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Formula 1 Preview: Las Vegas Grand Prix

Written by Marcus Woodhouse, Edited by William Stephens

F1 returns to Sin City for the first time in four decades; Credit: Lightvision, LLC

Welcome back to Formula 1 action, and a warm welcome it is for the long-anticipated Las Vegas Grand Prix. It’s an all-new circuit for the drivers to get their teeth into, equalising the gap between rookies and veterans of the sport. Plus, with both competitions wrapped up some time ago, expect to see some wild, entertaining racing around the famous Las Vegas Strip.

Circuit Guide

Credit: Formula 1

We don’t know all too much about the Las Vegas Strip Circuit, aside from its iconic location and average speeds expected to match those of Monza (a.k.a. The Temple of Speed). A short start-finish straight begins this anti-clockwise lap, soon followed by the first DRS (Drag Reduction Zone) of the circuit.

The track’s street circuit nature comes into fruition next, as the drivers pass by the renowned MSG Sphere. The curved Sands Avenue section follows, passing the Palazzo Venetian, before the drivers enter the truly special part of the circuit.

They will blast down Las Vegas Boulevard with the help of DRS once again, shaking the foundations of Caesars Palace and the Bellagio Fountains, among other well-known structures. Finally, a drag race down Harmon Avenue culminates in the sweeping Top Golf corner to round out the lap.

Weekend Format

In order to capture the true essence of Las Vegas, the action is happening after dark this weekend, even meaning a break in tradition to hold the race on Saturday local time. However, for European viewers, the days are the regular ones but the timings are just very early, as is the case for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Schedule (in GMT)

Practice 1 - Friday, 4:30 am

Practice 2 - Friday, 8:00 am

Practice 3 - Saturday, 4:30 am

Qualifying - Saturday, 8:00 am

Race - Sunday, 6:00 am

Weather Forecast

Clear skies seem certain in Las Vegas this weekend, but circuit temperatures are looking fairly chilly, dipping to 11oC at times during the action.

Major Talking Points

  • Vibrant Vegas - The Formula 1 circus is well-known for its eccentricity and unique atmosphere, but the combination of F1 with Las Vegas will be something to truly behold.

  • Mercedes vs Ferrari - The battle for second place in the Constructor Standings has raged on and on, and the gap remains a mere 20 points between these two giants, so can either team stretch out an advantage in the penultimate round of the 2023 season?

  • Vying for 4th - With the season coming to a head, the points totals are the talk of the town, and only six points separate Fernando Alonso, Lando Norris, and Carlos Sainz in their fierce fight for fourth place in the 2023 Driver Standings, so can any of them grab a haul of points to cement their credentials as a top driver?

The Hype Around The Las Vegas Grand Prix

Artistic impression from Tilke Design and Architects; Credit - Formula One

F1 fans are buzzing for the Las Vegas Grand Prix, and for very good reason. Firstly, the backdrop of the circuit is obviously picturesque and captures some of the most iconic buildings of the popularly named Entertainment Capital of the World.

The build-up to the race is scheduled to perfection, with a star-studded opening ceremony on Wednesday night (local time) commencing four days of non-stop viewing pleasure. Lastly, the quality of racing should be fantastic, with a real vision of fast-paced, open racing built into the design of the Las Vegas Strip Circuit.

Last Race Recap

The Brazilian Grand Prix brought thrills and spills as it does every year, but it was ultimately Max Verstappen who cruised to victory on Sunday. Yet more misfortune for Charles Leclerc saw him unable to even start the race, while Norris and Lewis Hamilton jumped the two Aston Martins at the start as Kevin Magnussen and Alex Albon collided heavily behind.

As the race progressed, both Mercedes challengers lacked race pace and our eyes turned to the gripping duel between Alonso and Sergio Perez in the final laps. The Mexican looked to have the move done, but the wily Alonso managed to sneak back past on the final lap, edging his rival by a matter of milliseconds at the finish line.

Drivers to Watch

Ricciardo would be itching to get on the road at Vegas; Credit: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Fernando Alonso - Return to Form

The Spaniard used all his years of experience to take a much-needed podium in Interlagos, capitalising on a surprisingly strong weekend for the Aston Martin team, given their recent catastrophic results. He will be hoping that the pace of his car in Brazil was more than just a blip, and will certainly be on hand to make the most out of his machinery however competitive it is.

Daniel Ricciardo - Something to Prove

As a long-time advocate for a race in Las Vegas, the Honey Badger is still setting his sights on a Red Bull seat for 2024 and will be hoping that this weekend shows Dr. Helmut Marko his ability compared to the floundering Perez.

The Other Contenders

Anything other than a Verstappen victory would obviously still be a risky bet, given the Dutchman’s tendency to dominate races this season, no matter the occasion. Mercedes are coming off the back of an awful Brazilian Grand Prix, while Ferrari still can’t seem to get their act together. McLaren and Aston Martin will both have high hopes this weekend as well.

Marcus’ Predictions

Going bold has only backfired on me, so I’m going to predict that Max Verstappen expertly handles the challenge of a new circuit, and takes a lights-to-flag victory under the neon lights.

Oscar Piastri won’t be disadvantaged by his rookie status, as the Las Vegas Strip Circuit is new to everyone, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he showed his true pace and followed home Verstappen at the chequered flag.

Finally, I’ll go for Charles Leclerc to make up for some of his anguish two weeks prior, while both Alonso and Ricciardo will earn themselves a commendable sum of points.

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