Say Vegas and you think of clichés. The neon lights on the Strip, the slot machines and roulette tables, the non-stop partying and the over-the-top hotels: even those who have never been to Nevada’s most famous city can picture its most characteristic features.
However, there’s a lot more than that to discover: as we head west for one last time this season, we step into the unknown, towards a new circuit, a new paddock, a new way of doing things for the sport, the drivers, the spectators.
What happens in Vegas is on display for the whole world: a Saturday night race; the checkered flag at the stroke of midnight; new ceremonies that challenge the status quo, that dare to be new, that dare for daring’s sake. It’s a new page for our sport, and we embrace it with curiosity, with enthusiasm, to see what’s on the other side of the fence: to see the things that will work, those that won’t, those we will change for next year.
In this regard, Vegas is the embodiment of Formula One: always pushing the envelope, always trying to find something different to achieve greatness.
Las Vegas was originally part of Formula 1’s calendar in 1981 and 1982, when a temporary circuit was laid out in the parking lot of the Caesars Palace hotel.
However, Formula 1 failed to make significant in-roads in Las Vegas, or the United States, with the barren and dull circuit unpopular among the drivers, and it consequently gained an ignominious place in Formula 1’s history.
Fast-forward three decades and the landscape is significantly different. Formula 1’s popularity has blossomed worldwide, particularly in the United States, and championship organizers earmarked Las Vegas as a desired location for a grand prix. In March 2022 an agreement was reached for Formula 1 to return to Las Vegas.
This time a circuit was mapped out through the heart of Las Vegas, which includes a stretch of the iconic Las Vegas Strip, and the grand prix will take place at night, on a Saturday, the first race to do so since 1985. That means practice will take place on Thursday night, with qualifying at midnight as Friday trickles into Saturday.
The 6.201km Las Vegas Strip Circuit will take drivers through the center of Nevada’s world-renowned entertainment city. The circuit is temporary, utilizing the city’s roads, but a permanent pits and paddock complex – and opening section of track – has been constructed off East Harmon Avenue. The circuit will take drivers along Koval Avenue, before encircling the MSG Sphere, and then continue along Sands Avenue.
The showpiece section is the Las Vegas Boulevard, better known as the Strip, with the circuit passing by the city’s famous hotels, as well as the Bellagio Fountain. A top speed of 340km/h has been predicted along the 1.8km stretch of the Strip, before drivers brake for a left-right-left chicane, which leads them back onto East Harmon Avenue to complete the lap. The 17-turn circuit is expected to rival the likes of Monza and Baku as a high-speed venue.
Guenther Steiner Perspective
“I think we all have an expectation, but we know what Las Vegas is about. It’s hard to imagine exactly what it will be like, but it will be a very cool event and something completely different from anything done before in Formula 1. To put such effort into racing in a city like Las Vegas is challenging, to say the least, and to make it happen a few years ago was impossible to think about, let alone say. Let’s see what it will be like, but it will surely set a standard for a lot of things in the sport going forward.”
Tires Hold the Key
The ability of a driver to switch on their tires at this weekend’s Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix is expected to be critically important.
Temperatures at night in Las Vegas are expected to be the coolest all season once cars head out – with the track temperature potentially in the 50’s F.
The current generation of Pirelli rubber is notoriously difficult to manage, with a narrow operating window.
They are also susceptible to thermal degradation and graining should temperatures rise too high.
“We’ve got the track in our offline simulation tools and our simulator, so we’re working to death to try and understand that,” explained Aston Martin’s performance director, Tom McCullough.
“What the action grip is from the tarmac, we don’t really know until we go and measure it.
“We’ve got an idea; we’ve got some guys who’ve already been out there.
“They key thing is going to be, can you get the tires working,” he added.
“Obviously [we’re] taking the softest tires, but we’re not used to running the tires that cold.”
MARIO ISOLA – PIRELLI HEAD OF MOTORSPORT
“Formula 1 returns to the United States for the third time this year, following Miami and Austin. And it’s with one of the most-eagerly grands prix of the year, in Las Vegas, where the pinnacle of motorsport hasn’t been seen since 1982. This will be an incredible race, as every day is showtime in Las Vegas, and all of us working in Formula 1 want to put on the sort of spectacle that is worthy of this amazing city.
It will also be a major technical challenge for both the teams and us, as we head into this race with no real references apart from simulation. Nobody has ever actually driven the 6.12-kilometer Las Vegas Strip circuit before, which is second only to Spa in terms of overall length this year, characterized by three straights and 17 corners. The surface will be a mix of the usual street asphalt, especially on the actual Strip, as well as other parts that have been completely re-asphalted for the occasion; adding another unknown element. There won’t be any support races and the track will be opened again to normal traffic for long chunks of the day, which means that the surface won’t rubber in as usual and deliver improved grip.
We’re expecting the cars to run quite low levels of downforce, similar to Baku or indeed Monza: hitting a high top speed will be key to being competitive. All the sessions will take place at night, with unusual ambient and track temperatures for a race weekend; more similar to those found back when pre-season testing used to take place in Europe. Those long straights also make it harder to warm up tires in qualifying, as well as keep them in the right window: the same challenge as seen in Baku, which will probably be more pronounced in Las Vegas.
Bearing all this in mind, we’ve selected the trio of softest compounds for this weekend: C3, C4, and C5, which should guarantee good grip. Minimum tire pressures should be 27 psi at the front and 24.5 psi at the back, due to the expected low temperatures as well as the track layout. In cold conditions, the gap between cold tire pressures and normal running pressures is greatly reduced – so when the car is moving, tire pressure will increase a lot less than on other circuits due to the low asphalt temperatures. As a result, we think that running pressures will still be lower than on other circuits that are tough on tires, such as Baku for example.
So all the elements are in place for an extraordinary race, packed with surprises and unpredictability. As the title of Elvis Presley’s famous racing film goes…Viva Las Vegas! ”
- The Las Vegas Grand Prix weekend in Nevada will use C3 as P Zero White hard, C4 as P Zero Yellow medium and C5 as P Zero Red soft: the softest selection of tires in the range.
- For the first time in F1 history the sessions will overlap more than one day, with a different schedule for the night race weekend. The first free practice session will take place on Thursday at 20:30 while FP2 runs from 12 midnight to 01:00 on Friday. FP3 is on Friday at 20:30, with qualifying then taking place from midnight to 01:00 on Saturday. The race starts on Saturday at 22:00.
- The new Las Vegas street circuit consists of 17 corners and three straights, with two DRS zones. The lap is 6.12 kilometers long, with an estimated top speed of 342kph. The finish line is on the corner of Harmon Avenue and Koval Lane, with the layout stretching from Las Vegas Boulevard to Sands Avenue and a race distance of 50 laps.
- An opening ceremony is planned to celebrate Formula 1’s return to Las Vegas, starting at 19:30 on Wednesday. The artists scheduled to take part include Steve Aoki, Thirty Seconds to Mars, will.i.am, and the Cirque du Soleil troupe.
- More than 30 different variants of the street track were designed before the final layout was selected. The main infrastructure, including the pit building in the shape of the F1 logo, as well as the pit lane and paddock was built in just over a year.
- Formula 1 previously raced at Las Vegas as the last round of the 1981 and 1982 seasons, with both events called the Caesars Palace Grand Prix. On each occasion the race decided the championship: Alan Jones won the Grand Prix for Williams in 1981 but the title went to Brabham driver Nelson Piquet, while the following year’s race was won by Tyrrell’s Michele Alboreto with Williams driver Keke Rosberg taking the championship (and Ferrari winning the constructors’ classification).
- The Las Vegas Strip circuit passes close to The Sphere: a spherical structure 110 meters high that is completely covered by 1.2 million LED panels. The building – the biggest in the world of its type – houses a 15,000-metre square 16K resolution screen. Costing 2.3 billion dollars, The Sphere was inaugurated at the start of November with a U2 concert: during the Grand Prix weekend, it will light up the circuit with a reproduction Pirelli P Zero Elect tire, alternating with a Pirelli logo. A customized Pirelli animation will also be seen on the roof of the new building that hosts the pits and Paddock Club.
- The podium finishers will wear a special edition Pirelli podium cap with gold braiding. The Stars and Stripes flag as well as “Las Vegas 2023” script will also appear on the gap – which is also on sale to the public from all authorized retailers
By the Numbers
3.8 – The length of the circuit in miles or 6.201 kilometers
14 – The number of turns in the circuit. Jokingly called an “upside down pig” by Oracle Red Bull principal Christian Horner, the circuit will see the fastest racing on the schedule next to Monza.
50 – The number of laps in the race.
193 – The total miles in the 50-lap race
147 – The insane average speed in miles-per-hour that race officials anticipate the race will have based upon driver simulation (237 kilometers-per-hour).
212 – Top speed in miles-per-hour expected as the cars race down the sweeping main straight of the Strip (342 km/h)
Nov 16-18 – This weekend marks the second to last race on the Formula 1 season. Free practice 1 (FP1) runs on Thursday the 16th from 8:30pm-9:30pm PT, with Friday the 17th hosting FP2 (midnight-1am) and FP3 (8:30-9:30pm PT). Qualifying and the race itself are on Saturday the 18th by many hours apart. Qualifying is at midnight-1am PT with the race start at 10pm PT.
10pm Pacific/1am Eastern on ESPN– If Formula 1 was looking to garner a sizable U.S. audience on television, then having the start when many are in bed might not be the best recipe. If the idea is to reach a large global audience, yet still host a night race, then the start time works. Europe will be able to have their breakfast watching the race, and the hope is that the visuals will be so enticing for the U.S. audience that they’ll tune in late. See the entire race schedule for the ESPN family of networks in the U.S. at the bottom of this article.
$400-$500 million – The exact amount hasn’t been fully revealed, but Liberty Media, who owns Formula 1, has said the cost to host the night race in Las Vegas could run from $400 million to as high as a half-a-billion U.S. dollars. That’s because Liberty is the promotor of the race. They also have invested $240 million by purchasing land near the end of the Strip to construct the garages, the main luxury suites, the race control, and the start/finish grandstands, all of which are permanent. Throw in temporary grandstands, and re-paving the entire circuit and the total cost comes into focus.
10 – The initial number of years that Liberty Media, Formula 1, and Las Vegas have entered into to host the annual race.
$15,000 – The cost per person ($5,000 per day) to access F1’s Paddock Club which has been built for the Las Vegas race. The amenities included access to the club, opening ceremonies, concierge service, transportation, a commemorative ticket box and F&B. Sorry, even if you have the money the club was sold out 8 months in advance.
$7,630 – Cost to get into Club SI. Sports Illustrated has taken over the Margaritaville at Flamingo is transforming it into club/hospitality zone.
12 – Number of main artists set to perform at the Opening Ceremonies on Nov. 15. Artists include John Legend, Tiësto, Andra Day, Bishop Briggs, J Balvin, Journey, Keith Urban, Steve Aoki, Swedish House Mafia and will.i.am. That’s just the Opening Ceremonies. Everyone from Gordon Ramsey and more is involved in some type of party in Sin City for the race.
4 – The number of playing card suits being painted specially for the curbs around the circuit.
Star Spangled 1 – There will be no grand choir or massive band performing the National Anthem for the race. In incredibly Las Vegas fashion, Donnie Osmond will perform it prior to the race.
3 – With the addition of Las Vegas to the race schedule, the United States has rapidly jumped from just one F1 race on the schedule to three in the span of as many years. After the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) race near Austin, Texas was the lone race since 2010, the Miami Grand Prix was added in 2022, and now Las Vegas showing the global racing series has finally made in-roads into the U.S. market after decades of lukewarm interest.
48 – Expected air temperature in Fahrenheit degrees for the race. While warmer than what was initially anticipated, it will test the team strategy and Pirelli tire selection throughout the race.
1981-1982 – The last years that Formula 1 raced in Las Vegas. It has been deemed the worst races in the global series history and was nothing more than a circuit laid out in the Ceasar’s Palace casino parking lot.
100,000 – The anticipated number of those attending each day of the three-day race event.
Fact File: Las Vegas Grand Prix
- Formula One returns to Las Vegas for the first time in over 40 years this weekend.
- The sport’s previous visits to ‘Sin City’ took place in 1981 and 1982 under the moniker of the Caesars Palace Grand Prix.
- Each edition was that year’s season finale with the Williams of Alan Jones taking victory in 1981 and the Tyrrell of Michele Alboreto victorious in 1982.
- We return to a very different circuit; a 17-corner (11 to the left, six to the right), anti-clockwise 6.201 km high-speed blast through the most famous streets of Las Vegas including the Strip.
- The track is the second-longest on the 2023 calendar, only shorter than Spa-Francorchamps.
- That includes an over 1.9 km flat-out section from the exit of Turn 12 to the braking zone at Turn 14.
- Our initial simulations show that top speeds will be second only to the ‘Temple of Speed’ at Monza.
- These simulations also show that just over 78% of the total lap distance will be taken at full throttle.
- That will be the fourth highest of the season, only behind the Jeddah Street Circuit, the Bahrain International Circuit, and Monza.
- Owing to the slower corners though where the cars take longer to navigate, drivers will spend just over 66% of the lap at full throttle.
- That is the ninth highest amount of the 2023 season and compares closely to Silverstone.
- The set-up trade-off will be ensuring that top speeds are not compromised whilst the car retains good mechanical grip and downforce for the low-speed corners, such as Turns 1-4, Turns 7-9, Turn 12, and Turns 14-16.
- Our simulations also show that there will be five braking events, with three of these designated as heavy. These will occur at Turn 1, Turn 5, and Turn 14.
- Another challenge for the engineers and drivers will be the likely cold temperatures. At night in November, it is not unknown for temperatures to reach single-digit Celsius.
- The lowest record race temperature in F1 history was the 1978 Canadian Grand Prix where the mercury only reached 5ºC.
- For the first time since the 1985 South African Grand Prix, the sport will race on a Saturday.
- Saturday’s race will also be the latest starting Grand Prix in F1’s history. The first night race, the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, took place at 20:00 local time.
- This year’s Las Vegas Grand Prix will get underway at 22:00 local time, with qualifying taking place at midnight on the same day.
- That schedule means that those supporting in our Race Support Room at Brackley will be working at similar times as they do for the Japanese Grand Prix, reporting to work around 02:00 GMT.
USA TV Schedule
All Times Eastern
|Thursday, November 16, 2023||Location||TV Times||Network|
|The Business of Formula 1||Various||8:00pm – 9:00pm (Premier)||CNBC|
|F1 Las Vegas GP Opening Ceremony||Las Vegas||12:30am – 1:30am (Live)||ESPN2|
|F1 Las Vegas GP Practice 1||Las Vegas||11:25pm – 12:30am (Live)||ESPN2|
|Friday, November 17, 2023||Location||TV Times||Network|
|F1 Las Vegas GP Practice 2||Las Vegas||2:55am – 4:00am (Live)||ESPN|
|F1 Las Vegas GP Welcome to the Weekend||Las Vegas||4:15am – 5:00am (Live Stream)||ESPN3|
|F1 Las Vegas GP Practice 3||Las Vegas||11:25pm – 12:3 am (Live)||ESPNU|
|Saturday, November 18, 2023||Location||TV Times||Network|
|F1 Las Vegas GP Qualifying||Las Vegas||2:55am – 4:00am (Live)||ESPN|
|F1 Las Vegas GP Ted’s Qualifying Notebook||Las Vegas||5:00am – 5:30am (Live Stream)||ESPN3|
|F1 Las Vegas GP Pre-Race||Las Vegas||11:30pm – 12:55am (Live)||ESPN|
|Sunday, November 19, 2023||Location||TV Times||Network|
|F1 Las Vegas GP Race||Las Vegas||12:55am – 3:00am (Live)||ESPN|
|F1 Las Vegas GP Post-Race||Las Vegas||3:00am – 4:00am (Live Stream)||ESPN3|
|F1 Las Vegas GP Ted’s Race Notebook||Las Vegas||4:00am – 4:30am (Live Stream)||ESPN3|
|Monday, November 20, 2023||Location||TV Times||Network|
|F1 Las Vegas GP Race||Las Vegas||12:00am – 2:00am (Replay)||ESPNews|