F1 drivers hyped for Vegas but concerned over future of historic venues

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F1 drivers hyped for Vegas but concerned over future of historic venues

Formula 1

F1 drivers hyped for Vegas but concerned over future of historic venues

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The addition of Las Vegas to the Formula 1 calendar was greeted with general enthusiasm by drivers, although some expressed worries that some of the sport’s historic events could be lost amid the number of new venues.

Vegas will join the schedule in 2023 as the third race in the United States, following Austin’s Circuit of The Americas and Miami after the latter debuts in four weeks’ time. As a night race that incorporates part of the Strip in the track layout, the drivers are excited to be racing in an iconic setting and seeing the American expansion continue.

“I think it’s great — it’s amazing the relationship we have now, three races, I think that’s going to be awesome,” Lewis Hamilton said. “I think it will be good for the business; I think Vegas will be an awesome addition. I’ve not seen the track layout so I don’t really know how that will be but just being there and the spectacle…we welcome it.

“The one I really, really want to see is South Africa. That’s the one I really want to hear next that gets announced.”

World champion Max Verstappen says the whole event will be a standout one for the F1 paddock, although jokes some might get roped in by the temptations of Sin City.

“It’s a cool place and also I think the track and in general the race weekend will be pretty crazy, with a lot of people attending,” Verstappen said. “And just the scenery in general, it’s going to be insane. It will be exciting to go there and see how we all hold up. I’m pretty sure there are going to be a lot of hydrated people in the paddock on Saturday.”

Lando Norris believes the Las Vegas race will not only be good for the U.S. audience but also globally, given the backdrop.

“Very exciting, another U.S. race,” Norris said. “Similar I guess in some ways to what Miami is going to be like or what Austin is like. It’s going to be crazy, a cool place. I’ve only been once — I wasn’t at the age limit to enjoy Vegas as it should be enjoyed, but I am now! We need to make sure we sort everything out already and get some good plans in place…

“For Formula 1 to go to a place like this, it’s good — it puts us on show more and gets more of those fans around the world involved. It’s good to see how much more they’re getting into Formula 1 as well. So it’s cool for everything and I look forward to it already.”

Will bringing the noise to new venues like Vegas risk silencing traditional F1 icons like Spa’s Eau Rouge? Zak Mauger/Motorsport Images

However, with Qatar also joining the calendar permanently in 2023 — after likely replacing Russia this year — Vegas and the planned return of the Chinese Grand Prix would take F1 to 25 events without any races dropping off, and drivers want the right combination of new and historic venues to be found.

“I think we have to find a balance of course,” Max Verstappen said. “It’s very important we do visit proper tracks still, not only street circuits, but I’m sure F1 is well aware of that. I can definitely understand that we need a few more races in the U.S. to increase the popularity there as well and of course we’re happy to go there, but we also find it important to keep a few historical tracks that are really enjoyable to drive on the calendar.

“There are also some tracks that are less exciting — I’m not going to name them but there’s a few out there, so we just need to find the right balance.”

Norris agreed, saying he feels the addition of Vegas is the right one for Formula 1 but warning against the sport straying too far from its roots.

“As drivers we do still love the old-school tracks, and tracks which have been around for years and have good history to them,” Norris said. “But it’s still important that we evolve and adapt to the new situations and the bigger following that we have now. Although there’s three races in America, it’s three very different places.

“So I think it’s all just a good thing, but important that we keep a fair share of proper racing tracks that we’re used to and have a good history, and not an all-street-circuits kind of thing. But they’re all going to be good racing and they’re all going to have different fan bases and viewers and so on, so it’s all for the better.”

For Fernando Alonso, the biggest concern is the size of the calendar itself, with many new venues leading to extra traveling in a packed schedule.

“It’s the way it is, the way Formula 1 is going, so we accept that,” Alonso said. “There are some positives, bringing Formula 1 to new countries and discovering these new races. I think Las Vegas for example is going to be very exciting, and Miami and these kind of weekends.

“On the other hand, I think we need to be careful with the number of races. I think we should be on a limit, because for the teams it’s quite demanding how the schedule and the calendar is now, especially as we don’t have so many races in Europe anymore. So I think that’s the only concern if we keep adding races.”

Carlos Sainz agreed with his countryman, suggesting a rotation of certain venues could help keep them in the sport when they might struggle to compete on a yearly basis.

“I think there needs to be a limit for the number of races we keep adding, so in the end some other races are going to pay the price of having to stay out,” Sainz said. “Obviously I’m a big fan of having to go to Vegas and Miami but at the same time, a big loss having to lose classic European races.

“Hopefully for the future we can find a compromise where maybe races that can’t afford to be on the calendar year-in, year-out, can be on the calendar once every two years or once every three years and we can keep coming back to the places we’ve always been.

“Business is business — Liberty and Formula 1 will do what they have to do I guess for business, but I wouldn’t like to stop racing in Europe. I think it’s a great place to go racing, it’s where our heritage is and I think we need to keep coming back even if it’s not every single year, but at least keep it on the calendar.”

Formula 1 insists it is not intending to kill off historic races as a result of the latest additions, and is open to discussing rotation of venues as part of the calendar moving forward.

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