Here’s Everything That Went Wrong With F1’s Las Vegas Grand Prix Before It Got Good

Here’s Everything That Went Wrong With F1’s Las Vegas Grand Prix Before It Got Good

It’s difficult to argue that the Las Vegas Grand Prix isn’t in the conversation for the best race of the 2023 Formula 1 season. An unpredictable race with close wheel-to-wheel racing and dramatic passes, it was an exciting event despite Max Verstappen collecting a record-extending 18th race victory this season.

Although, it wasn’t clear that the Vegas GP would be a success even as the field was lining up to take the start. Here’s everything that went wrong with F1’s trip to the casino oasis before it actually got good:

Sky-high pricing

Photo: Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire (Getty Images)

The ridiculous ticket prices immediately tempered the excitement of Formula 1 visiting Las Vegas. Initially the average grandstand ticket was selling for $US2,000. The prices began to return to Earth as the race neared and supply remained, but grandstand seats were still closer to $US1,000 a week before the race.

Casino Fee Shakedown

Photo: Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire (Getty Images)

It wasn’t just the fans who had to pay. Formula 1 agreed to a ten-year deal to race in Las Vegas, with many significant casinos pushing for and funding the race through commercial partnerships. However, the other casinos and trackside establishments that didn’t contribute were expected to pay a license fee to have an unobstructed view of the track.

Blocked-Off Views

Photo: Angela Weiss / AFP (Getty Images)

Ignoring the license fee demands, a large percentage of the track was still blocked off from onlookers. This measure was partly to discourage pedestrians from gathering at bottlenecks, like bridges over the track. However, most obstructions weren’t enough to stop fans who wanted to catch a free glimpse of the action.

The Pit Building

Photo: Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post (Getty Images)

The centerpiece of the Las Vegas Grand Prix was Formula 1’s new permanent facility just a stone’s throw away from the Strip. F1 planned to call the structure a “paddock” like at most other grand prix venues around the globe. However, the championship had to switch to “pit building” as an alternative, as many in Vegas incorrectly believed that the building was named after mass shooter Stephen Paddock.

Late-Night Schedule

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto (Getty Images)

The race schedule made the Vegas Grand Prix incredibly difficult for drivers, teams and fans. Qualifying was slated to begin at midnight on Friday, and the race start was scheduled for 10:00 p.m. on Saturday. The time change for the European-based teams was equivalent to racing in Japan, not Nevada.

Unforeseen Cold Temperatures

Photo: Alessio Morgese/NurPhoto (Getty Images)

Formula 1 somehow overlooked how cold it could get in Las Vegas at night in November. The cool weather impacted the race weekend as drivers struggled to heat their tires and brakes up to the optimal temperature window.

The Sphere

Photo: Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire (Getty Images)

F1 had to effectively lease the Sphere for the entire race weekend in order to run the Las Vegas Grand Prix as the track surrounds the unique structure. The series decided to sell ads on the Sphere in an attempt to recoup the sublet cost. Drivers complained about how bright the Sphere’s illuminated exterior was, though it was fun for the fans at home and around the track to look at.

Unsecured Drain Covers

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto (Getty Images)

The race weekend got off to a rough start when the concrete frame around a water valve cover failed. The cover was sucked out of the road by Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari, destroying the car, and the first practice session was called off after only eight minutes so road crews could secure 30 covers along the course. Sainz was given a grid penalty as Ferrari had to use parts outside of his allocation to repair his car.

Closed Doors Practice Session

Photo: ANP (Getty Images)

The road repairs delayed the start of the second practice session past the point when the track was scheduled to close. The session was still run, but in front of empty grandstands. Event security forced fans to vacate the premises after they sat around for hours and only saw eight minutes of track action.

Compensatory $200 Store Vouchers

Photo: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times (Getty Images)

Adding insult to injury, F1 gave out $US200 vouchers for its merchandise store to spectators who held single-day tickets for the Thursday practice sessions. Many fans online called for the championship to give out full refunds, and a class-action lawsuit was filed against F1 and the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

Leaky Classic Cars

Photo: Chris Graythen (Getty Images)

The first corner of the Las Vegas Grand Prix saw Max Verstappen run Charles Leclerc off of the track for the lead. There were also several spins further back in the field, including one from Leclerc’s Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz. Sainz blamed a classic car in the drivers’ parade spilling oil on the inside line of Turn 1 for the apparent lack of grip.

Photo: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times (Getty Images)

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