Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix: Red Bull’s Max Verstappen says the weekend is ‘99% spectacle, 1% sporting event’

Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix: Red Bull’s Max Verstappen says the weekend is ‘99% spectacle, 1% sporting event’

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen speaks to the media
Las Vegas expects 105,000 spectators to attend each of the three days of racing

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen says this weekend’s Las Vegas Grand Prix is ​​”99% spectacle and 1% sporting event”.

The three-time world champion said he was “not looking forward” to the hype surrounding the race, which is the first time Formula 1 cars will race on the famous city sector.

Other prominent drivers were more ambiguous about the hype.

“With the investment that has been made and where we are racing, it deserves a little different treatment and extra exposure,” Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso said.

The weekend began on Wednesday evening with a lavish opening ceremony.

It featured performances from several music stars, including Kylie Minogue and Journey, and culminated in the drivers being introduced to a sparsely populated crowd in a light rain by being hoisted for display onto hydraulic platforms under a sound and light show.

Lewis Hamilton said: “It’s amazing to be here. It’s exciting – such an amazing place, so many lights, so much energy, so much buzz.

“This is one of the most popular cities ever. It’s a big show for sure. It will never be like Silverstone (in terms of spectator numbers). But maybe over time the people in the community here will grow to be like Silverstone.” I like sports.”

“It’s a business at the end of the day. You’ll still see good racing here,” Hamilton added.

“Maybe the track is good, maybe it’s bad. It was like that on (the simulator). Don’t knock it until you try it. I hear there are a lot of people complaining about the (Formula 1) direction.” “President) Stefano (Domenicali) and (owners) Liberty are gone (but) I think they did a great job.”

Verstappen added: “They will continue to make money whether I like it or not. But I’m also not going to fake it. I express my opinion on positive and negative things. That’s just how I am.”

“Some people like the shows a little more, I don’t like that at all. I grew up looking at the performance side of things. I like being in Vegas but not so much for the racing.”

Hamilton was one of a number of drivers unhappy with some of the demands placed on their time in Las Vegas.

This included a firm request from Domenicali’s office for them to support a party at the Wynn Hotel, one of the race’s founding partners, at 22:30 that evening.

A number of drivers challenged Domenicali and did not attend, including Verstappen, while Aston Martin did not send Alonso or his teammate Lance Stroll, and team owner Lawrence Stroll attended instead.

Las Vegas track ‘not interesting’

Verstappen said he had “no interest” in the party and added he didn’t have “a lot of feelings” for Las Vegas.

The three-time world champion’s criticism of the Las Vegas race extended to the new 3.8-mile street course, which he said was “not very interesting”, and to the event’s delayed schedule.

The Las Vegas Grand Prix is ​​run on a unique schedule, with racing starting at 22:00 on Saturday evening, the first time the race has been held on a Saturday in 40 years.

This means that drivers and teams are effectively on Japanese time while on the western side of the USA, and there is an effective 12-hour time zone shift between this race and the season finale in Abu Dhabi just one week later.

“I don’t really understand it. It’s also very tiring at the end of the season that we have to do that. It doesn’t really make sense,” Verstappen said.

Alonso brushed off complaints about jet lag, saying: “It’s a difficult sport. It’s not football.”

Requiring drivers to attend the party meant some teams had to change their media schedules on a day normally set aside for interviews. This has a knock-on effect on other meetings, such as engineering preparation for the race weekend.

Corporate clients are high on Formula 1’s agenda

The party also provided a practical example of the business imperatives behind organizing the race.

Formula 1 has successfully organized a race on the sector after 40 years of trying to do so Because it convinced Las Vegas hotels that it would make money from it, despite the disruption the city is experiencing.

Formula 1 has invested £500m in building a new pit and other related works on the track and expects to recoup this money and more.

The space above the pit garages is devoted almost entirely to corporate entertainment space, where shows cost tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars for attendees.

The necessity of making money meant that although this was the largest building in Formula 1, the sport’s bosses decided not to include a media center in the circuit, preferring to reserve the space for corporate guests. Instead, the media outlets are located in a nearby hotel, while the arena has space for a wedding chapel and a casino.

AlphaTauri driver Daniel Ricciardo criticized ticket prices, saying: “I heard some entry-level prices and I’m well aware that not everyone can afford them. I still want general admission to be affordable for everyone.

“If (there are) some crazy shows and people want to spend it, it’s all good. Maybe this will be another weekend where this is the audience they want to go after and this is the business plan.”

“Logistically, when you put it together, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone,” he said.

Ricciardo added that he thinks the race will be “pretty cool,” especially the long main course that runs through all the major hotels on the Strip.

“These are probably the most interesting straights I’ve ever driven on,” Ricciardo said. “Wow, look at that, look at that.”

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