In a spectacular whirlwind of speed, adrenaline, and high-stakes drama, the Las Vegas Grand Prix roared back onto the Formula 1 (F1) calendar on Nov. 16, captivating the world with its blend of entertainment, luxury, and sporting excellence. The weekend was littered with mistakes and an incredibly poor handling of F1’s dedicated fans. But, by the time Justin Bieber waved the checkered flag on the sport’s return to Las Vegas, the $500 million Sin City gamble had lived up to the glitz and glamor promised. Despite providing arguably the most competitive race of the season, the Las Vegas Grand Prix was a logistical nightmare.
The track itself was unlike any race track on the current calendar. With minimal turns and lengthy straights, the track was designed to be a high-speed, non-competitive course. These lengthy straights combined with the low temperatures encountered in the desert made for dangerous racing conditions, especially on new tires. Many fans even took to social media to joke about how the track layout was similar to that of a pig’s body. Yikes. The circuit had just completed construction only a few weeks before the race; this included repaving some sections of the famous Las Vegas Strip.
During Free Practice One (FP1) on Thursday night, a manhole cover came loose, badly damaging the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz Jr. and canceling the practice session entirely. Fans were able to watch a grand total of nine minutes of track action before being told to go home. During the race, McLaren driver Lando Norris ran over a bump in the race track that should not have been there, crashing into the barrier at such a high speed that he was transported to a hospital for precautionary checks. It is clear the track was not ready to be raced on.
F1 was required to end all racing action by 4 a.m. in order to turn over the roads to Las Vegas natives trying to commute. A class action lawsuit has been filed against F1 on behalf of the fans who were told to leave the circuit. The sport’s attention clearly focused on the marketing and grandeur of the event and not on the safety and preparedness of the track and venue.
The drivers were incredibly vocal about how F1 was sensationalizing the race. Reigning three-time World Champion Max Verstappen was the biggest critic of the Grand Prix. “99% show and 1% sporting event,” is what Verstappen likened the race to. On Wednesday evening, the Las Vegas Grand Prix had an opening ceremony where drivers were paraded around and lifted into the air on platforms to be gawked at by fans. Verstappen felt like “a clown” during the ceremony.
Verstappen would go on to win the inaugural race, with Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez rounding out the podium places. F1 will return to Vegas next year, hopefully with a track that is prepared to host a race. Until then, you can watch the F1 season finale in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 26.