffic and directing people, with a friendly attitude and glowsticks to guide guests along the way.
In the fan section, there were numerous staff members available. Unlike some European races where there are only four grumpy teenagers in hi-vis vests smoking Gauloises, there were hundreds of employees holding up signs that illuminated the message: “Can I assist you?”
Next to the bold and overused elements that are characteristic of the city – such as a wedding chapel in a field and countless impersonators of Elvis – there were also small details. The teams’ hospitality trailers featured their logos in vibrant, vintage Vegas-style neon signs.
All of this was a costly endeavor, with F1 projected to spend up to $700 million. However, this is a one-time expense that includes refurbishing the track and purchasing land for a pit and paddock complex. This complex will now serve as F1’s US headquarters for the rest of the year, with additional plans to be revealed later this week.
One reason for disagreement is the cost of tickets, which is a major concern. The average price of a three-day ticket was $1,667 (£1,332), which may have contributed to the event not being sold out at 105,000 attendees. To address this, a cheaper option without additional perks could be offered.
Picture a scenario similar to the famous Rivazza turn at Imola, with a massive crowd of fans gathered in the center of Las Vegas. Unfortunately, this is most likely just wishful thinking, as the high costs were evident by the numerous individuals attempting to catch a glimpse from outside the barriers meant to discourage unauthorized viewing.
Some clever individuals found outdoor escalators that they could use to go up and down while enjoying a view of the track. Following suit, a vendor selling beer set up shop at the bottom and was doing well until being asked to leave.
Max Verstappen, the reigning world champion, had previously referred to the race as “99% spectacle, 1% competition”. Despite being a week-long extravaganza that may not appeal to everyone’s taste, the event ultimately proved to be a success in terms of sportsmanship. While there are still issues to address, Formula 1 should embrace at least one absurd and over-the-top race, and Las Vegas has proven itself as a worthy host for such an occasion.