Why the Las Vegas Grand Prix announcement is a seminal moment for F1
Las Vegas, Nevada – Entertainment Capital of the World. It’s a city known for excitement, glitz, glamour – and as of 2023, the newest race location on the Formula 1 calendar. F1 Correspondent Lawrence Barretto headed to the desert city ahead of the announcement to check out what we have in store.
When I think of Las Vegas, I think of the land of plenty, a city known for casinos decadent hotels and plethora of illuminated signs with famous names and faces. I think of an ‘anything is possible’ attitude, swimming pool-size buffets and a city that is more American than a Banana Split.
On touching down in the desert city, it was everything like that – only it was bigger, brighter, glitzier. Las Vegas is all about the superlatives.
With a deal agreed to bring F1 back to Las Vegas for the first time in 40 years, I was fortunate enough to be sent out to take a sneak peak at the place and film a video with ESPN SportsCenter anchor Nicole Briscoe to be released on the day of the announcement. And what better way to see iconic city than in a beautiful blue Big Finned Cadillac. Floating around the city, I felt like a rockstar.
Heading out of the hotel onto the famous Strip – which for the first time in history will be part of a Formula 1 racetrack in Las Vegas – after sunset you’re struck by just how different the place looks at night. It feels like you’re in an outdoor arcade, with bright lights, huge billboards, locals playing music on speakers. It’s an assault on your senses. The place comes alive.
There are masses of people streaming along the sidewalks, eyeing up the next establishment to duck into, perhaps to grab a drink, have a flutter or grab a seat at a show. There are eight lanes on the Strip – split down the middle by a tree-lined central reservations – and it’s heaving, mostly with taxis, classic cars and modern convertibles.
We head to the High Roller, the tallest observation wheel in North America. It towers 550ft above the centre of the Strip and will offer one of the best views in town come race weekend next November, with each of the 28 cabins taking 30 minutes to complete a full rotation.
From there, we spin the car round and head towards the Wynn, accelerating through what will be a high-speed Turn 7-8 sequence and passing its luscious golf course that is sure to be a pre-race attraction for the likes of Alex Albon, Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc.
We then indicate left, taking the turn that that quartet and the rest of the field will take onto the Strip. The enormity of the hotels that line the Strip quickly becomes apparent. As do the bright lights and huge signs advertising each establishment. You don’t know where to look first.
To your left is the Venetian, which replicates Venice’s Grand Canal, complete with gondolas to ferry you from one side to the other of this very grand hotel. On your right is the decadent Caesars Palace, whose former car park hosted the two previous editions of F1 in Las Vegas but now houses a shopping mall and the Mirage Hotel, dominating the skyline.
Then the Bellagio – with its iconic fountains that dance to music every 15 minutes through the evening – bursts into view. Look left and it’s the Eiffel Tower, which adorns the front of the Paris Hotel. Then the Cosmopolitan, with its epic Boulevard deck, appears – and this is a signal to flick off the Strip and into a left-hander back towards the finish line.
For 2km it’s a feast of light. The roads are bumpy, as you might expect given how much traffic pounds this piece of road – but that won’t be a problem for the drivers come race weekend, with organisers set to completely resurface the route where the 14-turn track – which features three straights – runs. Aside the from the grandstands that’ll pop up, there’s so many places to watch from.
Think Monaco, where fans hang off balconies, lampposts, and trees and multiply it by a hundred. There’s just so many terraces, extravagant suites, swimming pool decks and bar balconies to recline on which also boast an impeccable view of the circuit.
While it’s tricky to imagine Formula 1 cars blasting down the Strip and hitting speeds in excess of 300km/h as we cruise along in the Caddy, stopping every few hundred metres for a red light with traffic nose to tail for much of the 4-mile Strip, you can’t help but be excited about the prospect.
It’ll feel like a computer game, with fast and furious action, the new-for-2022 futuristic-looking F1 cars sparkling under the neon lights with their powerful V6 turbo-hybrid engines thundering an extraordinary soundtrack to the beats of the hundreds of bars and nightclubs.
This is going to be more than just a race. The Las Vegas Grand Prix will be an event. With more than 150,000 hotel rooms, the place will be heaving, delivering the kind of buzz and electric atmosphere Formula 1 has never seen before.
Having spent the day shopping and indulging in fine dining and cocktails, race goers can rent a cabana by the pool to soak up the sun or head to a Spa. And then still have time to freshen up before taking their seat for the race, so late into the evening will the lights go out.
And even when the chequered flag falls, that won’t be the end. Vegas never stops. It’s a 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week party city. Head to one of huge casinos, grab a bite to eat or another drink on a terrace. Or maybe grab a ticket to one of the huge shows, whether it’s magic with Penn and Teller, a seat at Cirque du Soleil or one of the many A-list residencies scattered across the city.
There’s something remarkable about Vegas. It’s seductive. It’s hypnotic. It’s exhausting. It wants you to live your best life. And from next year, it’ll feature the greatest motorsport on earth, racing on what is set to become one of the most iconic pieces of racetrack on the Formula 1 calendar.
F1 and Las Vegas are a match made in heaven. Bring on November 2023.
For the latest information on the Las Vegas Grand Prix, visit F1LasVegasGrandPrix.com