Why extreme speeds and temperatures add real intrigue to hyped Las Vegas race

Formula 1

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Glitz. Glamour. Celebrities. High-stakes gambling. All elements that have absolutely zero bearing on how the on-track action of the first-ever Las Vegas Grand Prix will play out.

As much as Formula 1 are eager to present this event as the grandest sporting spectacle of 2023, the reality is that for the ten teams and 20 drivers, this will be just another grand prix with the same set of challenges and problems to manage as any other race weekend.

But as the only entirely new grand prix taking place this season, what can the teams expect to find from the all-new Las Vegas Strip Circuit?

An all-new challenge

First, the most obvious characteristic of the Las Vegas track – that being that it’s yet another street circuit. Alongside Jeddah, Albert Park, Baku, Miami, Monaco, and Singapore, Las Vegas will host the final race held at a temporary street circuit of the season. However, with work on the circuit only just completed in time for the grand prix and no support races going on, teams and drivers are going to be greeted by an extremely low grip circuit, as well as all the usual bumps and rough surfaces they can typically expect from racing around the same city streets used by commuters and tourists on a daily basis.

Pirelli will bring its softest tyres to cope with extreme temperatures
Back in Mexico City, Williams’ head of vehicle performance, Dave Robson explained the challenges teams face arriving to an entirely brand-new circuit without any hard data to go from.

“It’s tough,” Robson said. “I think that the combination of the track surface, which we know very little about the moment, and how that will interact with the tyres will dictate so much of how the weekend pans out.

“Obviously, in terms of the layout of the track, we’ve got a good understanding of that and we can run it in the simulator and get a rough idea. Certainly we can’t predict exactly how the car will behave in Vegas, so we will go there with plenty of options. So whatever happens we’re able to cover that off as quickly as possible.”

Haas’ trackside engineering director, Ayao Komatsu, said teams will effectively be left guessing on what to expect before they finally turn a wheel around the venue on Thursday.

“In terms of preparation, you put your best estimate out on out on the table,” Komatsu said. “That’s not only the temperature of the track surface, but general overall grip level as well. So, for us, it’s just about doing enough homework, then being ready with options, so that we can react quickly.”

Pirelli’s Mario Isola explained that F1’s tyre supplier had to get creative to try and gather any information they could to prepare for F1’s newest round.

“It is a step into the unknown, for everybody I believe,” Isola said. “Las Vegas will be cold, it’s a street circuit, so we were working with the teams and we asked them for simulations in advance to try to understand how much energy the layout of the circuit is putting on tyres.

“We had information from the companies that are making the Tarmac in order to understand how abrasive the tarmac is and what is the level of grip we can expect. I can imagine a lot of track evolution and very low grip – so the drivers will complain. We will manage also this situation. But it’s a big unknown. Fast track, long straights, high speed and all conditions that are quite difficult to manage.”

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Red Bull at risk?

Red Bull didn’t go well at the last street circuit
Being a street circuit could offer some hope to Red Bull’s rivals – and perhaps to FOM themselves – that the dominant world champions may not run away with this one. After all, the last time the sport raced at a street circuit in Singapore, Red Bull suffered their only defeat of the season so far. Max Verstappen was also run close by Fernando Alonso at the Monaco Grand Prix months prior to that, showing how the RB19 is perhaps not at its most comfortable at ‘true’ street circuits like Vegas.

Team principal Christian Horner put their apparent relative weakness at these kinds of circuits down to the absence of long, sustained corners where the RB19’s superior downforce and mid-corner grip can really kick in.

“At Monaco, there were already signs that street circuits were a challenge for us,” Horner explained back in September following their Singapore defeat. “Azerbaijan as well was more of a challenge. I think that there have been some short corner circuits that have posed some issues for us.”

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Extreme speeds

The close barriers and limited run-off will make Vegas comparable to Monaco and Marina Bay in some respects, but there is a crucial difference: At Vegas the emphasis will be on top speed. Boasting one of the longest straights and full-throttle sections on the calendar, Vegas will have more in common with Baku than perhaps any other circuit.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Baku City Circuit, 2023
Baku-esque straight will require low downforce levels
Almost a third of the circuit – 1.9 of it 6.1 kilometres – is dedicated to the long back straight along the strip from the exit of the short turn 12 to the chicane of turns 14 to 16. With a faster exit than onto the back straight at Baku, organisers expect cars to be running in eighth gear longer than at any other point on the calendar. Speeds are forecast to top out at over 340kph, but with DRS and slipstreams some drivers believe they could be significantly greater than that, among the highest seen all year.

With such high speeds expected, teams will want to squeeze every kilometre-per-hour out of their cars as possible. As such, teams are expected to bring very low downforce aero packages to the circuit, similar to those seen at Spa-Francorchamps or even Monza.

That could prove advantageous for two teams: Ferrari and Williams. Ferrari have tended to be at their strongest when downforce is low, with Charles Leclerc securing both pole positions available in Baku, before team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr beat the Red Bulls to pole in Monza and ran them relatively close in the grand prix.

Williams have one of the fastest cars in a straight line and have traditionally been strongest when their wing levels are lowest. As they look to fend off AlphaTauri and secure seventh in the constructors’ championship, this could be a critical opportunity for Williams to put their position out of reach of their rivals.

The long straights should make overtaking feasible. With three straights of note and two DRS zones, there should be enough slipstreaming opportunities to allow drivers to get by and prevent a procession.

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Temperature trouble

One unique challenge expected in Vegas is extremely low temperatures over the weekend. Unlike many other night race rounds, all of the five track sessions in Vegas will be held under the lights – meaning there will be no sunlight to help warm the unraced surface.

Long, wide straights should aid passing
Ambient temperatures drop into single digits at night in the Nevada desert at this time of year. Early forecasts increase the ambient temperature is unlikely to creep into the teens. Saturday night’s main event will comfortably be the coldest race of the entire season and among the coolest of all time.

Those chilly conditions are a double-edged-sword: Cooling the cars will be less of a problem but drivers will have to fight to their tyres up to the temperatures needed to extract maximum performance from their cars. The midnight qualifying session as Friday gives way to Saturday will likely be when the circuit is at its coldest. Naturally, Pirelli have taken this into account for their tyre choice.

“We decided to use the three softest compounds in the range to try to generate grip,” Isola explained. “We had a lot of discussion with Formula 1 and the FIA before Las Vegas and also last year. I remember I started discussing Las Vegas with Ross Brawn – so it’s quite a lot of time ago.

“Obviously, we cannot change the weather, we cannot increase the temperature. A challenge could be to keep the temperature in the tyre – that’s why we decided to select the three softest compounds. We try to do our best but considering that the tyres are homologated, we cannot make a special tyre for Las Vegas as we cannot make a special tyre for Monte Carlo, for example. So it is what it is and we have to just select the best option we have.”

Teams and drivers will have worked overtime in the build up to Vegas to optimise their heat generating strategies for this weekend, but what they cannot fully prepare for is if the race is interrupted by Safety Cars or even a red flag – a particularly high risk, given it is a street circuit.

As tyre temperatures naturally drop off at slower speeds, Safety Car restarts could be especially difficult for drivers as they have to battle through the first corners of the circuit or even the first couple of laps until they can enjoy full grip again. And if a race is red flagged, the prospect of having to make a standing start on medium or even hard tyres – depending on what drivers have available – is going to challenge drivers almost as much as starting in the wet.

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A race to remember?

As ever in the highly technical, meticulous and data-driven world of Formula 1, the most exciting racing often occurs when teams and drivers do not have everything under total control and have to respond to suboptimal conditions or circumstances. While Vegas is set to remain on the calendar for years to come, it will only hold its inaugural race once.

Las Vegas Strip circuit track map
Track data: Las Vegas Strip Circuit
With so much expected from the intense hype and investment Formula 1 has put into this moment in the sport’s history, Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur is sure that the first grand prix organised by the sport’s commercial rights holders itself will be a success.

“We have to fully trust them,” Vasseur said. “But if you look at Miami last year, it went pretty well. At least on the racing side. The track was well prepared and I hope this will be the same in Vegas.”

While rivals Mercedes will be hoping to try and snatch a victory somehow by taking advantage of the unknowns, team principal Toto Wolff believes that, whoever wins, the event will be a spectacle.

“There’s an enormous effort that Liberty undertook with Las Vegas,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a tremendous show for the audiences.”

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2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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64 comments on “Why extreme speeds and temperatures add real intrigue to hyped Las Vegas race”

  1. “It is a step into the unknown, for everybody I believe,” Isola said.

    Translation: All the teams are going to be as clueless as us about the tyre performance”

  2. Queue the “it’s like driving on ice!” radio’s

  3. This rack will be on a different date next season i think just 1 month earlier is a much beter (temp wise)periode where the night temperatures are still between 12-13 Celsius in the night.
    Still It could a big pile at turn 1:)

    1. From what I’ve heard about feedback from the casinos and other big business they’re, they’re not keen to have it back at all. I think it’s going to need to be something special to be back next year, and I’m not holding out much hope it will be when one of the major “unique features” they’ve been touting is putting card suit symbols on the kerbs…

      1. @drmouse your right ofcourse but they signed a 10 year to race here …. but they should open more up to locals so they just can see the race from their living room or balkon like in other races.
        But we will see next year what is going to happen.

        1. Eh? The Las Vegas rave is already announced being in November next year! The calendar for 2024 was announced ages ago!

    2. Las Vegas is in November next year too so your statement is not correct.

  4. This is just an accident waiting to happen – and in the best case a farcical showbizz parade. I don’t understand why after all the efforts F1 has made in the last couple of decades on safety – the FIA has decided it okay to sell out and to push their luck. I know it’s Vegas but gambling with the drivers safety and or the image of F1 seems the worst bet ever – just for a few dollars more..

    1. A big accident is probably the best possible outcome of this race for F1’s popularity, especially this season. As sad as that is. Anecdotally the first result on youtube for Hamilton Verstappen has ~10 million views. First result for Grosjean fireball has 40 million.

      Yes this comment is in poor taste, but I’m going to refrain from extending the point to worse accidents in motorsports in recent times which have further undeniable commercial value… This is human nature.

      1. Sad but probably true for many, @skipgamer. I remember when I was a youngster and I thought the crashes were the best part of the sport. That all changed with Ratzenberger’s and Senna’s horror weekend. Sadly, again, human nature. Thankfully I grew up.

        This race at Las Vegas does sound like it could be utter chaos with the low track temperatures. Fingers crossed for a spectacular but safe event.

    2. Jeddah was approved before this and that looks worse in that sense

      1. Well the Jeddah track is also over the limit – think plenty of drivers have commented about that. Vegas has even higher speeds, that extreme long straight combined with low temperatures, no support races to put down some extra rubber. If the surface turns out to be really slippery and or bumpy – we are just gonna get a silly and unnecessarily dangerous race – all nice and well until you can’t even have a race or someone gets hurt.

    3. Blah, blah, blah…

    4. OMG, F1 drivers will have to face the most mild of danger for the first time in about five years?! Gasp / horror!

  5. While it certainly has been hyped up by certain stakeholders, I don’t really feel there’s been all that much hype around it at all. In general I feel it’s been regarded as a bit of a curiosity, but it doesn’t look to me like there’s been all that much anticipation for this Grand Prix to finally arrive on the calendar, compared to a lot of other tracks.

    It’ll be interesting to see what the temps will ultimately influence, but I think it doesn’t matter all that much for the pecking order, which will probably be the same as in Monza all the same. For this reason, I doubt Red Bull will be much at risk either.

  6. It’ll be pure cringe all weekend long. Crofty in particular will be really annoying with his colorful “gambling”, “bets” and “stakes” comments, I’m 100% sure.

    I expect this race to be ok-ish but the novelty will wear out fast.

    1. Yep sigh
      Will Merc roll the dice on…….

    2. Crofty is borderline unbearable on any given weekend, but arm him with 1,000 potential casino analogies and he’ll probably push me over the edge.

      1. It’s amazing he’s kept since he seems to be universally hated. Imagine if it were just Crofty and Paul Di Resta all weekend in every segment…Well, I guess it could be worse: 100% Kravitz.

        1. What exactly is it some people hate about Croft and Kravitz so much? I mean, they obviously LOVE the sport and comment accordingly… could be worse, i think?

    3. “Glitz. Glamour. Celebrities” Chain-smoking retirees camped at “their” slot …

      1. …And if you’re a Sky glass or Sky Q customer…..

      2. Exactly. Nothing about Vegas shouts glamorous let alone exclusive to me. It’d be like calling Orlando, Florida glamorous.

  7. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
    13th November 2023, 9:00

    I’m just hoping it won’t be a succession of slam dunk DRS passes on that long straight.

  8. some racing fan
    13th November 2023, 9:13

    Hey Will- Miami is not a street circuit. It’s one if those rare semi-permanent circuits that has a permanent layout on private property, but needs to be set up every year for the race-
    even Montreal is more of a street circuit than Miami is. Whereas Vegas is actually a street circuit.

  9. An all-new challenge – Yes & an interesting one, although I’m sure teams & Pirelli will be okay in the end.

    Red Bull at risk? – Nope.

    Extreme speeds – No more extreme than in Monza, Baku, AHR, etc., although the rear-wing configurations may indeed be similar to Baku & Spa (& to an extent Jeddah), although not really Monza considering how many corners the circuit has, after all.

    Temperature trouble – With the highest ambients in the low-20s & lowest, i.e., those set during actual night hours, at around 8, the ones during the sessions should be above 10 at least, if not even around 15, so nothing extreme per se.

    A race to remember? – Hopefully, but for the right reasons.

    1. so nothing extreme per se.

      And in the middle of a city, ambient temperatures are always a bit higher anyway. I’m sure it’ll take some adjustments to get the tyres working well, but extreme seems overselling it.

      Speaking of extreme; one of the all time great F1 photo’s is of Alonso coming in for a pitstop at a snowy Silverstone in February 2005. Obviously not race-able, like the interrupted WEC race at Spa in 2019 where is snowed in May (!), but the cars should be fine around 10-15 degrees.

      1. MichaelN, firstly, it should be pointed out that, when Alonso was carrying out those laps, he was carrying out shakedown laps around the shortened layout that Silverstone has. It therefore means that he was driving out of the pits and the pulling straight back into the pits (and there is some anecdotal evidence that he was driving round with the pit limiter on, so he would have been driving quite slowly too).

        Secondly, both yourself and Jere are being a bit optimistic with your predicted temperatures. As noted in the article that this site has produced on the predicted weather conditions, even if you allow for the urban heat island effect, the maximum temperature during those sessions is predicted to be 12ºC. If you look at the predictions for the race, those figures drop down into single digits – potentially around 8ºC towards the latter stages of the race.

        Perhaps there is a certain symmetry in mentioning Silverstone though, because it turns out that the ambient temperatures for the Silverstone circuit on the 19th November are about the same as that for Las Vegas (possibly even a fraction warmer in Silverstone than in Las Vegas).

      2. As someone who knows about weather predictions: city temperatures are normal 1-2 degree higher (desertlike terrains) grass terrain gives the largest difference with asfalt 7-8 degree (averages ofcourse)
        Forest terrain and high buildings are much lower as that can be -1 and 1 degrees (Celsius).

        So to make it short Lots of Asfalt without New York type buildings is about the same as the desert (in Winter)

  10. They’ve opted for a built-in “-test”, track, going for the fastest top speed.
    Bet you they’ll have a graphic and a video package ready for it from the beginning of the broadcasts.

    Problem is, in the US they seem to have a different idea what a flat, raceable surface means (Sebring, COTA, Detroit Street Course, Nashville etc etc…)
    You can’t have a street course with a bump that launches the car at when you start reaching 345-360KPH and short runoffs.

  11. Nice write-up to build the anticipation. New top speeds on a cold track with lots of unknown variables, color me excited.

  12. Bets are off. Max is surely tops but don’t forget Fernando, Checo, even Carlos or a maiden win for Lando. Maybe it will be a borefest or a catastrophe but right now it is exciting. Oh btw, I watch F1 with the sound off, the comments are too annoying. I sure miss the sound of the engines but in the hybrid era this us not a great loss.

  13. The best case is an extremely boring uneventful race but I fear a disaster in the making. Won’t be watching live and will check the news before wasting my time watching the replay.

  14. A race on the upside down pig circuit.

  15. Coventry Climax
    13th November 2023, 13:55

    “It is a step into the unknown, for everybody I believe,” Isola said. “Las Vegas will be cold, it’s a street circuit, so we were working with the teams and we asked them for simulations in advance to try to understand how much energy the layout of the circuit is putting on tyres.

    This is truly unbelievable. Here’s the admission Pirelli have no clue (‘try to understand’) about what they’re doing, and need to ask others about what to expect.

    Suits the entire Vegas setup though: What a farce.

    Then the article: Any new circuit brings unknowns to the teams, no difference in that respect.
    Talk about hyping: Say all you like, in as fancy words as you can think of, but this is no racing track by any standards.

  16. One THIRD of the lap is a straight. What a joke

    1. At least it’s not an oval

      1. At least it’s not an oval

        Achieving that would require only minor adjustments.
        It’s just modified away from the oval enough for supporters to point out that not all the corners turn the same way

      2. It’s closer to offal than oval… I wish they’d lean into it as some fans have done and name the parts of the circuit after the parts of the pig it looks like: trotter, belly, snout etc

        1. lmao@at “offal track.” Definitely stealing that.

        2. I wish they’d lean into it as some fans have done and name the parts of the circuit after the parts of the pig it looks like: trotter, belly, snout etc

          Today’s competition is to think of an apt name for the 14-15-16 indent.
          Use of NSFW words is barred, but the imaginative can say it without saying it.

  17. It’s going to be crap, I bet you…

    1. Coming out, new shooter…

  18. I’m reserving judgement. If you only look at the layout then Austria might look bad. Except it kind of works, usually stuff happens there. That might be the case here.

    RBR is kind on its tires, but the flip side is they’re bad at heating them up. That might take enough away from them. There are also no long corners which is a strong point of RBR. Maybe these combined will give Ferrari or McLaren just enough to be competitive. (still afraid of DRS advantage for RBR)

  19. This track looks FANTASTIC. It’s the perfect street track. It’s already one of my favourite tracks on the calendar.
    People who jump to disliking it, clearly have never watched any IndyCar street races or the F3 Macau GP.

    1. This track looks FANTASTIC.

      Whatever you’re smoking or ingesting is not good for your health.

      1. You are being rude for no reason.
        If you want a twisty track with short straights it’s called the Monaco GP… and nobody wants to watch that race including yourself.
        Las Vegas is the very opposite of Monaco. Think about it.

        1. You are being rude for no reason.

          No, I think that you’ve bought into the glitz hype of Vegas and decided to ignore the largely featureless track layout.

          As to Monaco, the layout needs amendment. Running the track from the tunnel section through to the start-finish (reversed) and then right off that into Avenue du Port, right into Rue Grimaldi taking things further back through the town and then back to the normal track run should work better.
          Convert the harbour front to pit lane/paddock. More space.

    2. Man, if you and I are looking at the same layout, we have very different visions of what makes a proper racetrack

  20. “Long, wide straights should aid passing”

    Let’s be real. A wide straight isn’t going to magically aid racing lol.

    It’s relatively wide corners, but more so he arrangements of corner that provide good racing, eg Bahrain Silverstone and Brazil.

    I’ve seen two simple left hand corners on the track before long “wide” straights, that have the apex protruding so far in it’s basically a peninsula.

    Hopefully theyre not off camber but as for the racing I hope it’s good, just looks like it might have some gulfs in the way

    1. A long wide straight has the potential to make DRS more powerful, which is the only way F1 currently seems to consider to get more overtakes.

      That said, of the teams all bring low downforce setups DRS is likely to be less powerful than normal…

      1. Billy Rae Flop
        14th November 2023, 7:40

        What does a wide straight do to make drs more powerful?

        My underlying points was about racing rather than overtakes which is why I mentioned those tracks. Overtakes is highway code, racing is what we seek.

    2. “Long, wide straights should aid passing”. If this was fun, I’d really enjoy those long drives on a motorway, instead of fighting to stay fully awake.

      1. Should submit your dash cams to F1, they might consider a new team under your leadership

  21. Lmao I have never so many articles appeasing Liberty/F1 in my life as I have for this race. F1 is generally becoming a kiss the ring sport whereby most media organisations are terrified to call out reality in fear of rocking the boat & hand that feeds all.

    1. Or maybe, just maybe, your opinion is not shared by all. Racefans has never had any problem providing fair and balanced coverage. If there were some major problem with the race, I’d fully expect to hear it.

      Otherwise they provide this comment section for you to share your version of reality that needs to be called out. But instead of sharing that you go on some conspiracy crusade. Unenlightening.

      1. He does have a point. It’s subtle but it’s not hard to spot the change in sky’s coverage if the that last few years. Perhaps especially in commentary.

        This one of course is essentially FOMs own event so naturally there will be that side to it.

        1. Sky, as well as all the broadcasters before it, do tread a careful line. They cannot be overly critical of the rights holder or the FIA without good cause, and they want to hype up the sport, too, as that’s what they’re making their money from.

          However, I don’t think that applies to RaceFans. This article is hyping up the weekend, but it’s not much different to the articles they do for all races, and they are much quicker to write critical articles where they think it’s warranted.

    2. I wrote a pretty damning assessment on Liberty’s total lack of investment back into grassroots motorsport a week or two ago after they announced their revenue figures and was made comment of the day. I don’t think any other media outlets do anything like this. RaceFans is the only outlet where you sense a true skeptical eye. Sure it has to tick the boxes because F1 is F1, and it’s pretty much the only revenue generators for any motorsport outlet, but you ire should be aimed elsewhere.

  22. Longest straight on the calendar. Some of the coldest temps of the year.
    Tires (and brakes) are going to be stone cold when they shut off that 90° left hander at the end.

    1. Doesn’t really matter. That apex at the end of the straight is an entire peninsula extending out into he track

  23. What intrigues me is what’s reported elsewhere, that this will be the lowest attendance at any GP this year?

  24. This GP may be “hyped”, but mostly by media related to F1 and Liberty. I’ve seen no hype otherwise. Perhaps amongst people in Las Vegas, but they don’t even know what F1 is; they just like shows. I don’t expect 10% of those to know who Michael Schumacher is. Such a Kitsch snooze fest this GP will be, except if tires give up and we get some crazy results. But they can race on ice in Europe too if they want, artificial or real in winter.

  25. I for one love all the positivity surrounding this track on RF. The predictions are so dire that I’m now 30% convinced it’ll be a cracker. Well, if it’s, at least they’ll be a lot of them there.

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