Turn seven, Las Vegas Strip Circuit, 2023

How some drivers have been “positively surprised” by Las Vegas’ F1 track

Formula 1

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Formula 1 drivers have mixed views on what they expect from the layout of the Las Vegas Strip Circuit ahead of their first experience of driving it.

However several have seen encouraging signs based on their first simulator sessions on the new track.

The 20-strong field will drive the six-kilometre street circuit for the first time late on Thursday evening in Nevada as first practice for the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix gets underway.

After many drivers took advantage of the opportunity to take part in a track walk in the very early hours of Wednesday morning, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc admitted he was more excited by the circuit after experiencing it in his team’s simulator for the first time.

“First of all, it looks a bit like a pig on the other side around,” Leclerc joked.

“To be honest, at first, when I saw the track layouts, I was like, ‘this is going to be a super boring track’. And then I tried it on the simulator and I was positively surprised and I actually really enjoyed it.

“It’s quite technical, lots of braking combined [with turning], which makes it very difficult for front lock-ups and also the fact that it’s going to be super-low grip, as it always is on a street track in FP1. It’s going to make things interesting. But I hope we can have good racing and, looking at the track layouts, I think we could have good overtaking opportunities.”

Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas said that the track appears largely as his team expected from their pre-race data.

“I’ve seen most of it and looks pretty similar,” Bottas said. “In places, it’s actually visually looks a bit more narrow than I thought, but that’s mainly actually some straight parts.

“It looks pretty much like I was expecting. Already from the first lap in the simulator, I knew that it’s going to be actually a good track for racing – the straights are so long that there’s going to be lots of slipstreaming.

“It’s a low-downforce track as well, so if I would compare it to some parts of Baku, it’s kind of similar. You’ve got quite a few 90-degree corners, long straights. Probably not the most exciting in terms of the track layout, but I think if Saturday night is exciting, then everyone is happy, I guess.”

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However, Alpine driver Esteban Ocon said there is a significant difference between the Vegas track and the home of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

“Yes and no,” he said, “because in Baku there’s one big straight and then not really [many others]. Here there are corners like Baku – 90 degrees – and then a big straight after every one of them. So in Formula 1, I don’t think I’ve seen a track like that before.”

However Ocon is optimistic about the potential of the track layout to generate overtaking – especially down the extremely long and extremely fast straight down the famous Las Vegas Strip.

“I think the layout itself is maybe not going to be the most interesting for qualifying, even though there’s going to be a lot of towing and stuff,” he explained. “So it’s not the most fun for us, because you can be on the good end of it or the wrong end of it.

“But the race itself, as it’s not the most interesting layout, there’s a lot of straight line – and that brings obviously overtaking opportunities. It’s the longest straight I’ve ever seen.

“I did it on the electric scooter on the track last night at three in the morning and the thing was not ending. It was incredible. I was 25kph, still, and it just keeps going – I was there for five minutes. So for sure there’s going to be a lot of overtakes, probably three-abreast, stuff like that we see at Spa. So the racing, I think is going to be cool.”

Although the track continues to hold so many unknowns for this first edition of the event, Lance Stroll says he still expects the usual suspects to hold the advantage.

“At this level, everyone gets up to speed pretty quick,” he said. “The good cars are still good cars and the not-so-good cars are still not-so-good cars.

“But I think that the other aspects of the weekend in terms of temperatures and things like that can mix up the grid. If you get your tyres switched on, eight degrees temperatures, versus not getting switched on, it’s a huge difference in performance. So I think there’s opportunity in that regard to do something.”

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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...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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4 comments on “How some drivers have been “positively surprised” by Las Vegas’ F1 track”

  1. So nearly 2 km takes 5 min on an electric scooter.

    1. on anything that goes 25km/h

  2. I think Ocon has hit on something. Make the all race on electric scooters, and we might get an actual race.

  3. Interesting how the drivers have no idea, some saying there’ll be slipstreaming down the long straight, some not. Could be some good insight into which teams can accurately predict more than their own cars performance as those drivers will obviously be working off their teams insights.

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