Las Vegas delivers solid F1 debut amid teething problems

Issues around ticket prices, fan experience and track timings, but racing goes down well in city.
  • 315k spectators across four-day event
  • Cost of event far exceeded anticipated US$500m
  • Fans saw nine minutes of action on the Friday
  • General admission ticket priced at US$500

The inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix delivered a solid Formula One debut, but there are plenty of issues to be worked on ahead of next year.

Organisers would have breathed a sigh of relief to see drivers more or less come away unscathed from the event, outside of a scary crash for McLaren’s Lando Norris.

The buildup focused on concerns around tyre temperatures being affected by cold weather, but the race itself ended up being a pleasant surprise.

It produced 82 total passes and a thrilling battle for the lead between the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez and the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, although a 1.2-mile straight was bound to induce more overtakes.

All in all, around 315,000 spectators attended the event across four days, and it is expected to deliver an economic benefit of US$1.2 billion to the state of Nevada.

However, the anticipated cost of the event ultimately far outweighed the expected US$500 million budget. Still, this is a long-term project for Formula One.

To keep this project on the right path, work needs to be done around ticketing, track timings and the overall fan experience.

While commending its success, the chief executive of the Las Vegas Grand Prix, Renee Wilm, acknowledged that there had been oversights and improvements were necessary moving forward.

“I think we could have done a much better job communicating, particularly with all the local residents,” Wilm told the Associated Press (AP).

“We were posting to the websites we were required to, but I just think we were moving so quickly that we internally did not have the right resources to say ‘In addition to that, we also need to be communicating in the following ten ways’.

“We really were a startup with a very small team that was working in a very short amount of time.”

The majority of residents were against this race from the start, with the resulting disruption and traffic issues leading to Greg Maffei, chief executive of Liberty Media, apologising to locals.

For those that attended the race, the first day of action on the Friday left fans able to watch nine minutes of on-track action.

A dislodged manhole cover in the first practice session saw long delays and, ultimately, fans being escorted away from the racetrack before the second practice session began due to federal and union laws around the staff working at the circuit. A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the 35,000 aggrieved spectators.

A joint statement from Stefano Domenicali, chief executive of Formula One, and Wilm, read: ‘We were concerned about our public safety and security officials who had been in service for a long time and who are being asked to work for the next three nights. We thank Clark County’s Metro Police Department, Department of Public Works and other public safety officials for their incredible support during the event and also as we re-opened the track early this morning.

‘Second, we were concerned about our transportation employees who are responsible for driving our fans back to hotels. By federal law, they were bumping up against the amount of time they can legally and safely drive buses.

‘Finally, our hospitality staff needed the ability to clean and resupply our guest areas to ensure that the fan experience is optimal for everyone over the coming days.’

Ticket prices were also expensive, with the cheapest general admission ticket sitting at around US$500. A US$250 general admission ticket has gone live for 2024, but Wilm confirmed to AP that this is a non-refundable deposit and not the final price for next year.

“I think we are going to take a look at a lot of things from year one and think about what we did well and what we can improve on next year,” Wilm added to AP.

“I think we want to add more general admission ticketing. We want to be able to lean in more and look for ways to up the ante on the entertainment, while making sure it is a top-notch sporting event.”

While the unsociable hours of the race were enforced in large part to avoid road closures during the day, Formula One executives would need to reach an agreement with the city to avoid racing so late again.

Overall, it is safe to say this was a solid debut for Las Vegas, certainly something that gives it a platform to improve and establish itself on the calendar.

The race even seemingly won over one of its biggest detractors, with the highly critical Max Verstappen starting his weekend by calling the Grand Prix ‘99 per cent show, one per cent race’ and ending it saying that he couldn’t wait to come back next year. 


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