Vegas spectators ‘don’t understand what we do’ and won’t become F1 fans – Verstappen

Formula 1

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Max Verstappen doubts Liberty Media’s showpiece new Las Vegas Grand Prix will succeed in bringing new fans to the sport.

F1’s commercial rights holder has spent up to half a billion dollars in setting up the event which is being held for the first time this weekend on the Las Vegas Strip Circuit.

Verstappen is sceptical of the new event and was unhappy at being required to take part in an opening ceremony which make him feel like a “clown”. The Red Bull driver explained his feelings about the race after today’s qualifying session, including why he doubts it will inspire new fans to follow the sport.

“Of course, a kind of show element is important,” he said. “But I like emotion and for me, when I was a little kid, it was about the emotion of the sport, what I fell in love with, not the show of the sport around it. Because I think, as a real racer, that shouldn’t really matter.

“A car, first of all, a racing car, a Formula 1 car anyway on a street circuit I think doesn’t really come alive. It’s not that exciting. I think it’s more about just the proper race tracks. When you go to Spa, Monza, these kind of places, they have a lot of emotion and passion. For me, seeing the fans there is incredible. And for us as well when I jump in the car there, I’m fired up and I love driving around these kind of places.

“Of course, I understand that fans, they need maybe something to do as well around the track. But I think it’s more important that you actually make them understand what we do as a sport because most of them just come to have a party, drink, see a DJ play or a performance act. I can do that all over the world.

“I can go to Ibiza and get completely shitfaced and have a good time. But that’s what happens and actually, people, they come and they become a fan of what? They want to see maybe their favourite artist and have a few drinks with their mates and then go out and have a crazy night out but they don’t actually understand what we are doing and what we are putting on the line to perform.”

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Liberty Media should put more effort into improving the sport rather than turning it into more of a show, Verstappen believes. “If you would actually invest more time into the actual sport, what we’re actually trying to achieve here is to – as little kids, we grew up wanting to be a world champion – if I think the sport would put more focus onto these kind of things and also explain more what a team is doing throughout season, what they are achieving, what they are working for, these kind of things I find way more important to look at than just having all these random shows all over the place.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Monaco, 2023
Vegas can’t hold a candle to Monaco, says Verstappen
“For me, it’s not what I am very passionate about. I like passion and emotion with these kind of places. I love Vegas, but not to drive an F1 car, I love to go out and have a few drinks, throw everything on red or whatever, be a bit crazy, have nice food. But like I said, emotion, passion, it’s not there compered to some old-school tracks.”

He also repeated his criticism the track layout, which he previously said was no fun to drive, comparing it unfavourably to Monaco. “I think Monaco is like Champions League,” he said. “This is National League.”

His rival Carlos Sainz Jnr suffered an unfortunate start to the weekend when his car was badly damaged by a broken water valve cover. He received a 10-place grid penalty as a result of the repairs his team had to make. Track repairs meant the second practice session was delayed and F1 had to empty the spectator stands before it began.

Despite F1’s faltering start in Vegas and Sainz’s setbacks, he believes the series can strike the right balance between the sport and the show.

“I think we need to learn to separate things,” he said. “There’s the sport and there’s the show and I think you can have both in a good combination and harmony.

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“With this opening ceremony, with all the show around the grand prix, all the hotels, all the VIP access I see this as a very good opportunity for F1. I think it’s a good thing that F1 is coming to Vegas and I’m enjoying the experience of coming to Vegas to do a Formula 1 race there.”

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Las Vegas Strip Circuit, 2023
Sainz raced was ruined on Thursday
However he said the series hadn’t done a good enough job of running the competition smoothly to begin with. “As a sport we cannot fail in these important events. And I feel like we started on a very bad foot yesterday.

“It was a very good opportunity to make a statement as a sport and to open Vegas with a very good image and with a very good attraction to everyone.”

He said people who have come to watch the race have been confused by his penalty. “I have people that have never come to a race that are still asking me why am I getting a penalty for what happened. They’ve never been to an F1 race.”

“Separating the two things I’m all for the show, all for growing of sport, but the sport has to be there,” he stressed. “And I feel like yesterday we didn’t start on the right foot. I paid the price by far the most of it.

“I hope that tomorrow we have an exciting race, that F1 shows the whole world what we’re made of, what kind of racing we can produce, what kind of spectacle and what kind of sport we are on.

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“If this goes well tomorrow, hopefully FP1 would be forgotten – my penalty, not – but FP1 will be forgotten and we will enjoy a good weekend and I think overall, it will be a positive weekend for F1.”

His team mate Charles Leclerc, who took pole position for Saturday’s race, said he was disappointed by the poor reaction to some aspects of the event, and also hopes F1 can redeem itself in the grand prix.

“I was sad yesterday to see how much criticism there was around the track,” said the Ferrari driver. “Of course it wasn’t good enough, and that is clear to everybody. But obviously we must not forget also how much work there has been from many, many people in order to make this event work.

“I think it looks amazing. I really hope we have an exciting race tomorrow in order to really show what Formula 1 is. Yesterday was obviously a pretty bad start, but I think it’s an amazing venue for Formula 1.

“We are a sport, for sure, and we need to keep the DNA of the sport, which is the most important thing for everybody. At the same time, I believe that opportunities like this needs to be taken and a little bit of show around the track to attract people that maybe wouldn’t have come to a Formula 1 race is needed. So you always need to find the right balance between show and sport.”

However he admitted he has misgivings about the return of the pre-race driver introductions. “I’m not so happy about the show before just before the race because I think this is a time where we need to focus on what really matters, which is racing.

“On the other hand, I think the venue and the event looks amazing and there’s been a lot of hard work in order to get there, which has to be appreciated.

“At the end of the weekend, we’ll obviously look back at all the things that didn’t go well in order for these things to not happen because it is clear that it’s not acceptable what happened in FP1.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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37 comments on “Vegas spectators ‘don’t understand what we do’ and won’t become F1 fans – Verstappen”

  1. I completely agree with Max.

    Most of these newer car park tracks are awful tracks and there’s just no passion or excitement around them.

    You look at places like Melbourne, Monza, Imola, Spa, Silverstone, Suzuka, Montreal etc.. that you have passionate & knowledgeable fans who are there for the sport and love the sport which creates an atmosphere that none of the modern car park show over sport tiktok events could ever hope to match.

    Liberty should remember that F1 is a sport and the primary focus should be on the sport rather than the contrived netflix show they seem obsessed with turning it into at the expense of the sport and it’s passionate and knowledgeable fans.

    1. Tbf they are trying to grow the sport by taking it to places where it has little following.

      That said, I’m not entirely convinced about their methods.

    2. Oddly enough, the LV track seems incredibly generic.
      I think at least 2/3 of the lap, one could mistake that images as anywhere that used a similar scheme – street track at night, like Singapore, Jeddah

    3. Liberty are here to make money be squeezing the assets, like any other venture capital firm.
      Once the well is dry, they move on to the next victim.
      This is why we can’t have nice things.

  2. Maybe Max should sit this one out.

  3. In addition to Max’s comments all I can say about all this saga is Tom Kutscher and his SKUSA team should be absolute lauded for the superb Supernats event they did this year after having to leave their traditional weekend slot and venue (Rio Hotel, Las Vegas) because of F1. They had to move to the Las Vegas Super Speedway and work out several comprimises. I can’t imagine the stress they have gone through this year having to deal with F1’s decision to race in Las Vegas this month.

    That’s a motorsport event with actual heart (and one that doesn’t inconvenience & cost residents) that takes place on the ‘Strip’, well used to. The fact F1 just waltzed in and figuratively kicked out America’s biggest kart event (if not the world’s) is quite eye-opening. The sport that gives them ALL of their drivers, and just kicked to the kerb with no thought, no help, nothing. It’ll survive and thrive at the Speedway of course, but it isn’t quite the same at its traditional venue.

  4. Always happy to see Max (or whichever driver) tell it how it is.

    F1 isn’t NASCAR and it just won’t entertain Americans in the way F1 is gambling on.

    This “Vegas style” entertainment is just a vacuous charade that tires F1’s loyal fans.

  5. Liberty have almost zero interest in genuine F1 fans.
    The vast majority of fans spend very little money on the sport.
    Liberty want people who will spend thousands of pounds on a weekend of entertainment.
    Buying F1 gave them the chance to commandeer major cities all around the world for just that purpose.
    I doubt if they care whether there is a race or not to be honest. They just want a slice of the weekends takings.

    1. Good point. I was lamenting how F1 seemed to actually daring new fans to follow the sport, but you have reminded me Liberty doesn’t give a fig about “fans”, they’re looking to attract wealthy donors.

  6. It’s like his PR assistant is intentionally souring his mood before getting him to his press events. He’s been grumpy all weekend. It’s rather amusing.

    1. because he’s clearly just as embarrassed at the whole farcical show and awful direction the SPORT is been dragged in by liberty as the rest of the fans of the SPORT are.

      he’s simply just telling it as it is. same as when he talks about how dreadful the silly sprint gimmick format and drs push of a button highway pass gimmick are.

      max is a true fan, a true racer and just refuses to spit out any of the show over sport Americanised nonsense that liberty want the drivers, media etc.. to spout.

      i just wish more of the drivers would follow his lead and say what they really think rather than what liberty & the pr team want them to say!

      1. The “whole farcical show and awful direction the SPORT is been dragged in by liberty” you mention is what won him his first title.

    2. Yep. Max has comprehension issues. Can’t understand that spectators are being fleeced left and right, by the organizers. Getting a voucher for an amount which doesn’t cover the cost of anything. If you received a voucher for a Thursday only ticket, you’d have to purchase another entry ticket, just to redeem it, at their store. (Whaaa?) Having outrageously dumb sporting rules, which defy all common sense. Prima Donna drivers, who think that having to wave to the crowd is below their status, and pay grade of millions per year. Toady team principles ( yes, you Toto), who don’t understand the effects of poor planning by the organizers, and sloughing it off with an angry comment. Yep. They just don’t understand.

      1. Max is very much an introvert, that much is clear and so many of his type, come through karting where of course the eyes on them are very local and to a much smaller level. Then they make it to the big leagues and driving is still their ultimate passion and why they continue the sport but don’t like all the attention that comes with a worldwide loved sport. Max knew very well what he was signing up for when he got into F1 and driving is only a small part of what the whole experience is about.

        It’s one thing to voice your opinion but some of the things he’s said is downright disrespectful and ignorant and shows his immaturity. He needs to know his place, if he thinks this sport isn’t fan driven and that without them he’d even have a salary then he’s sorely mistaken. Obviously fans aren’t going to behave the same across all countries F1 races at, he is basically saying he has a preference for how fans should be and Vegas fans aren’t it.

        1. His place is being the best driver and current face of F1. I’m sure he knows his place.

          He’d have a salary don’t worry. F1 didn’t need this popularity to pay drivers obscene amounts. Some of you all are so new it’s immediately obvious from how short sighted the comments are.

          I’m sure your drama version of F1 keeps you happy.

        2. The phrase “needs to know his place” is the most arrogant comment a person can make.

      2. The store is online as well, so can’t they use the voucher online?

  7. He couldn’t be more spot-on about the matter generally, although I never realized Ibiza is like Europe’s Las Vegas, but can see the Champions League vs National League reference.

  8. All they need to do is put some camera angles and intense music when Verstappen enters the ceremony later. Job done. Then focus on Perez and Hamilton.

  9. If America had real fans, they would be setting off orange smoke bombs, getting drunk and insulting women.

  10. This year Verstappen is also politically super right. Love this part of him and his vision about F1, really really appreciated

  11. All this Max fans sitting there talking down a sport which we all love is really sad.
    We only need to listen to Leclerc to understand how a champion should comport themselves in these kind of situations. The reality is that we are all different people and rather than celebrating over diversity and the aspects we all love in f1(the show/flash, rivalries/sportmanship), people like Max mean to carve put who is real and who is not. This is sad. If we are trying to build a global sport, then we must be all-encompassing and embrace bringing new interest to the sport.

    1. Well Leclerc isnt champion is he? And in any case, I’d rather have an honest-but-blunt Max than a media-housetrained Hamilton anyday.

      And no, F1 does not need to be all-encompassing, anymore than football or country music needs to be all-encompassing. You either like it for waht it is or you don’t, and if you don’t you’re free to go elsewhere.

    2. You are entitled to an opinion…but…. so is max.
      So accept he is more of the pure sportsman type and less of the PR puppet you seem to like.
      Real characters are very necessary in F1.
      Btw, its the media that asks these questions, max only answers to his own opinion ( something you seem to detest when not fitting your narrative)
      And yes i am a ” Max fan”, just like i am a leclerc fan, a norris fan etc… i like real racers for their competence on track , not in a PR situation.

  12. Max nailed it. 100% agree.

  13. I like it when drivers reach a certain point – either through being too talented/wealthy for anyone to punish them for it, or from indifference to their own future – that they feel confident and happy to go into a press conference and actually say what they think. Even if F1/Liberty/their team/whoever would obviously prefer they didn’t.

    Can’t quite remember anyone being so happy doing it as Verstappen, though. Probably a combination of his own personality and the fact he seems less interested in building and nurturing his ‘brand’ and keeping various partners happy than other drivers.

    1. +1

      Any other driver, perhaps with the exception of Hamilton, would have already received a slap on the wrist for saying something like this. It’s so rare these days for a famous person to say their own opinion rather than simply being a corporate mouthpiece, makes these statements even more virtuous.

  14. He’s correct, but then again, whatever.
    The Indy500 races were always seen as a big sunday gathering, just a reason for people to get together and get wasted, and just some of these people actually care about the race.

    Americans consume motorsports on their own way. He may not agree with it, and that’s ok. It doesn’t really matter.

  15. He really hates this place, doesn’t he?, I actually kind of admire him for saying what he thinks.

    Fwiw, i still think this event is going to be the flop of all flops. And not even for the reasons Verstappen raises.

    Doesn’t look like a great experience for fans even outwith the farce of Practice and the drain frames, it’s a touch too cold for these cars at night, so tyres probably going to be graining all race, and A big one that i think will play on it is that it also doesn’t even translate well on TV for international viewers, so doesn’t even really have a gimmick factor.

    For starters, it’s a night race, which given what Las Vegas is, all the lights down the strip etc, makes sense on paper… except it doesn’t work. It’s not visually interesting. Between the large barriers (because street track) and the intense lighting needed for that (because night race), you don’t actually see any of it, bar the odd glimpse of something on the main straight or the sphere on a long shot or an onboard. Which ultimately, takes all the ‘razzamatazz’ away they wanted to convey and just makes it feel like another Singapore with a hint of Baku.

    Except the track itself also has very little in the way of visual references. Move from one shot to the next, and you can’t really tell what corner is what on the track. It all just looks the same, again, barriers and bright floodlights drowning out all visuals beyond it, mixed with a pretty nondescript and flat circuit.

    And, i stand to be corrected on this, but i’m struggling to see where the overtaking will happen. Far too much follow the leader single file parts leading into medium speed corners cars will probably not follow well in and not really any passing places of note. Looks like it’ll be a DRS train fest, but time will tell.

    1. Good post and well stated, I agree totally, especially about not knowing which corners we’re seeing. I’ve studied the track map but am having difficulty knowing where cars are in this featureless concrete tunnel.

    2. Indeed, and the TV audience gets the worst of it because the camera’s simply can’t keep up with difference in light between the floodlight-illuminated track and the environment around it. Even the stills photographers are struggling with this, and they can usually do a bit more work on their images than live TV cameras can.

      I imagine this venue would be far cooler with a sportscar grid and the floodlights turned down to something like 20% of what they are now. For example; this year there was a colorful carousel like building on the outside of the entry to the Porsche curves at Le Mans, and it was very visible even from the cars’ onboard cameras. While the track there has some lighting, it’s very dim compared to what F1 has to use. The final Ford chicanes are probably the most lit parts of the track, and you can still easily see all the buildings surrounding the track. Whereas from Leclerc’s pole lap video there are only a few times where the surroundings are clearly identifiable. Usually it’s just a dark sea of nothingness outside the track fencing, with some rare illuminated billboards in the distance but no outlines of any buildings.

      As a TV product, the venue could definitely do with some rethinking. The race might still be fun, but it’s not really selling Las Vegas as such.

  16. Too many words, time and space wasted on what one or other driver said. I do care less than zero for anything they say or do except when driving.

    1. oh. well, Kimi used to be an exception

  17. This is a guy who cuts someone off and then calls him an idiot when he misses the turn. I dunno, I think hes just miffed he doesnt have pole by over a second. Not enough corners to get his traction control to make a difference.

  18. I agree with Max; but at the same time, the drivers were on show for all of 3 minutes for the opening ceremony. They just had to stand, smile and wave. They get paid millions of dollars, the least they can do is smile and wave for a few minutes.

    I mean, I’m probably not going to watch it (I only did this time to see what they were all complaining about), but seriously guys HTFU.

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