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Las Vegas F1 return a step closer?

NEWS STORY
27/10/2021

As COTA boss welcomes the prospect of Las Vegas joining the schedule, one cannot help but feel that much of what we saw and heard over the weekend was a sales pitch for Netflix' benefit.

Over the decades, the United States has had a difficult relationship with F1. While Indianapolis 2005 has to be the absolute low, there are plenty of other reasons why American fans of the sport have a right to feel short-changed over the years.

The arrival of Liberty Media however has changed all that, for courtesy of the more open approach beloved of American sports fans, F1 is seeking new venues.

While the future of F1 at the Circuit of the Americas has yet to be officially confirmed, it's a popular venue with drivers, teams and fans and a great advertisement for the sport so is likely to remain.

And in 2022, following a couple of years of 'will it, won't it', Miami is to finally host the pinnacle of motorsport.

While iconic American tracks like Watkins Glen and Laguna Seca are unlikely to ever witness the likes of Hamilton or Verstappen, for as long as anyone can remember there has been talk of a return to Las Vegas, which hosted two Grands Prix in the early 80s.

However, the race was held on a temporary track in the car park of Caesars Palace hotel, which pretty much tells you all you need to know.

No sooner had Liberty received the keys to F1 than they were talking about "Destination Cities" they intended taking F1 into, and over the COTA weekend it appears the dream took another step towards reality.

It's understood representative of the Silver State visited COTA at the weekend and were treated "like VIPS" by F1 bosses, including Stefano Domenicali.

"I've had the opportunity to meet with F1 leaders and I've appreciated their time on this topic," Nevada governor Steve Sisolak is quoted as saying.

"I've said it before and I'll say it again, the Silver State is quickly becoming the entertainment as well as the sports capital," he added.

Naturally, there are hurdles, one being that F1 bosses are said to be seeking a track layout that would include part of the legendary Strip.

One might assume that with its future yet to be officially confirmed, and competition from Miami, organisers at COTA might be concerned at the threat of another race for fear of diluting interest, but nothing could be further from the truth.

"We're already paired with Mexico City," said COTA boss Bobby Epstein. "We're a lot closer to Mexico City than Vegas would be to Miami. So I think if Vegas and Miami came in May and Mexico City and Austin come in the fall, that could be a great complement in helping it grow.

"I don't know if Vegas, Austin, Mexico City is as great a platform as splitting the four races into a two," he added.

Epstein's welcome for a potential Las Vegas race is a complete turnaround in terms of the Miami event, an event which he previously fiercely opposed.

However, that was then. Other than the fact that the Miami race will take place in May and is therefore entirely separate to the COTA event, the Circuit of the Americas previous financial woes now appear to be a thing of the past, not least courtesy of the move that saw the venue combine headline music acts with the race weekend.

"They're gonna be sold out if they're not already," he says of Miami. "I don't think we're competing for the same customer. They're different types of events. I think that will become evident over the course of time as they develop their own personality and their own character. I think there will be differences.

"Their first few years are pretty well guaranteed sell-outs," he adds, according to ESPN. "That's what we experienced. Because I think the first couple of years we did this, compared to how it is now, it's not to say those events weren't really good, but they stink compared to what we're doing now. We've learned a lot.

"Nevertheless, we sold those first two years out as people came and checked it out. So I think they'll sell for the first couple of years and then hopefully the F1 audience will have grown and they can bring Vegas on and continue to grow the sport in the U.S., because I think we're on the right path."

Over the course of the COTA weekend we were constantly informed that after decades of trying, F1 has finally broken into F1, big time.

Of course, the proof of this will be in the balance sheets over the coming years.

Much of the credit for the sport's increasing popularity in the US is said to stem from the Netflix series Drive to Survive, and over the course of the weekend broadcasters made much of the series' impact, while also reinforcing the various intense rivalries within the sport that the series suggests and plays upon.

Last week Netflix reported record global subscriber numbers of 213.5 million, while in September the company's CEO, Reed Hastings admitted that he would be willing to make a bid for the sport should Liberty consider selling.

Fact is, Liberty is considering selling, and has been considering selling for some time, all of which might leave some feeling that much of what we saw and heard over the weekend was a sales pitch.

Smoke and mirrors in F1 didn't end with Bernie.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by The stogie, 05/11/2021 17:28

"I was at two (1982, 1983) of the Las Vegas races on the parking lot next to Caesar's Palace. SCARY!! But, nevertheless, VERY entertaining. But I hope and pray that the track be much better this time if it happens. GREAT city to visit and hold an F1 race."

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2. Posted by Johnny48, 05/11/2021 10:17

"Watch the Yanks stuff up a great sport - Miami track like driving around a circle and questions on how they sold tickets "

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3. Posted by kenji, 29/10/2021 0:02

"In discussion with a few pals it was pointed out that Las Vegas uses maybe a billion light bulbs or more for their signature ' Viva Las Vegas' !!! How does that little doozy square with the 'Vettel Green' outlook on life or more appropriately with the F1 alternative energy proposition? Maybe they are all lit up with energy sourced from wind farms or solar panels and nuclear power stations.....not."

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4. Posted by ian_w, 27/10/2021 2:49

"The only thing Monte Carlo and Las Vegas share in common is as hosting a famous casino or two. While the likes of Abu Dhabi and Singapore may have be able to pull off a "downtown street circuit", this is simply not viable in Las Vegas.

The success of those locations depended heavily on the local governments' motivation to leverage the the F1 circus to transform itself into a tourist destination. Vegas already is that. As someone who's visited Vegas almost yearly for 15, I can't see all the related Strip casinos and Clark County (ps: the Strip it's not in the City of Las Vegas) capitulating to shutting down the Strip and Las Vegas Blvd for weeks to construct and deconstruct temporary grandstands, paddock and pit facilities.

Any track incorporating the Strip would suffer from the same issues as the original Caesar's races there (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qi-gBCclM0Y); it's flat and boring. The only vacant properties to construct facilities or non-90 curves are at the North end across from Wynn and the South, across from Mandalay Bay, effectively not "on the Strip". The street grid is 1/2 mile squares, there's no natural curves, it has actively closed off vehicle entrances and exits from hotel properties to the Strip to promote pedestrian use (Crazy, I know; really!) and no viable access roads of interest to incorporate into a track. In short, there's nowhere to construct an interesting layout that incorporates the Strip.

And while Vegas seems to be content to let properties sit vacant for years until the money and market align, I don't see any (http://www.vegastodayandtomorrow.com/condomap.htm) offering up a semi-permanent, temporary use (Baku / Montreal / Melbourne style) facility either. But money, F1 and Vegas do stranger things all the time."

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5. Posted by Beans, 26/10/2021 16:11

"Vegas has about as much glitz and glamour as strip joint."

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6. Posted by Endre, 26/10/2021 12:29

"I don't understand this new obsession about going into cities. They want to recreate the feeling of Monte Carlo, but that will never happen. Monte Carlo is special because the history behind the race and the place. Usually city tracks don't facilitate good racing.

I am all for more races in the US (better for living in the Eastern time zone), but why all these crappy new places? The US is littered with amazing historic tracks that could be upgraded for F1 use. How about Road America, Sonoma, Sebring or Watkins Glen and Laguna Seca mentioned in the above article? I would love to see F1 at Road America."

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7. Posted by USA1, 26/10/2021 11:30

"If you guys can nail Vegas down for a Grand Prix it will be compatible with Monaco, specially if you can use part of the strip, and it has nothing to do that I only live about 1 hour away 😉"

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8. Posted by kenji, 26/10/2021 11:05

"Never a dull moment in F1. COTA is an excellent layout and Miami looks to be very good as well....but Las Vegas? I know that place very well having spent a great deal of time there in the past over a period of 12 years and it's the last place i would recommend for a GP. Then again I said much the same thing about Singapore and have now come to enjoy it immensely. It's different. "

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