The Las Vegas Grand Prix is ​​not Formula 1’s first stop in Sin City

The Las Vegas Grand Prix is ​​not Formula 1’s first stop in Sin City

The inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix promises to be a vintage event in Vegas. With the casinos putting on huge shows for the fans, with the racing schedule taking place under the lights and along the Vegas Strip, and with the promoters building the spectacle itself, including “opening ceremonies” that include musical performances and driver introductions, the racing is ready to go pure Vegas.



However, it is important to remember that while this may be the first ‘Las Vegas Grand Prix’, it is not Formula 1’s first foray into the desert. In fact, this will be the third time the network has been in the Vegas area. So, before this spectacle begins, we thought it would be helpful to take a look back at years past, when Vegas first hosted one of the fastest sports in the world.

For the third consecutive season, Formula 1 concluded its schedule in 1981 on US soil.

However, the 1981 campaign did not come to a close in New York at Watkins Glen, as it had the previous two seasons. Instead, the 1980 United States Grand Prix would be the final installment at Watkins Glen, as dwindling attendance and concerns about safety led to Formula 1 withdrawing from that circuit.

in its place? Opening of the Caesars Palace Grand Prix.

Hotel officials believe that attracting the world of motor sports to Las Vegas, and Caesars Palace itself, would create a boon for both the city and the casino. In the years leading up to 1981, hotel officials hatched a plan to bring Formula 1 to Las Vegas. Speaking at a recent event at the Mob Museum — which, by the way, is a great thing to write about — Bill Weinberger, former president of the Caesars Palace Grand Prix, talked about how the plan came about.

“I walked into the office Monday morning and Bill McKinley (then president of Caesars World) came up two minutes behind me. He asked, ‘Did you see the race in Monaco on TV yesterday?’ I said no. He asked me if I knew anything about the race. I said no,” Weinberger said. “He said well, I think it would be a great idea if we had a race like this in Las Vegas. I said maybe. He said I talked to Cliff (Perlman, owner of Caesars Palace) and he thought it would be a great idea. You are on it.

There was only one minor problem at first.

Lack of path.

the solution? Designating a space in the parking lot for a circle that Weinberger literally drew on the site tablecloth.

Bernie Ecclestone was the czar of Formula 1 at the time. “He and I were sitting in the coffee shop at Caesars Palace trying to put this deal together, and he said to me how we could fit a 2.5-mile track into the space I had got,” Weinberger recalls. “I put my hand down.” On the bedspread and I said what about this? I literally traced my hand over the locator. I said do you think we have enough room this way? “There are so many turns, maybe just a few fingers,” he said.

A big reason why the race will be held in the parking lot at Caesars? Routine, according to Weinberger.

“The race would start where it ended up, but then it would go down the Strip, turn right, then turn again to the right and go up the Caesars Palace walkway where the fountains were, and then come back down the Strip, a turn into what was then known as With sand dunes, until the highway entrance.

“We were going to build a ramp down from the freeway entrance to our property so we could get back to the finish line. It would have been amazing,” Weinberger said. “The city said no and the county said no because we wouldn’t be able to get emergency equipment in case something happened.” Emergency. The state said no because Las Vegas Boulevard is a state highway and you’re going to have to tear that road down and we’re not going to let you do that and mess up traffic.

“The federal government said the highway system was part of our national defense system and it would take an act of Congress to do it. So we ended up having to do it all on our own land.

The result was a twisty, counter-clockwise circuit that drivers came to hate:

With the first Caesars Palace Grand Prix held in October 1981, race officials could see a title fight as part of their vision. The final race of the 1981 F1 season saw three drivers compete for the Drivers’ Championship. Carlos Reutemann, driving a Williams Ford, entered the final race of the season with 49 points after winning two races. Nelson Piquet, driving a Brabham Ford, has earned 48 points this year with three wins to his credit. Jacques Laffite, driving a Ligier Matra, had an outside chance of winning the title as he entered the Caesars Palace Grand Prix with 43 points after winning two races including the previous one in Canada.

Reutemann looked in the best place of the three after qualifying, qualifying on pole with Williams teammate Alan Jones alongside him. He only needed to finish ahead of Piquet, who was scheduled to start fourth, to secure the title.

However, the top finisher couldn’t count on any help from his teammate, as the two were somewhat bitter rivals. It started with a contract announced within the team that effectively made Jones the number one driver. Under the agreement, if they were more than 20 seconds ahead of the third-placed car, with Jones and Reutemann less than four seconds apart, Jones had to win the race.

Alan Jones (right) celebrates victory at the 1981 Long Beach Grand Prix as Carlos Reutemann looks on

However, starting with the second race of the season, Reutemann did not hold up his end of the agreement. At the 1981 Brazilian Grand Prix, Jones and Reutemann were well ahead of the field in the later stages of the race, ahead of Riccardo Patrese, who was third, by more than a minute. With Jones directly behind Reutemann, the team put up a board with the command: Reutemann was to let Jones pass.

The Argentine driver never moved aside.

“He certainly didn’t. He kept going, I was angry, and I could have challenged him several times. If it wasn’t for the agreement I would have. “I was faster and I felt like I could have won easily, and Frank knows very well that without the agreement I would have been stuck, or I would have gone somewhere What,” Jones recalled years later.

In Jones’ mind, this meant all bets were off.

“The agreement was there to prevent us from taking risks with each other. Carlos didn’t abide by the rules of the agreement he signed. That’s the thing that bothered me. I didn’t speak to Carlos after the race. I just said to Frank (Williams, team principal): ‘All bets are off.’ Frank only paid him for his second place finish that day as a sort of fine, but if Carlos expected me to be any help in the tournament, that went out the window.

Fast forward to the parking lot in Las Vegas.

“I didn’t need to remind him that I wasn’t there to help him, and I think the whole world knew that by then,” Jones recalled years later.

That’s when the mind games started between the team members.

“I thought I’d play with him. ‘Did you see where the pole was?’ It’s just a shame, there’s s— everywhere, I don’t know how you’re going to get out of the line,” Jones recalled.

This led to Reutemann complaining to the team about the grid layout, a flaw he saw in his mind given the alignment of the pole position in the parking lot layout. Wouldn’t you know it, Jones had a suggestion.

“I said, ‘Well, you know the guy on pole can claim any side of the track he wants,'” Jones explained. Reutemann then complained to race officials, who switched positions, giving the Australian the more favorable side of the track.

“You could have made the worst start known to man, and you probably would have gone into turn one if you started on the inside line, which I have now,” Jones said.

“Of course I overtook him in the first corner, as did (Gilles) Villeneuve, (Alain) Prost and (Bruno) Giacomelli. It was crazy from then on and then it came back.

Carlos Reutemann and Alan Jones at the 1981 Caesars Palace Grand Prix

Photo by Bernard Cahir/Getty Images

Reutemann made his way back, having had gearbox problems starting the race. He finished eighth, one lap behind Jones who won his first Caesars Palace Grand Prix.

More importantly, he finished a lap behind Piquet, who was now the Drivers’ Champion.

With one point.

“He didn’t deserve to win (the championship),” Jones declared years later.

Will we see something like this happen in a few days?

That may be unlikely, as Max Verstappen has secured the 2023 Drivers’ Championship, and Red Bull has already secured its second consecutive Constructors’ Championship.

However, there are two fights to watch. The first is the struggle for second place in the constructors’ championship between Ferrari and Mercedes. Then there is the ongoing battle between Lewis Hamilton and Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate, Sergio Perez, for second place in the Drivers’ Championship.

As we saw at Interlagos a year ago, there could be some friction between the Red Bull duo.

Another reason to watch the spectacle will be the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

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