In the penultimate D.R.E. (Dre’s Regular Editorial) of 2023, Dre talks about how good Vegas ended up despite the clear problems the Grand Prix had.
Okay, fair enough. Vegas was pretty good in the end. A genuine fight for the win as Red Bull and Ferrari excelled on different compounds. The multiple Safety Cars brought other drivers into play like Perez, Ocon, Piastri and Stroll who all had good to great drives and there were battles up and down the field. Easily a Top 5 race of the season.
F1 will likely be breathing a big sigh of relief given the biggest hiccup on Saturday was the 15-minute round trip to the podium. Because that’s the beauty of sports and news cycles these days, it can move so fast that the difficult birth of this race will largely become a footnote. But it should absolutely be a weekend where F1 can take lessons from the experience.
Look, Vegas was always going to split the room. This is a race that was built almost purely to enhance “the show” and lean in hard on the glamorous, exorbitant culture F1 has cultivated over the years. At the same time, the series has struggled to inspire as Max Verstappen continues to dominate. Max’s general attitude towards this very weekend was relatable to many fans, his scowling during the opening ceremony’s fireworks and lengthy chats to the media were emphatic in wanting the racing to shine brightest.
Before the weekend started, there were valid questions asked. The most expensive ticket prices ever seen for an F1 weekend – $2,000 for a general admission grandstand package. Despite it going dark at 5pm in November, the sport insisted on a 10pm local start, meaning 1am on the East Coast of the race’s own country. Questionable and it didn’t do any favours to many US fans who felt this was built only for the rich locals and the European crowd.
All this while the sport dodged another PR bullet in the form of General Motors announcing they’ll be building Andretti’s power units by 2028 if F1 accept the team’s proposal, only days before the race weekend was due to start. So you mean to tell us that you’re prepared to spend half a billion dollars out of your own back pocket to commit to a third race in the United States, but you won’t take a full factory team with two of the biggest names in American motorsport? F1 can consider itself lucky there weren’t more questions asked about it during the weekend.
And then there was Thursday night – or what became Friday morning. I sincerely don’t think it’s been talked about enough just how fortunate Carlos Sainz was given the damage to his car after hitting that water valve cover. The chassis had to be replaced and his seat was broken. It feels like a luckier escape than we’ve given it credit for. And the one time you’d hope the FIA had some sort of force majeure as Sainz took a penalty he only suffered due to something more in the governing body’s hands than the team’s, they couldn’t.
And the knock-on effect of that could hit the sport hard. Poor communication from F1 to not tell the fans that the staff were reaching the maximum shift time for the staff at the facility. The bad look of an FP2 session that finished at 4am, to empty grandstands, and the hollow gesture of a $200 shop voucher as the sport was scrambling to say anything but an apology.
F1 had to execute perfectly after Thursday, and PR open goal aside, they did. But now there are more questions that I’ve seen asked. If Vegas is a success (and with a weekend attendance of over 300,000, I think it’s fair to say it is), does that make some of the other “showpiece” races redundant? Does Monaco hold that same commercial value? Or Singapore? Or even Miami if you’re going to force many Americans to choose between races?!
As a self-confessed sports obsessive, I’m more than self-aware enough to know that winning generally solves everything. And Vegas just about tipped its scales with a genuinely promising showing. Trust me, I want Vegas to do well, it’s good for everybody if it does. But the good race still papers over the cracks of a lot of potential problems for F1’s enormous gamble. Maybe, in this case, the house can win.
Did you enjoy Vegas? Did the race overcome the problems? Let me know in the comments and check back next week for the season finale of D.R.E!