Showtime is almost here for F1’s Las Vegas gamble

Something tells me you might have noticed by now that the next race on the Formula 1 calendar is in a place called Las Vegas.

With F1 itself a promoter for the first time, Vegas has enjoyed an even bigger presence than it would have if it was just joining the schedule under the usual approach of an external promoter. But then, it was always going to need a lot of input to pull this one off.

Whether you’re a fan of the proposal or not, just take a second to recognize what is about to take place next week in Sin City. The Strip will be shut down to host a grand prix, right down the heart of it, late on a Saturday night.


Honestly, it’s the sort of discussion you’d have had just 10 years ago about fantasy race locations if there were no limits or constraints. Miami has shown how difficult it is to try and close down central city locations, let alone one that is such a massive tourist location in the way that Las Vegas Boulevard is.

As you might imagine, it’s taken a lot of coordination and compromise that hasn’t always left locals or visitors happy with the disruption.

“The partnership that has been shown by Public Works, Clark County Commissioners and all of the local residents in tolerating the inconvenience we’ve caused, we really can’t thank them all enough for that,” Las Vegas Grand Prix CEO Renee Wilm tells RACER.

“This project has been sort of fully underway for about two years now. And there’s no playbook for what we’re doing. There are other races on our calendar, which are street races. Obviously, there’s Monaco, there’s Singapore, both absolutely epic, legendary races. But this is a living, breathing city that is alive 24 hours a day, doors never shut…

“And to try to shut down 3.8 miles — and it really encapsulate more than 60,000 hotel rooms and workers and guests — it’s just an undertaking that has been truly extraordinary. And without the incredible team that we have on the ground and the partnerships from all the local stakeholders, this never could have been possible.”

The promotion aspect that has meant Vegas has been front and center at many moments even prior to this week is due to F1’s own involvement, but Wilm says there are other areas that Liberty Media has been leaning on its position to try and ensure the race is successfully organized.

“I think one of the benefits that we had, being the shareholder — Liberty Media — of Formula 1, is having access to some of the best practices that have taken place around our calendar. When you look at the level of hospitality in Singapore, and you look at just how the streets are constructed in Monaco. You look at Miami — that truly American flair to bringing a new race to North America — we’ve been really able to call upon all of those elements that we found to be incredibly endearing, but then also bring their own twist to it and highlighting everything that Las Vegas has to offer as a town.”

That all said, no new event ever runs perfectly smoothly. In fact, no established event does either — with hundreds of thousands of fans you’re always going to get issues and some negative experiences. In Vegas, while Wilm makes a claim that appears to overlook the way the majority of fans move around a venue in general as well as reach city tracks, there’s at least an acceptance that getting the race to seamlessly fit into Vegas’ day-to-day movements is going to be a challenge.

“I would say my one biggest concern is going to be around traffic. And we are the first walking circuit of Formula 1 — you can walk the entire circuit, you can walk from any property to wherever your seat may be. We have developed an app that is unique to our event, which will provide wayfinding as well as pedestrian passes that you can take to get where you need to go.

“There will of course, be shuttles available. But again, no playbook exists, and traffic is something that will really negatively impact the experience. So we are encouraging everyone: put on your Gucci trainers and your pretty outfits and just go for a nice walk at night.

“It’ll be part of the experience. You’re gonna be walking with throngs of people — the energy, the electricity coming out of it. Again, this entire town is going to be activated. And it’s going to be a much better experience than sitting in a shuttle waiting to get where you’re going.

“There will be some available transportation of course. And we’ve really leaned in around the temporary bridges and quite honestly spent a fortune to try to accommodate traffic continuing to move but we are very much encouraging every one of the properties and all of our fans to walk to your seat.”

Much of the hype around Vegas has centered around the special packages and high-end experience that can be offered. But with ticket sales still on offer in the majority of grandstands and hospitality areas while general admission is sold out, Wilm says it’s an approach that will be revisited for 2024.

“We are certainly going to be looking at our hospitality offerings and whether we want to maintain the same structures or whether we want to move them around. We call it hospitality Tetris. Do we do we change this to GA? That has been one complaint that we have heard loud and clear, we will act upon next year, and that is having more GA for our fan base.

“We’ll go back to that ticket price point, and trying to get more fans to be able to enjoy the race weekend. We’re also going to be looking to re-invent the entertainment year over year. We’ve already announced some pretty incredible acts that will be taking place on Sphere, and we’ve announced our opening ceremonies.

“There’s also a mega sports event that that will be streamed that will be announced very shortly as well. And we’re going to look to really continue to up our game year in and year out around that fan experience. We are looking to set a new standard of fan experience in a race weekend.”

As the pressure ramps up to get the venue ready — and the fear of the unknown grows for those who will be working the race on-site amid expecting first-year issues — Wilm says targeting 2024 instead of 2023 was a consideration when committing to the race but the current momentum in the United States made it worth the risk.

“It could have (been 2024), but we really did not want to miss this wave of excitement that was building. We were one of the few sports that were able to just continue working throughout COVID — just an amazing job done by the team to create this bubble system and continue racing and provide that content for people who were stuck at home and wanting to enjoy the thrill of a sporting event.

“And we really used that somewhat downtime — in that it wasn’t obviously as many people traveling the world — to build into this transaction, to build up to a race happening this quickly. But we’ve moved at lightning speed. We broke ground on our building about a year ago, roughly, and now it’s 300,000 square feet, state of the art, LEED certified, three football fields long … it really could not have happened without all the boots on the ground.”

And it’s going to happen. The incredible sight of F1 cars racing down the Strip is coming in a matter of days. Whether Vegas is ready not.

Story originally appeared on Racer