There was much speculation in the weeks before the Formula 1 (F1) Las Vegas Grand Prix, the penultimate race of the 2023 season, over whether the weekend would be a success.
The answer is debatable and though the weekend was filled with teething issues, the race was certainly an amazing spectacle and showcased an exciting new edition to the F1 landscape.
The strip, the heart of Las Vegas, featuring world-famous hotels, casinos, and neon lights, was the backdrop of the much-anticipated grand prix. The 1.4-mile stretch of road was fully taken over by F1 during the three-race weekend. As a street circuit, it was super quick, had 17 corners, and ran for 3.8 miles.
There was a quick turnaround between the announcement and the event. The race was formally announced in March 2022, which left the staff with a short amount of time to prepare an F1 circuit.
Taking this into account, the track unsurprisingly had its faults. During the first practice, there was huge damage to Carlos Sainz and Esteban Ocon’s cars from a dislodged drain cover. This caused the practice to be halted after just eight minutes and did not return until 2:30 am local time for an extended practice two.
If this wasn’t already a bad look for the weekend, fans were then asked to leave the circuit before the second practice had even started.
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This was due to security reasons but it meant tens of thousands of fans, who had only bought tickets for one day of the grand prix and spent a lot of money on tickets, faced huge disappointment.
Teething problems with new tracks, however, are not uncommon.
F1 was subsequently hit with a lawsuit. Instead of a full refund, single-day ticket holders were offered a $200 voucher for the Las Vegas Grand Prix official shop. To put this into perspective, a Mercedes hoody is priced at $210. As expected, this was a disappointing conclusion.
Concerning tickets, prices to attend the much-anticipated event were incredibly expensive, much like other F1 races such as Monaco and Abu Dhabi. This is pricing many fans out of watching the races.
In the week leading up to the race, F1 Las Vegas organizers dramatically decreased ticket prices. When tickets went on sale a year before the race, they were selling for around $1,622. However, in the week prior, there was a 50 % decrease in price.
Tickets were just too expensive and unaffordable for many, and organizers were worried about crowd size.
The high ticket prices for the grand prix were expected as ‘Sin City’ is scattered with expensive hotels and casinos. However, with the pressure of the race to be a success being so high, the organizers knew that selling as many tickets as possible was a priority.
Huge amounts of money were invested into this grand prix, an estimated $600 million to be precise, and even though ticket sales were important, it was equally important to promote the sport, especially in the US. The money invested into the event had to reflect the weekend’s success for it to be a triumph.
In terms of commercial success, many local businesses, both on and near the strip, were hit hard by the grand prix. The racecourse, its construction, and eight months of disruptions meant that many local businesses were majorly affected in terms of income.
Alongside this, there was mass traffic on race days. Despite the race being a big advertisement for the city, it was not practical and if anything, was a hindrance for the locals.
Despite the controversy over whether the race should be hosted in Las Vegas, it was a necessity to boost viewership. F1’s audience in the US stagnated for decades until the debut of Netflix’s “Formula One: Drive to Survive” series.
The addition of the Las Vegas Grand Prix simply wouldn’t exist if not for the exponential growth delivered by the Netflix series. It has generated a new fan base for the sport, providing viewers with an insight into the racers and teams, but less about the actual racing. For F1-loving fans, the series is not as popular.
As has been alluded to, a new era of F1 is beginning. Monaco is not providing the commercial pulse that it once did. F1 seems to have outgrown Monaco. Before the weekend, every team spoke about the commercial benefit the race would have.
Las Vegas could be the new Monaco. The Vegas track certainly provides a more entertaining race than the Principality.
F1 star Max Verstappen, however, did not speak highly of the weekend before the race. He believed it was all for show and made his opinion very clear.
Having all the drivers on board for F1 in Las Vegas is a pivotal part of representing the incredible amount of effort that has gone into it. After Verstappen was crowned champion at the end of the weekend, his opinion has inevitably changed.
This was the first race in Las Vegas since the 1980s, and F1’s intentions are clear that the race is here to stay. There is a 10-year contract in place to race in Sin City through to 2032, alongside an estimated $500 million spent on creating a permanent paddock.
Is this a new era of F1? Quite simply, yes. A lot of money was invested into the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix which has set a new precedent for the future.
There were hiccups along the way, the weekend certainly did not get off to the ideal start, and there was much disruption in and around the city, both on race weekend and the months leading up to it.
This is not ideal but for F1 to grow and evolve alongside the changing landscape (e.g., the Netflix series), the Las Vegas Grand Prix must stay.
The 2023 race was just the beginning of a new era of F1. Hopefully, the success of this year’s race was not a one-off occurrence.
Image: Mark Thompson/Getty Images