Pierre Gasly, Alpine, Las Vegas Strip Circuit, 2023

‘No fun’ or ‘fun’? ‘Solid’ or ‘sketchy’? Drivers’ verdicts on the Las Vegas F1 track

Formula 1

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Was the Las Vegas Strip Circuit a simplistic course designed to encourage DRS passes? Or a surprisingly challenging and thrillingly fast street track?

The venue for the first Las Vegas Grand Prix provoked different responses from the drivers, partly coloured by how successful they were or how well their cars suited the layout.

Before the race many had been concerned the track wouldn’t be very challenging to drive and that despite its many long straights overtaking would prove difficult as the surface lacked grip and the DRS would not be very powerful.

After the grand prix some of those views had changed. Most drivers found overtaking was possible, perhaps partly due to the extension of the DRS zone on the Strip before final practice. Concerns over the lack of grip remained, however, and a few drivers had specific ideas on how to improve the layout.

Here’s what they said.

Max Verstappen

Las Vegas Strip circuit track map
Track data: Las Vegas Strip Circuit
The Red Bull driver was no fan of the event, and described the track layout as too unchallenging before the weekend began. However he felt it was likely to produce good racing, and afterwards attributed that to a few reasons:

I think low deg[radation] on the hard tyre.

A lot of slipstreaming with the long straights and probably a bit of a headwind on the straight as well.

I think the low-speed corners, when you’re following you don’t really lose that much time because they are that slow, the corners.

And then there’s a lot of draft around the track after turn four to five, from turn nine to 12 and then of course all the way from 12 to 14 and then from 16 to turn one is, again, a draft-fest. So that made the racing much better.

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Charles Leclerc

“I did not expect to have that much fun”
The driver who finished second and came close to winning was surprised how much easier it was to overtake than it was in the second practice session, before the DRS zone on the Strip was extended.

I loved the racing. I did not expect to have that much fun in the race because in FP2 I was following, I think, George [Russell] and I really struggled to overtake him.

Then we went down on the downforce and today was much better. I had a lot more fun.

It was a really exciting race and I’m pretty sure it was a really good one to watch. So I’ll make sure I watch that race back.

Sergio Perez

A recurring theme among many drivers was the lack of grip on the track surface. Although the race involved many changes of position, several drivers were concerned about how little grip they had.

The low grip, I think that was something that really caught us out, how the asphalt, basically, how low it was, how we started with it but really how we finished it was really, I think, on the low side.

It’s always going to be like that because we didn’t have any support events. So maybe it’s something that also can be improved, to have more categories in the weekend.

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Esteban Ocon

“With such long straights it was always going to be good racing”
After climbing from 16th on the grid to finish fourth, Esteban Ocon raved about the circuit:

The track has been fun to race and I knew that was going to be the case with the long straight.

As expected, with such long straights it was always going to be some good racing.

I had some good moves on the tight section as well, not only in the fast parts. People could say it’s only DRS overtakes and it’s boring, but I had a good pass on the brakes to Logan [Sargeant] into turn seven, so that was fun.

Lance Stroll

Lance Stroll was another driver who gained a lot of places, rising to fifth from the back row of the grid, and also praised the track.

I enjoyed it for sure. Nothing really to say. It was actually a lot of fun to race, a little bit like Baku.

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Carlos Sainz Jnr

“Maybe turn 12 is a bit too dangerous”
Lando Norris crashed heavily at turn 12 and was taken to hospital, meaning he wasn’t around to speak to media after the race. But Carlos Sainz Jnr had some concerns about the run-off where his former team mate came to rest.

It’s a decent racing track for racing. For me maybe turn 12 is a bit too dangerous with the wall coming towards you. I think we can do a better shape of that corner, also to improve the racing because it’s very difficult to follow. So hopefully this gets better for next year.

Lewis Hamilton

The track was compared by many drivers, including Lewis Hamilton, to Baku City Circuit in Azerbaijan, another high-speed street track.

The race was great. It was one of the best races. So many people, all the media, everyone’s been so negative about this race and about the show and all that. Just let it be and see how it goes. Great race, this is like Baku but better.

George Russell

Hamilton’s team mate George Russell was prepared to admit the circuit wasn’t as simple as he originally expected. He remained of the view overtaking wasn’t easy, though Mercedes’ high drag was probably a factor in that.

The track was actually a lot better to drive than I anticipated. It looked pretty basic from a track map, but it’s actually got quite a lot of character, a really challenging circuit to drive.

But with the nature of the low-downforce circuit, the slipstreaming really isn’t that substantial, I don’t know how many overtakes there were in the race but it wasn’t straightforward to pass.

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Fernando Alonso

“No grip, no visibility, bouncing like hell”
While several drivers praised the quality of the race F1 had in Las Vegas, the most experienced competitor on the grid said the series should not use it as a template for all future events.

We need a balance. As we said this week – all drivers – there is not much fun to drive in this kind of circuit at [these] speeds, 360kph, with no grip, no visibility, bouncing like hell and these kind of things.

I know this show from the outside maybe looks good, but these cars are not made to go at corners of 80kph. These [cars] are made to go in Suzuka, to go in Barcelona, to go in Silverstone and maximise a Formula 1 potential.

So I think we need to balance the championship and balance the calendar. I think it’s what we are doing. But I don’t think that this is the only way to go. I think we need to have to keep some traditional races as well where the Formula 1 car can shine.

Oscar Piastri

Rookie Oscar Piastri’s comments were typical of many drivers, in that he found it an unchallenging circuit but one which produced a good race.

To drive it’s not on my ‘favourites’ list. But to race it’s honestly quite good.

I think the sort of DRS zone into that last chicane was a pretty good length that made it not a super-simple overtake into that corner. So I think that was good.

Of course a lot of people were on different tyres, a lot of people suffering with graining, some not, so it just creates a natural pace difference between a lot of cars. And to be honest, I think at any circuit where you have that, that’s going to be the case because going into the race, we thought it would be quite difficult to overtake.

So a pleasant surprise and hopefully was entertaining.

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Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri, Las Vegas Strip Circuit 2023
“Maybe they could do something to the surface”
The AlphaTauri drivers had a difficult weekend as their car seemed to especially struggle with the low-grip nature of the track. Daniel Ricciardo feels holding the track sessions earlier in the day when the track is warmer might help:

Definitely it was sketchy. And if other drivers are saying it, we were really sketchy.

I don’t know what they can do with track opening times, but if they do have flexibility, I think for everyone’s health and safety bring it forward. Maybe a bit of temperature, but also just everyone would be operating with a little bit more juice in the tank.

Maybe they could do something to the surface. I know in Saudi they pressure wash it or whatever, so maybe they could do some treatment to it to make it a bit more abrasive and help the grip.

Zhou Guanyu

Zhou echoed Ricciardo’s comments, pointing out the constant need to reopen the track meant any improvements in grip levels were erased every 24 hours:

It was not bad, but it is very dusty. I think the only thing not ideal was just the Tarmac we had this weekend. It was almost worse than Doha in FP1, if you look.

Every day the Tarmac was going back to the starting point. So if we can have Tarmac similar to Jeddah it would make the race a lot more entertaining.

Logan Sargeant

Home racer Logan Sargeant offered some other thoughts on how to improve the track for racing:

I think maybe some of the kerbs can be a little bit nicer to ride. Apex kerb at 12, apex kerb at 15 could probably just be removed that one, open that corner up a little bit. Other than that, it’s pretty solid.

Valtteri Bottas

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo, Las Vegas Strip Circuit 2023
“I always thought it’s going to be a good track for racing”
Valtteri Bottas said the track doesn’t need changes and believes it was good for racing, though he spent much of the race stuck at the back in a car which was damaged on the first lap.

I always thought it’s going to be a good track for racing. I think today showed, yes. It would have been nice to be part of it actually playing around, but I was a bit more like a sitting duck myself. I think it deserves a place on the calendar.

Nico Hulkenberg

Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg recognised the limitations F1 had to work within to produce the track, and felt they had succeeded within those constraints:

It’s good, actually. Obviously there’s a set of circumstances that they have to build and design the circuit around with the Strip with this plot of land. But I actually enjoyed it, I think the track’s quite cool.

2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix

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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...
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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3 comments on “‘No fun’ or ‘fun’? ‘Solid’ or ‘sketchy’? Drivers’ verdicts on the Las Vegas F1 track”

  1. Logan has seemingly somehow found out my view about the T12 apex curb, as his suggestion is precisely identical, although I don’t mind T15 as much T14 apex curb.
    I’d also slighten the T8 radius & even remove the previous corner apex curb as a compromise to not getting a continous left-hander a la Sochi Autodrom’s T3.

  2. Max’s (or Elvis???) final veredict was crystal clear:

    Vivaaaa Las Vegas

    1. Christian’s.
      (I agree with Alonso)

Comments are closed.