Not without some inaugural issues, Las Vegas offered up one of the most exciting F1 races of the season.
As predicted by sportsbooks the world over, Max Verstappen won the Las Vegas Grand Prix. Verstappen had already clinched the 2023 F1 Championship. Along with his 18th win of the season, Verstappen also broke Jim Clark’s record for the highest percentage of laps lead in a series. But still, Vegas was no stroll in the park for the Red Bull Racing driver.
The Vegas Grand Prix featured a classic come-from-behind victory. Verstappen received an early penalty after forcing Charles Leclerc off the track. But with 13 laps to go, Verstappen edged past Leclerc to reclaim the lead. Meanwhile, Leclerc and Sergio Perez had a back-and-forth battle for second place.
After the race, Leclerc said, “I wanted that win so bad. I enjoyed it so much. Second place with a lot of fights. There is no better race for the first race in Vegas.” While the race, itself, was fittingly the best part of the multi-day event, there were plenty of other wins scored during the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
Vegas excels at spectacle and celebrity. On that front, F1’s inaugural Las Vegas race didn’t disappoint. The opening ceremony featured a drone light show and fireworks, paired with the musical talents of John Legend, Tiësto, Andra Day, Keith Urban, Bishop Briggs, Journey, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Steve Aoki, will.i.am, Swedish House Mafia, and J Balvin. Meanwhile, drivers were introduced two by two, as they rose from a large podium, making for obvious Hunger Games comparisons.
Saturday night’s race started off with Donny Osmond singing the National Anthem and ended with Justin Bieber waiving the checkered flag.
Rihanna and Axl Rose were there. Professional athletes Usain Bolt, Lindsey Vonn, and Kai Lenny were there. Actors Brad Pitt, Simone Ashley, Terry Crews, Liza Koshy, and Lupita Nyong’o were there. And celebrities Paris Hilton, Cara Delevingne, and Heidi Klum were also in the thick of it.
Las Vegas’ latest attraction, the Sphere, was also a highlight. During the race, it appeared to follow the cars around the track. The Sphere also promoted sponsors and advertisers. For instance, the Sphere featured A$AP Rocky’s debut PUMAX Formula 1 Capsule Collection.
While the Las Vegas GP ended on a high note, there were a few low points for the debut event. The most significant snafu occurred during Thursday’s practice. About eight minutes in, Carlos Sainz Jr. hit a water drain cover, seriously damaging his Ferrari. Practice was halted for hours as work crews removed all 30 drain covers along the route, filling the holes with sand and asphalt.
Sainz’s car required a new survival cell, internal combustion engine and control electronics. Unfortunately, the repairs resulted in a mandatory 10-place penalty for the Ferrari driver.
“What happened today for me is a very clear example of how this sport can be improved in so many ways," Sainz later said. "The FIA, teams, rules – this could clearly be applied as force majeure for me not to take a penalty but some way there’s always people, always ways to make the situation worse for the individual and I think in this case it's my turn to pay the price.”
To add salt to the wound, fans were forced to leave the venue at 1:30 a.m. and were not allowed to watch the practice restart at 2:30 a.m. Single-day ticket holders were eventually issued a $200 voucher. Multi-day ticket holders did not receive any compensation. As the will, lawyers swooped in. Dimopoulos Law Firm and JK Legal & Consulting said they have already filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of the fans.
With one race under its belt, it is hoped that F1 and Sin City learned enough to make next year’s race better. The 2024 Las Vegas Grand Prix is scheduled for Nov. 21-23, and ticket deposits are already being accepted.