From Opening Night Debacle To ‘Viva Las Vegas’

Year one is in the books for Formula One in Las Vegas. But did it go off without a hitch? Not exactly!

From the first practice on opening night being canceled after only nine minutes to drivers openly voicing their opinions about the track, there were plenty of ups and downs during the three-day event that turned the city upside down for months.

The First Year Of Formula One In Las Vegas Was Filled With Good And Bad


After months of preparations and a lot of discomfort for the residents of Las Vegas, the first year of F1 Las Vegas is now in the books, with nine more years of racing fun planned for the city.

It didn’t seem to start off so great. From high ticket and hotel prices being dropped drastically as the race approached, it didn’t seem like the first year of the race was going to go as hoped by organizers. But ultimately, F1 said it brought more than 315,000 spectators into the city over the weekend and estimated an economic impact of $1.2 billion to Vegas.

During Thursday night’s practice run, driver Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari shot flames out of the back of the car as it raced down the track past The Cromwell Hotel. It was later revealed that when the car drove over a loose drain cover that caused serious damage to the car. Ferrari had to replace the car’s engine, battery and chassis, and Sainz got a 10-place grid penalty for the race. This incident happening only about nine minutes into the first night forced F1 to close the course to inspect the entire 3.85 mile circuit.

The next practice started about 2:30 a.m. and by that point, spectators were ordered to leave fan viewing areas. The practice ran until 4 a.m. when the streets had to be returned to the city for morning commuter traffic.

F1 Vegas

A statement was issued Friday afternoon from F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and Las Vegas Grand Prix CEO Renee Wilm explaining the reasoning behind not allowing fans back into the viewing areas.

“Our top priority at Formula 1 is the safety and security of our drivers, employees, and fans. Responsibility for the oversight of a Formula 1 event falls with Formula 1 as the commercial rights holder of the sport, the FIA as the regulatory body, and the local promoter, in this case the Las Vegas Grand Prix,” the statement reads.

“Last night, approximately nine minutes into the first Free Practice session, a water valve cover broke on the straight on Las Vegas Boulevard. At that time the FIA, which is responsible for the safe running of the activities on the circuit, stopped the session so that we could look at the broken water valve cover and inspect the track. This has happened on occasion at other tracks at other races around the world.”

F1 Vegas

The statement went on to explain the process that needed to be done and why they moved the practice to 2:30 a.m. They then addressed the fan experience.

“Now, let us turn to the fan experience. The delay in the start of the second Free Practice session from midnight to 2:30 AM PT created risks for our employees and our fans. We made the decision to close the fan areas that are under LVGP’s purview at 1:30 AM PT and send fans home. Let us explain why. First, we were concerned about our public safety and security officials who had been in service for a long time and who are being asked to work for the next three nights,” the statement continued.

“Second, we were concerned about our transportation employees who are responsible for driving our fans back to hotels. By Federal law, they were bumping up against the amount of time they can legally and safely drive buses. Finally, our hospitality staff needed the ability to clean and resupply our guest areas to ensure that the fan experience is optimal for everyone over the coming days.”

A Class Action Lawsuit Was Filed Over Forcing Fans Out Thursday Night

F1 Vegas

To say that spectators were unhappy about being forced to leave Thursday night might be an understatement, since a class action lawsuit was filed. Single-night tickets for Thursday night were sold for as much as $900 last November. While prices dropped as the event got closer, fans still forked over more than $100 per ticket, just to be able to watch a few minutes before being asked to leave.

F1 offered Thursday night ticketholders a $200 discount at the gift shops, but only if they purchased a single night ticket and not a three-day ticket.

According to USA Today Sports, the action states, “F1 and/or its contractors and safety organizations had a duty to inspect the track to make sure it was safe for use by the racers and was race-ready for the ‘Practice Run’ event.”

It continued, “F1 and/or its contractors and safety organizations failed to detect the flaws and/or poor installation of the subject manhole cover sealed by TAB and failed to ensure that the track was race-ready for the ‘Practice Run’ event.”

Friday night’s Free Practice 3 and Qualifying sessions happened according to plan, as did the Grand Prix race on Saturday night.

Max Verstappen Got His 18th Win Of The Season In Vegas

F1 Vegas

Max Verstappen didn’t hold back his dislike for Vegas when the three-day event began. From the moment he arrived in the city, he voiced his opinions about not liking the track or the experience unapologetically. But then, his tune changed drastically when he won his 18th win of the season.

“Viva Las Vegas! Viva Las Vegas!” he said as he crossed under the checkered flag waved by Justin Bieber. While the driver was clearly unhappy with how things began, he raced in an Elvis-inspired fire suit and took the victory for year one in Vegas.

“I hope everyone enjoyed it, we definitely did. Excited to come back here next year and try to do something similar,” he said in a clearly different headspace than when the weekend began. “It was a fun race. I enjoyed it.”

The city was filled with more celebrities than ever, race fans, big celebrations and an undeniable energy that many now anticipate will be better for year two next November.

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