Is F1 in Las Vegas Crashing?

Opinion Entertainment Business
Dan Michalski

Updated by Dan Michalski

News Writer

Last Updated 14th Mar 2024, 07:22 AM

Is F1 in Las Vegas Crashing?

The F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix has gotten underway, and we can’t say it’s been without a hitch. Less than 10 minutes after opening the track for free practice runs on Thursday, out came a red flag when a loose manhole cover smashed the undercarriage of Ferrari racer Carlos Sainz’s car in front of Caesars Palace and brought him to a stop in front of the Eiffel Tower at the Paris casino resort. 

The explosion of sparks may have looked spectacular, but It left engineers and race officials scouring the circuit in the wee hours of the night for additional dangers, and a bevy of F1 non-fans screaming, “Ha!”

Driver Max Verstappen, who’s already wrapped up the 2023 world championship, dismissed the Las Vegas Grand Prix as “99% show, and 1% sporting event.” Though we can quibble with his percentages, some of us F1 cheerleaders are OK with his take – after all, putting on a show is what Vegas does best. 

Las Vegas authorities say this race will change the face of the city, converting not just the Strip into an F1 circuit, but also one of the slowest weeks of the year into its busiest. Many F1 team bosses are saying not to be dismayed by early hiccups, and that the event will still deliver.

So who will be proven right – the PR hype-machine partnership between Las Vegas casinos and Formula 1, or F1 haters who seem to be rooting for its failure? The race is on! 

Based on stuff we saw Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, here are nine ways to determine which side is winning


Opening Ceremony 

At the opening ceremony, with a festival of cross-genre musical heavyweights – John Legend, Kylie Monogue, Keith Urban, Steve Aoki, Tiesto … and, surprise, Journey – fans got a memorable 30-minute welcome. And lest there be any doubt that Vegas has brought the spectacle to F1, a light-tastic laser drone show with fireworks reminded people that this city is fully in control of coordinated glitz.

Advantage: F1 Cheerleaders


Weather

The haters were laughing and screaming when their phones showed a weather forecast with temps in the low 50s (fahrenheit) and a chance of drizzle. True, it was one of the colder races of the season, requiring special driving tactics to keep the cars on the road, and some rain did fall – but not enough to keep paying fans from the festivities, enjoying the show while wearing light jackets

Advantage: F1 Cheerleaders


Hotel Occupancy

VitalVegas reports that Encore was at less than 50% occupancy Thursday, which was just one of several signs suggesting some casino miscalculations about F1 interest. But is that a bad thing when people can get a weekend room at the Flamingo, alongside the track, for $18

Advantage: Wash 


Restaurant Occupancy

To be fair, many of us locals didn’t even know there was an Outback Steakhouse on the Strip. But Arash Markazi from The Messenger (the same guy who got the $18 room) showed how a location with a trackside view was totally empty, and management adjusted hours to close early during race time. 

Advantage: F1 Haters


Track Conditions

There were reports of the track being quite “bumpy” from the start, and then we all saw it, a hole in the track wreaking havoc on a Ferrari and the race overall. It led to the first practice session being called off (super) early while the circuit underwent 5 hours of inspections and repairs. Fans were told to wait around for the next one, though, only to hours later be told never mind, go home, we can’t let you watch FP2

Advantage: F1 Haters

fixing F1 Las Vegas manhole

(Image: James Moy / Alamy)


Viewing Conditions

Can you imagine all the die-hard fans who trekked a long way and the F1-curious locals who paid hundreds of dollars for a better-than-obstructed glimpse of the race experience, only to have it called off before it really got started? Kinda like attending a boxing match with a first-round knockout – but maybe more like attending warm-up sparring and seeing an accidental cut requiring stitches. 

Advantage: F1 Haters

fans at F1 Las Vegas Day 1

(Image: James Moy / Alamy)


Track Conditions, Take 2

FP1, the first practice rounds, were an arguable disaster. But FP 2 went off smoothly. Granted it was without fans. Amid a desolate Strip it took us all back to COVID days. But still, the cameras captured technical proof of concept – that this race could work.

Advantage: F1 Cheerleaders


High Roller Conditions

Unverified reports suggest that restaurants at MGM Grand are doing OK, and the high-roller salon at Cosmopolitan is rocking -- reportedly with big tips, too.  This was part of the casinos' calculations -- that this would become like a Davos conference for gamblers. 

Advantage: F1 Cheerleaders


Store Credit?

And then, just like that, LOL-sigh, F1 made a make-good attempt and instead had the opposite effect. Going into Friday’s qualifying rounds, officials informed local customers who bought one-day passes – and were told to wait for a delayed practice run to start before being told never mind, they wouldn’t be allowed to watch – that they would get a complete refund $200 in store credit at the F1 shop

Advantage: F1 Haters


It’s almost as if they don’t see the insult. But don’t give up F1 fans and cheerleaders! Qualifying rounds are getting underway, and then there’s the Saturday-night race (with Donny Osmond singing the National Anthem). Tickets are still available. 

Pre-race tally

F1 Haters: 4

F1 Cheerleaders: 4

Meet The Author

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Dan Michalski
Dan Michalski
News Writer News Writer

Dan Michalski is a longtime journalist based in Las Vegas with nearly 20 years as a writer and editor covering poker, casino gaming and sports betting. As founder of Pokerati and an award-winning blogger, podcaster and news reporter, Dan has worked tirelessly to elevate the standards of journalism in gaming media. He also has served as a gaming industry consultant and holds advanced certificates in gaming regulation from UNLV. When not thinking about media and casinos, he can be found on the tennis courts, where he has captained two teams to USTA national championships, and one to second place.

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