2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix Preview
What happens in Vegas? 14 Nov. Written By Clare Gething lewis
Predicted to be the biggest sporting spectacle, anywhere in the world, ever, we had to do a pre-weekend special on Saturday night’s race in the city that never sleeps.
The Las Vegas Grand Prix was announced back in 2022, causing the then McLaren driver, Daniel Ricciardo to say he would prolong any retirement plans to ensure his involvement in the Sin City F1 race. Luckily for him, Nyck De Vries was kind enough to give up his seat so that Daniel could realise his dream of racing down the Las Vegas Boulevard.
Here is what you need to know about the 2023 Heineken Silver Las Vegas GP.
The New and Improved Vegas
First up, it’s worth noting it’s not actually the first ever Grand Prix to be held in this city, nor is it the first ever Saturday race, contrary to popular belief. In fact, it will be the 74th Grand Prix not held on a Sunday. The last one was a while back though – in 1985, in South Africa.
Las Vegas last hosted the race over 40 years ago, in a circuit which was built in the car park of Caesars Palace. Hardly the most inspiring location. The circuit itself was also not appropriate for the searing heat at the time of day held and the anti-clockwise direction of the track made it challenging.
This time, it’s a Saturday night race, held on the infamous strip, where F1 cars will be flying, flat out for two kms on one of the most photographed and visited avenues in the world, zooming past the likes of the Bellagio, the MGM and the new MSG Sphere.
What has Vegas had to do to prepare?
The better question is which part of the city has not been disrupted from preparation for this race.
The road has had to be resurfaced to make it smooth for racing, with 43,000 tonnes of intermediate and race layer gone down on, what was previously, three lanes of free-flowing traffic. This has, understandably, made it a commuting nightmare for local residents.
Hotels have had to accommodate an extra 100,000 fans expected over the course of the week. The venetian gondola area has been drained. Any restaurant with a balcony view of the track has been transformed into a viewing area. Temporary grandstands have been erected that block the renowned Bellagio’s fountains from view. Three temporary bridges, with plastic screening preventing passers-by from catching a glimpse of the race, have been constructed.
It has required around three months of full-scale preparation to construct the track, with the same again to take it all down. And this is meant to happen every year for the next nine years…
How much is this all costing?
Around $250m was spent building the new pit lane building and paddock, a site the length of three American football fields, which features a 28,000 sqft video screen made into its roof. A permanent fixture for all the Las Vegas races to come, however, and after this weekend, it will become the F1 US Headquarters.
Around $2.3b was spent on creating and building the biggest LED screen in the earth into an 18,000 person sphere, which F1 owners Liberty Media, are leasing out for the course of the F1 festivities. The land itself acquired for the creation of the circuit cost $240m. Since September 2023, almost half a billion US dollars has been spent by Liberty Media on this single racing event in the middle of the Nevada desert.
But, with the most expensive tickets and packages on the calendar, including the $5m Emporer Package, and with the race set to remain until 2032, F1 hopes to see that money back in their hands again. US county officials expect around $100m in taxes and $1.3b in spending from the event. Local taxi drivers are throwing their hat into the ring too, surcharging journey fares during the week in anticipation of European tourists “not tipping”.
An F1 Festival
The Grand Prix weekend for Vegas officially started on Saturday 5th November with an F1 launch party, two weeks before the race. Drivers inc. Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez attended and the event featured live car runs, an F1 Pit Stop Challenge, simulators and photo opportunities with cars and trophies.
A golf tournament featuring F1 drivers and golfing pros, is taking place for the very first time on Tuesday 14th November. The Netflix Cup, will be streamed live, with the tournament held at the Wynn Golf Club. F1 drivers, Lando Norris, Alex Albon, Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz will play in pairs alongside golfing legends Ricky Fowler, Max Homa, Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas, respectively. You can watch that on Netflix if you so wish.
The race itself on Saturday 18th November will kick off with an opening ceremony. Expect big household names performing, with the likes of Tiesto, John Legend, 30 Seconds to Mars and Steve Aoki and a drone light show, with LED flags and PixMob bracelets sported by the crowds, to completely immerse themselves in the experience.
Track, Tyres and Temperatures
It has to be said. Considering the hype it’s getting, on paper the circuit itself doesn’t look all that thrilling. But, there is potential.
It is the second longest track on the grid (with Spa coming in top), at 6.1km. There are 17 corners and two really long straights. It is reasonably wide for a street circuit and mostly flat, so certainly more overtaking opportunities than, say, Monaco, with top speeds of around 212 mph, comparable to those in Monza – F1s ‘Temple of Speed’.
The potential for excitement, however comes from the two hard breaking corners off the back of the straights as well as, arguably the narrowest pit exit of all time.
Not to mention, the weather.
The talking point this week has been non-stop centered around the track temperature. Now there is even the possibility of rain. As Las Vegas is a desert, it gets very chilly at night and, with the race being held at the latest ever grand prix start time of 10pm, it is expected to be extremely cold in F1 standards. Between 10-12 degrees celsius for all three practice sessions, qualifying and the race.
F1 cars are not designed to run at these temperatures and tyres are definitely not made for this: the cooler the track, the less grip. Pirelli will be bringing its softest set of tyres to the event in order to address this issue, but it will still be a major struggle for all of the teams.
Which cars will it suit?
As circuit layouts go, this is pretty much perfect for Ferrari. The long straights and hard breaking corners are where these cars come alive. Think Monza and Azerbaijan. Similar track layouts and both qualifying sessions topped by Ferrari. Other cars that benefit from a lot of time on the straight going at full throttle, are the cars of Williams and Haas. Teams that will struggle with this, however, will be Aston Martin and Mercedes – if Brazil was anything to go by.
Whilst the Red Bull cars are obviously very dominant and can adapt to most tracks, their qualifying pace may actually be below par here. If Red Bull have a weak point, it’s getting tyres up to temperature. This is where getting through to Q3 – especially for Sergio Perez – might be a challenge in the cold conditions. When it comes to the race though, Max Verstappen is still going to be hard to beat.
Having said this, it is a new circuit, which no driver has ever driven outside of a simulator, there might be rain and the track temperature is going to be one of the coldest of any race, ever. Expect a chaotic race start, lots of tyre graining and plenty of mistakes.
So that’s it – Las Vegas. Let’s hope it lives up to the hype, the millions of dollars worth of public money spent and the 6am wake up for call for the sporting spectacle of the year…
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