After a four-decade absence, Las Vegas welcomed the return of Formula One. Here is everything you need to know about the glamorous weekend.
Las Vegas, Nevada, has a reputation for being one of the biggest party cities in the world. This energy, combined with the fact that Formula One had not held a race there in forty years – made the Las Vegas Grand Prix one of the most highly anticipated races of the 2023 season. F1 and Liberty Media have even done non-stop marketing and promotion since it was announced.
The week started with excitement over driver appearances around the city and the Netflix Cup featuring four current drivers golfing with PGA pros. However, the first practice for the race, held Thursday at 8:30 p.m. PST, provided excitement of the wrong kind.
Eight minutes into the event, Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz ran over a manhole cover that had broken free from the ground. Moments later, Esteban Ocon, driving for Alpine, ran over that same cover. These incidents caused significant damage to both cars, a red flag canceling the practice, and a subsequent delay of the second free practice as the organizers were forced to fill the dozens of drains on the track with quick setting concrete, unable to weld the covers shut due to local laws. It also handed Carlos Sainz what was widely considered an unfair ten-place grid penalty, as Ferrari had to replace various crucial car parts (Survival Cell, Internal Combustion Engine, Energy Store and Control Electronics) that were damaged by the dislodged manhole cover. The stewards noted that while these were mitagating circumstances, the regulations did not grant them the authority to bypass the mandatory penalty.
Fans and drivers waited two and a half hours for the commencement of the second free practice, but just before the start, fans were asked to leave the venue for safety reasons. These disappointed fans, who had paid a high price to watch the thrilling action of the practices, were only given a $200 merchandise compensation voucher. This enraged many, and a few even filed a class action lawsuit. A joint statement from F1 President Stefano Domenicali and Las Vegas Grand Prix CEO Renee Wilm reiterated that the closure of the circuit to spectators during the second practice was due to safety and legal considerations. However, the statement did not include a direct apology for depriving the fans of what they came to see.
Despite these course issues and the negative experience for some fans, the actual race was deemed a hit by many. It delivered different kinds of excitement, including two safety cars, Perez, Leclerc, and Verstappen, battling for first throughout the race, and ultimately, Leclerc overtaking Perez on the final lap to secure second place. The three-time world champion, Max Verstappen, exclaimed, “I’m already excited to come back here next year,” after the race where he clinched his 18th victory of the season. Charles Leclerc also said he was glad the “Grand Prix in Las Vegas was exciting for drivers and fans.”
Although the weekend did not start out as expected, the Las Vegas Grand Prix delivered an enthralling spectacle that left an indelible mark on the season. The 2023 schedule is drawing to a close with just a single race remaining. But with an ongoing four-way tussle for fourth place, anticipation mounts for an action-packed and thrilling final showdown in Abu Dhabi.
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