When it comes to Formula 1 and Las Vegas, both sides are all in.
We’ve seen new races added to the calendar close to exciting cities and as cool as they’ve been, they tended to be on the outskirts. I’m hyped for Miami — and this focus on Vegas should not detract from what could be an amazing first event there in five weeks — but the first attempt at a racetrack there was downtown before it had to relocate to Hard Rock Stadium because of logistics.
In Vegas, there has been no such compromise. The heart of the Strip will become an F1 circuit on a Saturday night from November next year, and there’s plenty more to get excited about.
I’ve driven what you can of the track layout and the location is just so hard to believe. You can’t really get any more iconic in Vegas than passing the biggest resorts at night, especially when one of the best overtaking opportunities looks set to be as the track turns off the Strip between Planet Hollywood and the Cosmopolitan (where the deal was announced), meaning cars are likely to be side-by-side about to hit the brakes as they fly past the Bellagio fountains at over 200mph.
With some unused land on the corner of East Harmon Avenue and Koval Lane set to be transformed into the pit and paddock complex and incorporate the opening few corners, there will be some technical challenges added, while the new MSG Sphere will also incorporate a sweeping left-hander that gives a street circuit more character than multiple 90-degree turns.
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 31, 2022
It’s the sort of layout that usually gets drawn up as the dream scenario when Formula 1 wants to plan its races in the middle of major cities, and then is quite rapidly moved way from when the reality is it’s unfeasible to shut down such key infrastructure for long enough to build a circuit.
But Vegas sees just how big F1 is on a global scale, and that it really will add value to the city.
For its part, Formula 1 as a company sees the same. In conjunction with the sport’s owner Liberty Media (and numerous Las Vegas stakeholders) Formula 1 will promote the event itself. It has skin in the game, because it knows how central an event like this could be to the sport’s success in the United States.
We’re talking about a race that could end up generating hundreds of millions of dollars for the sport — on top of the direct economic impact Nevada estimates to be half a billion — in a very different way to much more controversial events provide value to F1.
And it’s not just about money. In fact, that was so openly spoken about on Wednesday night as the race was launched because of the belief in so many different aspects of the race. Fans are going to want to go there, and they’re definitely going to want to watch, even with a starting time that prioritizes the local market and not the traditional European masses. As Stefano Domenicali said: “If we could have done even earlier or later, everyone will be connected that night with Las Vegas, there’s no doubt.”
Las Vegas is going to be connected with F1, too. The launch event saw pretty much every advertising billboard outside each resort along the Strip light up with the same “F1 Las Vegas 2023” branding, meaning that although I sat listening to the plans for the race from a privileged location on the roof of the Cosmopolitan, anyone going about their Wednesday night in Vegas would be hard-pushed to miss the news.
“We don’t normally have a press conference at 7:30 at night, but this is unusual…” Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak said, adding that his daughter taught him so much about Formula 1.
I am laser focused on our economy as Governor. I’m all in on @f1 because we know the economic impact will be incredible. Half of the people who visit extend their stay to be part of a sporting event.
That’s millions more people spending more time & more money in Nevada. pic.twitter.com/CmXsBtWRlw
— Governor Sisolak (@GovSisolak) March 31, 2022
That last point attests to one of the reasons why the Vegas race is such an exciting move. It’s capitalizing on the success of F1 in the United States but also the interest from a new, younger demographic and giving it an event that will appeal to those fans, too.
That makes it different to the pre-existing races in Austin and Miami, that also hit very different audience centers. The Middle East has four races from next season across Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia — all four countries combine for a population of just under 50 million, and share borders. Texas and Florida are 360 miles apart at their closest border points — separated by two states — and between them exceed the population of those four countries. And that’s without thinking of how much closer a Vegas race brings F1 to 40 million people in California.
You can see why Liberty was so keen to make the Sin City event happen that it is acting as promoter, as it really aims to cater to that audience directly with a 10 p.m. Saturday night start. The West Coast is getting all of the focus, which differentiates it from the existing U.S. races even further.
But it’s not just the U.S. races that Vegas is thinking about. It’s every race on the F1 calendar.
“Nobody puts on a party like Las Vegas,” Governor Sisolak added. “We’ve hosted drafts, we’ve hosted Super Bowl (parties), but the opportunity to host a Formula 1 race is something — I predict this will be the iconic race and the flagship race of F1 within a couple of years, that’s how well this is going to be received.”
With an initial three-year deal, if it doesn’t quite work then there’s a quick exit point for both the sport and the city, but with such high targets for the event you just can’t see that happening.
The circuit should offer good racing but however things play out on track you can already be certain that it’s going to be some weekend next November, and people will want to be a part of it.