Max Verstappen Dominates in F1’s Return to Las Vegas as American Giant Cadillac Seeks Entrance into the Sport
By: Cal Forde
December 14, 2023
Photo Credit: DPPI
After 40 years away and an 18-month process of renovating, building, and preparing the city, Formula 1 returned to Las Vegas for the Heineken Silver Las Vegas Grand Prix. The race proved to be a spectacle adding to the sights and bling of the Las Vegas Strip as 105,000 fans gathered to watch the expensive, high-tech works-of-art speed over 200 mph down the Strip. Red Bull phenom, Max Verstappen, sang “Viva Las Vegas” as he raced to his record-extending 18th win of the season and joined Sebastian Vettel in third place on Formula 1’s all time win list.
Prior to the race, many Formula 1 executives and drivers worried the race was more about the spectacle and publicity, and less about the race itself, the 25 points for the taking, and fighting for position ahead of Abu Dhabi's season finale Grand Prix. Ironically, Max Verstappen attacked the Las Vegas race, mentioning how the race was “99 percent show, one percent sporting event.” Additionally, coming out of Friday night’s qualifying laps, drivers mentioned struggling with grip around corners, a complaint commonly heard on street courses.
But many of the complaints and skepticism coming into the race were overshadowed by the thrilling three-car finish that played out over the final 15 laps. After starting in pole position, and being overtaken by Max Verstappen early in the race, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc regained 2nd position over Red Bull’s Sergio Perez on the final lap, denying Red Bull their seventh one-two finish of the 2023 season. Uncommon for street circuits, overtakes and drama was plentiful on the Strip thanks to the profile of corners and long, straight Drag Reduction System allowed zones. “I did not expect to have that much fun in the race,” admitted Charles Leclerc. “I’m sure it was a good one to watch. I’ll make sure I watch that one back.” Mercedes’ George Russell commented that it was “surreal” getting to race down the Las Vegas Strip and that the circuit was “a lot better to drive than anticipated” and had “quite a lot of character.”
Financially, local businesses and the City of Las Vegas will have to wait until the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) releases their November financial reports to fully understand the economic impact of the Las Vegas Grand Prix on the city and its businesses. But many businesses, casinos, hotels, resorts, and even President and CEO of the LVCVA seemed to indicate the event was a huge financial success for the city. Hotels and casinos reported great revenue and numbers on what is commonly one of the slowest weeks of the year. Due to the prestige and cost of attending a F1 race, higher end resorts and casinos, such as MGM Resorts International, Caesars Palace and Paris Las Vegas, as well as both Wynn Resorts performed better. Sean McBurney, regional president for Caesars Entertainment said “we were completely full.” In an interview with CNBC, President and CEO of MGM Entertainment described how MGM built specialty high-end grandstands at the Bellagio which fans could purchase individually or with room packages. “Tickets for those seats were $10,000 a piece,” he said. Additionally, from a city and government standpoint, the event was also a huge success. President and CEO of LVCVA stated, “it’s going to be a record weekend for Las Vegas from an economic standpoint. It’s going to generate a lot of tax revenue and properties around the circuit did exceptionally well.”
After much skepticism leading up to the race, the consensus seems to indicate the race was a success. Despite the words of Verstappen that the race was mainly a publicity spectacle and less about the actual race itself, isn’t that partially the benefit of hosting such a prestigious event in Las Vegas? The city continues to make developments in sports and live entertainment, which recently opened the MSG Sphere, attracted the NHL’s expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights, the NFL’s Raiders, and gained approval this fall to be the city for the relocation of the Oakland A’s. Vegas will surely consider its inaugural Grand Prix a success.
November's Las Vegas Grand Prix is not the only new American development in the european-dominated motorsport. Just last month, General Motors announced it will officially be partnering with Andretti Cadillac as the power unit manufacturer in 2028 for Cadillac’s proposed Formula 1 bid.
Photo Credit: Cadillac
In October, the FIA, Formula 1’s governing body, approved Andretti’s Expression of Interest application into Formula 1. However, the bid is still awaiting final approval. In a sport so costly for teams in production and maintenance, Andretti Cadillac’s bid has gotten significant pushback from the 10 existing team owners, who worry about having to split and lose 10% of their yearly revenue given to them from the FIA. Since Liberty Media acquired the rights to Formula 1 in 2017, they have made it a priority to increase presence and fandom in the United States. TV series like Netflix’s Drive to Survive have captured the attention of American fans and transformed non-F1 fans across the globe into fanatics for the dramatic, fast-paced motorsport. Additionally, as previously mentioned in this article, the Las Vegas Grand Prix attracted media and fans from across the globe to view the third American race on the schedule. An eleventh team would add two more cars and loads of drama, but also opportunities for mechanics, engineers, and front office staff after many teams downsized following the COVID-19 pandemic. Is it finally time for an American automotive giant to solidify F1 as a major player in American sports?