Las Vegas, 2022

The compromises which could harm the racing at F1’s new “postcard” event

2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix

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Formula 1 wants to put on a show when it returns to Las Vegas. But in order to make November’s race a reality compromises had to be made to suit the city’s needs.

The 18th November race date – F1’s first Saturday grand prix since 1985 – was the only practical option F1. Qualifying will start at midnight and the race at 10pm, meaning the track action is likely to take place in temperatures barely above single digits. The coolest race last year, at Imola, saw ambient temperatures peak at 14C.

“As always in life, there are opportunities you take when there is the possibility to do it,” said F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali, who explained the restrictions F1 faced on which date it could hold a race.

“Consider one thing: the rate of occupancy of the [hotel] rooms in Vegas. We’re talking about more than 150,000 rooms in Vegas. It’s 98% all the weekends of the year. That weekend that is the weekend before Thanksgiving is a little bit lower, but not so much. So if you want to be in a place where we can be hosted, we need to find the place where there is the room available for us.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Imola, 2022
Las Vegas may see lower temperatures than Imola does
“If there will be opportunity to move the dates in the future, we will manage, we will see. But that’s the weekend we are going to be there. It would be cool in the evening for sure. But we have good jumpers, we have good jackets, so that’s where we’re going to use them.”

While it may be a little cool for comfort for those trackside, the cars may enjoy the lower temperatures. Preventing power units and tyres from over-heating is a challenge drivers face at many of F1’s hotter venues.

However another compromise F1 faces in Las Vegas is the absence of support races. That would come as a surprise to those used to seeing Formula 2, Formula 3 and Porsches racing on the support bill, which appear jointly at eight of this year’s 22 grands prix.

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Some events have even more: Australian Supercars joined those three in the Melbourne paddock. F2 and F3 were together at Barcelona, and F2 and Porsches provide the support race thrills in Jeddah and at Zandvoort.

Melbourne’s grand prix has a packed support bill
This weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix is supported by Ferrari Challenge North America and F1600 single-seaters, and on the return to North America in October at Circuit of the Americas there is the Formula 4-spec F1 Academy series and Porsches racing in support to F1.

The trend of having less support action tends to be at street circuits where there is minimal paddock and parc ferme space. This is the case at Baku (F2 only), Miami and Singapore (Porsches only at both). But several permanent circuits are also offering little more than the F1 action this year. Domestic F4 series will be alone in the support paddock in Mexico City and Interlagos, while only F2 joins the F1 season finale at Yas Marina.

Then there is Suzuka, Losail and Las Vegas. The first two are yet to indicate they will have any support action, and as RaceFans reported earlier this year F1 will be the only racing on the bill in Las Vegas.

How might that affect the quality of racing at what is already the most hyped grand prix of all time? IndyCar’s recent relocation of its Detroit race to a downtown track provides a relevant point of comparison.

After winning the race, Alex Palou admitted he “thought there was going to be zero passes without a crash” around the narrow, angular city course. Instead the race was surprisingly lively, a fact Palou put down to the considerable amount of rubber which had been laid by IndyCar and the many support races during the weekend.

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“We had more grip than I expected,” he said. “The track kept evolving with our sessions and with other series, like Indy Nxt and Trans-Am cars. You could see the driving lane, it was black, all full of rubber. That allowed for some more overtaking.”

Well-used Detroit track created unexpectedly lively race
Before the Detroit Grand Prix began IndyCar, Indy Nxt, Trans-Am and the IMSA SportsCar Challenge put a whopping 5,900 laps on the track. The main event saw 10 lead changes in the race, and five drivers made up six or more positions from their starting place.

Palou wasn’t the only driver who felt the improvements in the track surface aided the racing. “As you do more laps it gets grippier and grippier,” said McLaren’s Felix Rosenqvist. “I thought during the race it really came alive.”

With no support races, F1 won’t benefit from other cars cleaning the track surface and laying down racing rubber as they do elsewhere. In Melbourne 4,921 laps were set during the weekend before F1’s race, there were over 2,400 in Jeddah, but in Las Vegas it’s unlikely there will be much more than 1,500 laps before Saturday night’s race with only F1’s practice sessions and qualifying contributing to that total.

It remains to be seen whether future editions of the Las Vegas Grand Prix will also not feature support races. F1 may have been reluctant to share the spectacle of its cars racing along The Strip with another series for this first event.

The lack of track action is a by-product of the unusual logistical arrangements for this race. F1 is only using the track after 6:30pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday to minimise disruption to local businesses, namely the casinos and hotels which rely on the huge footfall Domenicali referred to.

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Las Vegas’s date, one week before the season finale, may also affect how much drivers will be on track during practice. Unless a driver has already exceeded their total use-able power unit parts earlier in the season, they will want to look after their components in Las Vegas to make sure they can also be used at Yas Marina rather than be replaced at the cost of a final-race grid penalty.

Las Vegas race will be an “incredible postcard”, says Domenicali
If multiple drivers spend more time in the garage than they do lapping the Las Vegas Strip Circuit, they collectively will likely be less ready for wheel-to-wheel action come the race. Cold temperatures also makes the rubber coming off the tyres less likely to stick to the track surface, further inhibiting the build-up of rubber and improvement in grip levels.

F1 has set high expectations for its return to Las Vegas after failing to excite locals with two championship-deciding races in a casino car park in the early eighties. “I think that it will be another experience where everyone wants to be, or want to come, in a place that is iconic,” said Domenicali.

“I’m sure that the TV spot that we’re going to share around the world of the start, on The Strip, in the place where there is light more in the night than in the day, will help also F1 to be promoted outside Vegas.”

He expects F1’s race in Las Vegas will produce “an incredible postcard that we’re going to share all around the world.” But a key question for the Las Vegas Grand Prix will be whether the compromises which where made to arrange what is likely to be an extraordinary event may also undermine the quality of the race F1 puts on.

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2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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15 comments on “The compromises which could harm the racing at F1’s new “postcard” event”

  1. genuine question, wouldn’t the bespoke asphalt and FP sessions alleviate if not outright solve track grip? these tires are designed to shred themselves easy right?

    I maybe misremembering the track but I believe portimao was a problem until it got resurfaced and prior to that other series shared the track with F1 no?

  2. Yellow Baron
    15th June 2023, 12:44

    Is it really a bad thing to have lower grip? Could make the racing more interesting and could also mean less off a difference in grip for a car going offline to set up or attempt an overtake. It’s a street circuit so off line will be dirty, a lack of rubber on the racing line may actually help to reduce that difference. Regardless it’s a street circuit so opportunity for multiple lines is also hampered. It also looks very narrow based on F1 23

  3. I hadn’t realized something like hotel occupancy rate is the (main) reasoning for choosing the weekend before Thanksgiving rather than Thanksgiving weekend specifically.
    Yes, LV can get chilly in November late evenings, but not the world’s end, especially if the ambients are still in the double digits.
    Lastly, I’m not overly worried about holding the LV GP the weekend before the season-finale risking limited track action in practice sessions, given the track is new to everyone, so all drivers will want to acclimatize as quickly & well as possible.
    More likely, if the track in question was familiar, although Sao Paulo GP practice sessions didn’t lack track action last season (or in 2010), with similarly short lead time to the season-finale, nor the inaugural Saudi Arabian GP, for that matter.

  4. RandomMallard
    15th June 2023, 13:02

    But Stefano, we don’t want an incredible postcard, we want an incredible race!

  5. When’s the last time I sent a postcard I wonder… Thanks for ruining the sport for me. With Liberty everything is compromise(d). In fairness, this happened with most sports. I stopped watching football years ago, I felt like I’d outgrown it as a fan; as if it’s too dumb to support corporations fighting corporations (as teams represent nothing and nobody, even national teams these days…). F1 has more depth, it’s a technical sport and I still found it equally entertaining, but more artificial spectacle they add, less I feel like it’s the “show” (I don’t want it to be a show) for me. At the moment I feel like I’ll probably give it up in a year or two, if they continue with this guy’s vision. I don’t like the teams (real F1 teams are mostly gone, those with true passion and drive, like family teams and small teams, and new ones aren’t welcome). I don’t like the PR trained baby drivers (they sound more and more like footballers, repeating same sentences, and are always being followed by a PR representative, what the….). I don’t like the new street venues, even countries we tend to visit these days (beheading is not something I accept lightly, unlike Domenicali). I don’t like having forced “more overtakes”, aka DRS solution for all problems mentality. And I’m too bored and annoyed by sprint races and now even separate qualy sessions (plus I don’t want to spend all my free time with F1). Thanls for the postcard mr Domenicali, but I wish the next time I hear from you, it would be something about your resignation (wishful thinking).

    1. Dex, perfectly said. I have followed F1 for decades but I have about reached the end. Oh well. Let the Netflix crowd have it. It’s barely racing and more glamor than I can take.

    2. I hate the way the on track action has been going with these massive lumbering beasts and SCs every time a pebble gets on the track, but what about this race adds anything artificial to the balance of racing? All this weird schedule will ensure is that the teams won’t have so much time to gather data that we’ll see the drivers rather than the engineers making the biggest difference.

      If anything, the teams should have less practice time, but more on track development testing time if we want the racing to be more interesting. GPs in which practice running has been compromised produce great races at an astronomically higher rate than GPs with three full practice sessions. And there’s nothing artificial about reduced practice times.

    3. PS: As for DRS, I don’t get why using adjustable wings (when within x seconds of the next car) hasn’t been considered. This would allow cars to follow closely and pass using actual race craft rather than almost exclusively boring fly-by passes on straights. Reducing chassis size and weight would greatly help too.

  6. What a mockery of a travesty of a sham. F1, you should be ashamed; you’ve totally sold out.

  7. These conditions are likely to advantage the most adaptable drivers like Max, Fernando, Lando, etc. capable of producing blazing fast laps without hundreds of practice laps, years of track data (which is critical for sim utility), etc. Lewis too if he’s in tune with his car at that point in the season. He’s less likely to take a car beyond its potential with chassis which don’t give him consistent confidence.

    Anyway, I don’t see the point of rushing Vegas. It’s an awful city. Yes, I’m sure they can make it look spectacular on TV if they’ve been able to ideally situate it, but the celebs and American execs they’re trying to attract won’t be having much fun in freezing weather. And wow is Vegas bitterly cold at night in the non-summer months.

  8. Keep pumping up that balloon Stefano, keep pumping. Are you sure you will be out of it when the inevitable happens?

    Las Vegas might be happy but is the rest of the world who expect a race rather than a hyped event?

    Balloons take time to blow up to full potential but milliseconds to decompress.

    1. Las Vegas residents HATE this race. Corporations love it. I expect politicians to be voted out of office shortly after this race.I expect politicians to be voted out of office shortly after this race

  9. Well the driver and team championships are very likely to be well and truly wrapped up by then, so the only hope for the race (beyond the visually ‘spectacular’ setting) is that we get some exciting racing to watch. I can’t help but feel rather pessimistic about the whole thing after reading this article.

  10. What’s a postcard?

  11. If the city can’t give up casino business for formula one until midnight and the hotels are always booked out why is the race even there? It seems like it’s losing money for the city to give up any amount of time to f1. F1 is just bringing in people to displace those who would be gambling which is evidently more lucrative for them. Lose-lose.

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