Las Vegas Grand Prix: Preview - Mercedes


Toto Wolff: Brazil was probably our most difficult weekend of the season.

"After promising performances in the US and Mexico, we didn't perform at our best in Brazil. We have been hard at work to identify the wrong turn we took with the set-up; we have done that. We understand our mistakes and can explain our performance loss to the field. That's important as we look to secure P2 in the Constructors' Championship.

In parallel, we have been preparing for the challenge of racing at a venue that is a complete unknown. We have prepared the best we can, using the limited information we have, and there are some unique characteristics we can anticipate. The schedule is offset compared to other races. We'll be running at night, where ambient and track temperatures will likely be in the single digits. Plus, the track layout itself is unusual with many slow corners but long straights. It's going to be a big challenge for us all and we're looking forward to taking it on.

It will also be an immense effort off-track. We have an impressive guest hosting programme including our own three-storey Vegas Club next to Turn 4. Media interest will be through the roof and seeing the cars race down the Las Vegas Strip will be one of the most exciting moments of the season. The eyes of the sporting world will be on F1, and we look forward to putting on a spectacular show. It is going to be something truly special to witness.

Getting ready for Las Vegas

"The Las Vegas race is a really big deal for everybody involved in Formula One," explains Victoria Johnson (Marketing Operations Director). "It's the first race there since 1982, so a long time ago, and I think the fact that we are going to Las Vegas really shows how Formula One has grown in popularity, especially in the US.
The Las Vegas race is a huge operation for the marketing team. It's the biggest programme we've every run and logistically challenging because it is down the Las Vegas Strip. We've got 3,500 guests to entertain across the weekend with a production and delivery team of 200 people."

"Do we prepare Vegas differently from any other new venues we are going to? Not really," adds Riccardo Musconi (Head of Trackside Performance). "We follow the same procedure for any new track. A lot is about gathering information ahead of the event. Eventually you get pictures of the tarmac and the surface, and they get fed into our simulation. Eventually, we will try to optimise the setup around it."

"The biggest difference with Vegas will be the temperature," admits Ron Meadows (Sporting Director). "It is due to go down to four or five degrees Celsius overnight, which is very unusual for an F1 race. Normally, they are very hot. Everyone expects Vegas to be 35 degrees, but we think it's going to be 15 to 18 degrees during the day, and overnight very cold. All the sessions are going to be run in the evening.

"Having now seen the facilities, the garages are fantastic. They are very deep with plenty of space for the teams, which is very unusual. I think it's 28 metres and normally we will get between 20 and 23 metres, so they've really done a good job planning for the teams.

"So, what sort of preparation are we doing for a new track?" says Musconi. "First of all, it is very important to know what the racing line is. That is the layout of the track, the number of corners, and the direction of the corners to see if we are putting more stress on the left tyres or the right tyres. Also we need to know how long the straights are? What's the best aerodynamical configuration for that specific track? Eventually, you get a map for the simulator and the drivers will use the sessions to optimise the setup on a very accurate picture of what the track is going to be like."

"In terms of planning, it takes about a year to plan and deliver a race such as Miami and Vegas," adds Johnson. "The Las Vegas and Miami races have given us new marketing opportunities and new audiences to tap into. The team have put a huge investment into both of those races. We have a lot of US based suppliers now that are trusted and have proved that they have high delivery standards. We will be using those in Las Vegas. We've also created a US hub so that we can keep all our equipment in the US, reducing freight down and achieving economies of scale."

"Another challenge of the Las Vegas weekend is going to be the time zone," admits Musconi. "The people attending are going to find themselves working closer to the Suzuka schedule, so the Japan times, but in the US. The people back here in the Race Support Room in Brackley will experience similar, which means turning up to work at 2am."

"The Las Vegas race was deemed a ‘walking’ race," says Meadows. "Often you would drive in with transfers, park up in the paddock and then go to your garage. For this race, you must walk from the hotel which generally can take 25 to 30 minutes. As far as the logistics go, the biggest challenge for all the F1 teams is packing up overnight Saturday to Sunday and then getting to Abu Dhabi, which is one of the longest flights of the year.

"I don’t believe Vegas is going to be more challenging for the race team. I think it's going to be a big challenge for our marketing department, because there are lots of things going on. As far as the bright lights and the 24-hour city, we are used to that having been to Monaco many of times and lots of the other races that are getting very busy and very popular."

"The Las Vegas race has a huge interest from media and fans," says Johnson. "For the new US races we've decided to create a club concept. This is a hospitality area separated from the Formula One paddock which allows Mercedes F1 to control it, curate it and completely manage it entirely as a separate entity. The club concept has nothing to do with the team brand or Formula One as a brand. We take the theme of the destination that we are in, and it is all about music and entertainment and bringing the production to life. The décor of our hospitality suite will be very lavish in true Las Vegas style with high production, very much like a Las Vegas show."

"Vegas is going to be quite a high-speed track," says Musconi, "so the wing level is going to be something akin to Spa or Monza. The first key factor in Vegas is going to be the cold temperatures and getting the tyres to work. This problem has got two factors. We are expecting temperatures to be in the single digits at this time of the year due to the fact we are going to be racing at night. The second thing is the surface it is going to be brand-new, and we don’t know exactly at this point in time what the aggregated type will be. Nobody will know until we turn up in Vegas and start driving around. I think this will be the key element of the weekend.

"There are learnings from any time we've been to a new venue. Usually, it's all about the surface, the type of tarmac, and see what the grip level is going to be like. We try, if it is possible, to plan ahead and not creating false expectations by running on the track at a different time to our competitors."

"A huge amount of preparation has gone into Las Vegas GP from all of our marketing department," says Johnson. "It has been critical to hit all the timelines from the concept planning, the sign off, the production and to hitting the freight timelines and now finishing off the last minute details. We want to be best in class at everything we do. We have an exceptional marketing team who are going to deliver an outstanding first Las Vegas GP."

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Published: 13/11/2023
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