Round twenty-one and the penultimate race of the season sees F1 return to Las Vegas for the first time in forty years and the 1,100th running of a world championship Grand Prix. Previously the Caesars Palace Grand Prix, the famous city in Nevada takes in the iconic Strip and many of the iconic Casinos, music venues in the middle of the desert.
This race makes the United States the first country to hold three world championship Grands Prix twice, Vegas also featured on the calendar when it held the 1982 championship decider. Conditions are set to be very different to that weekend with the sport hosting a night race outside Asia and the Middle East.
Though we are later in the year than in 1982, this new Vegas street circuit is a fully-fledged street circuit rather than the car park of Caesars Palace. It’s a 3.8-mile circuit running along the Las Vegas strip, officially called the Las Vegas Boulevard.
There are expectations that this race could be one of the highlights of the season, I’ve never seen a new race with such anticipation joining the calendar and the weekend could become one of the highlights of the season. But we can’t conclude that until after the Grand Prix.
Many of the corner names come from the many casinos, entertainment venues and landmarks. One of the sections is named after Caesars Palace where the last race took place in 1983. The expectations from the simulations given by F1 is this being a Baku or Jeddah-style high-speed downforce street circuit with speeds up to 200mphs similar to Monza.
Like Caesars Palace, this circuit is anti-clockwise like Interlagos that will place added strains on the driver’s necks however they may find it easier coming into a series of ant-clockwise circuits.
Adding to the challenge of the circuit is it being anti-clockwise as well as the need to balance straight-line speed and the more slower technical corners, the circuit has one of the longest flat-out sections broking by a flat out right gander. There are also a few technical sections like the first few corners of the two chicanes which could be overtaking opportunities.
This is also a night race, the first outside of Asia and the Middle East this creates the opposite problem for the teams we had last time out in 1983 a race which saw extreme heat shown by Nelson Piquet collapsing out of the car after the race and others reporting feeling sick.
That was one of the reasons why it’s a night race, however being in the desert the extremes go to heat from twenty degrees in the day to freezing at night at this time of year. It makes it slightly different to say other night races as we are later in the evening with the predictions of being a cold race it could make tyre warm up more difficult given the low temperatures expected for midnight qualifying on Friday night / Saturday morning.
Will this new fast-flowing Vegas Street circuit create close action-packed racing, making us go ‘Padam, Padam’ and giving us a Vegas High, if we fall in love in a similar way to Baku in 2017. Alongside this race are concerts headlined by Kylie Minogue, a regular this season at Grands Prix, Will.I.Am, and Nile Rodgers, as the big names.
This circuit was the first where F1 had direct involvement in building and even buying up land to build the pit and paddock complex which is the only permanent section of this circuit before transitioning onto the streets and eventually onto the strip.
Williams are the only team which has won in Vegas thanks to Alan Jones allowing the Australian to take his only championship by one point ahead of teammate Carlos. Reutemann. It was the last win for nearly thirty years by an Australian until Mark Webber won at the Nürburgring in 2009.
Oscar Piastri will hope McLaren’s recent run of form will see them be in the mix and give Australia back-to-back wins in Vegas. However we know that Max Verstappen will be the favourite given the way he dominated this season, but at the last night street race in Singapore they were beaten by Carlos Sainz.
But we are operating at the other end of the spectrums, while Singapore is hot at humid, the Nevada desert is cold at night with qualifying at 12am race starting at 10pm local time on Saturday, with the sessions on the having a twenty-two hour gap. But there are so many different factors.
Teams cannot compare this race to last time out in 1982, forty years is several lifetimes in F1 evolution, regulations, and technology. They have to treat this as a new Grand Prix and that means that every practice session is going to be important to learn the track. Looking at the estimated speeds and layout of this circuit I expect a few incidents through out the weekend.
Race & Circuit Guide
|Round||21 of 22|
|Race||Formula 1 Heineken Silver Las Vegas Grand Prix 2023|
|Venue||Las Vegas Street Circuit, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States|
|Circuit Length||6.120km (3.803mi)|
|Race Distance||306.000km (190.250mi)|
|Most wins drivers *||Alan Jones (1)
|Most wins manufacture *||Williams-Ford (1)
*Last race in Las Vegas the Caesar Palace Grand Prix
- Las Vegas sets a new record for the shortest distance between two circuits which have hosted Grand Prix. It’s a matter of metres between Turn One of Ceaser Palace and the corner Caesar Palace (Turn Thirteen)
- Like 1982 the US becomes the first country to twice hold three Grands Prix in a season, the other being Italy in 2020 due to complications with the COVID-19 pandemic.
- “Las Vegas” means “the meadows” due to water found in underground artesian wells
- Gaming/gambling generally accounts for slightly over 43 percent of Las Vegas casinos’ revenue
- at 6.12km, which will make only Spa and Jeddah longer circuits. This is complete with a 1.92km straight, just 300m shorter than the longest straight in F1 at Baku. Speeds along the straight are expected to hit 330km/h, and provide epic overtaking opportunities along the Las Vegas Strip.
- The last Grand Prix to take place on a Saturday was the 1985 South African Grand Prix but the 1981 and 1982 Las Vegas GP also were on Saturday
What happened in 1982?
Rene Arnoux took pole position beating his teammate Alain Prost to pole position by four tenths of a second. Arnoux’s strong qualifying performance set the stage for what was expected to be a competitive and thrilling race, with multiple drivers vying for a strong finish in the final round of the season.
Title rivals Keke Rosberg started sixth out qualifying John Watson by a tenth with the McLaren starting ninth.
In the race, Watson’s hopes of taking the championship were dented majorly when he suffered a puncher dropping him down the order and out of the points. With Rosberg finishing fifth the Finn took the title while Watson on countback back dropped to third in the drivers championship behind Didier Pironi.
The race was won by Michele Alboreto driving for Tyrrell-Ford. Alboreto had a dominant performance, leading from start to finish and securing his second career victory in Formula One. This victory marked the last for Tyrrell. Rosberg was the first driver since Mike Hawthorn to take the championship without winning a Grand Prix.
Race Result – 1) M. Alboreto, Tyrrell – Ford, 01:41:56.888 | 2) J. Watson, McLaren – Ford, + 27.292| 3) E. Cheever, Talbot – Gitanes, + 56.450
What to watch for?
Max Verstappen goes into this weekend as the favourite on paper given the way he has dominated this season, however he admitted on Friday in the simulator and on the game he keeps hitting the wall. He goes into this weekend looking for record-extending wins, but this is a race similar in theory to Singapore.
Red Bull can’t be counted out this is a high-speed and downforce circuit, according to the simulations we have been given by F1 and the prompters. We know that modern street circuits tend to create closer racing but we don’t know, the first race in Baku wasn’t amazing but it became a highlight following 2017-18. I say never judge a circuit on one race give it two or three.
This weekend is the first true night race in a way all the practice sessions are at night but that creates the opposite challenge we know the circuit normally gets hotter through the day and the desert races we normally go to remain warmish through the evening. However in Vegas, we are racing hours after sunset when its expected to be a few degrees above freezing.
I suspect as with any street circuit, communication is going to be key in both qualifying and the race. We know that safety cars, yellow flags and red flags are more likely to appear this being a street circuit, as I often write reacting correctly timing things to gain advantages can be rewarding. The banker lap like we saw, for different reasons in Sao Paulo, could be key in case of crashes.
I think Ferrari will be the team most affected by the tyre warm up issues we are likely to face given its going to be very cold compared to even other night race. It could be very cold and we don’t know how the cars and tyres will react, we saw the fatigue drivers had racing at the end of the other extreme in Lusail.
The circuit being new and resurfaced roads is expected to be smooth but we have heard drivers saying in qualifying it could need more than one lap to warm the tyres up. We are effectively going into this blind there is no point in comparing this to 1982 it was forty years ago, and everything has moved on so much.
White Hard (C3)
Yellow Medium (C4)
Red Soft (C5)