Max Verstappen compared the Las Vegas Grand Prix to the fifth tier of English soccer and likened Monaco to the pinnacle of the European game as he explained why he isn’t enjoying the race.
Las Vegas’ first edition of its new race drew massive attention in the build-up but Verstappen had already voiced his own lack of enthusiasm even before track issues on Thursday night saw FP1 cancelled and FP2 run until 4:00am without fans present. After qualifying second, Verstappen says F1 needs to educate fans at races rather than simply treat them as hospitality guests as he feels is happening in Vegas.
“I think Monaco is like Champions League and this is like (English fifth tier) National League,” Verstappen said. “I could go on for a long time, but I feel like a kind of show element is important, but I like emotion. For me, when I was a little kid, it was the emotion of the sport I fell in love with and not the show of the sport around it.
“I think as a real racer that shouldn’t really matter. I mean, a racing car, a Formula 1 car, doesn’t really come alive and is not that exciting. I think it is more about proper racetracks. When you go to Spa and Monza, these places have a lot of emotion and passion. For me, seeing the fans there is incredible and when I jump in the car there I am fired up and I love driving around these kinds of places.
“Of course I understand that fans maybe need something to do as well around a track, but I think it’s more important that you make them understand what we do as a sport. Most of them just come to have a party, drink, see a DJ play or a performance act — I mean I can do that all over the world, I can go to Ibiza and get completely s***faced, you know?
“But that’s what happens, they come and they become a fan of what? They come and see their favorite artist and have a few drinks with their mates and have a crazy night out, but they don’t understand actually what we are doing and what we are putting on the line to perform.
“I think if you would actually put more time into the actual sport and what we are actually trying to achieve here — because as a little kid we grew up to be a world champion — if the sport would put more focus onto these kinds of things and also what a team is doing, what they are achieving and what they are working for then these kinds of things are way more important to look at than having all these random shows all over the place.
“For me, it’s not what I am passionate about and I like passion and emotion at these kinds of places. I love Vegas, but not to drive an F1 car. I love to go out, have a few drinks, throw everything on red, be crazy, have nice food … but like I said, the emotion and passion is not there compared to old-school tracks.”
Focusing on Saturday’s night race, Verstappen believes he has a fight on his hands with Charles Leclerc starting from pole position.
“The whole weekend already I think we were not strong enough over one lap. So no real surprise there and in qualifying. I tried to do the best I can; I dropped the rear wing also so it probably took more time to get into a nicer rhythm, but yeah we were just too slow. That lap in Q3, I was quite happy with it, I improved quite a bit from Q2 and honestly there was not much more in it.
“There wasn’t any corner where I lost time in my Q2 lap. I improved in every corner a little bit and felt OK — not good enough but it felt OK. Tomorrow is different — it’s not about the one-lap performance, it’s about keeping your tires alive and stopping the graining on the tires, so hopefully we might have an advantage there or at least a chance to fight them.
“I think this is a little bit more like Baku. In the race it will depend a lot on who can keep their tires alive or who will grain the tires more, so we will have to wait and see tomorrow. That’s the beautiful thing — there is no sprint race to find out.”