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The History of the Caesar's Palace Grand Prix

Written by Marco Noguier, Edited by Debargha Banerjee

On 18th November, Formula One will go racing on the streets of Las Vegas. The venue is highly criticised by fans due to the fact that it’s driven more by money than passion, that Formula One host three races on the American soil.

In addition, the previous race was hosted in Vegas which was a failure : the Caesar’s Palace Grand Prix a short-lived Grand Prix often considered as the worst track in F1 history. But why does this track have such a reputation and why was it a failure?

In 1981, Formula One looked to extend its influence in America and attract new fans. In the meantime Caesar palace owners in Las Vegas were attracted by the glamor Formula One represented and thought of hosting a F1 race to boost their revenues.

An agreement was made for the 1981 season and the Caesars Palace Grand Prix was supposed to be held as the season finale right after the US Grand Prix in Watkins Glen. Unfortunately, the New York track fell into financial difficulties and had to drop out of the calendar thus giving the Caesars Palace Grand Prix even greater prominence.

The Caesar Palace track layout; Image Credits - Wikipedia

As the weekend began, the visitors were enjoying the luxurious Las Vegas hotels and casinos, but the drivers and the personnel had to face one of the most bizarre and worst tracks they have ever faced.

During the 80s, and still to this day, organisers looked for street tracks, as it brings racing the closest to fans and spectators. Unfortunately hosting a race on street tracks means blocking roads and the city's traffic for an entire weekend. So a solution was found as the track was built in the parking lot at the back of the hotel.

But the main problem was the tracked layout with no variations in the corners, and no elevation changes. It lacked everything drivers and fans found enjoyable out of a Formula One race. John Watson, a former formula one driver said, “The least appealing circuit I think I’ve ever raced on'' The only advantage was that, due to the low elevation changes the track was fully visible from the grandstands

For the first race the F1 circus arrived with a title to be decided between three drivers : Carlos Reutemann in his Williams, Nelson Piquet in his Brabham and Jaques Laffite in his Ligier. The race was, as expected, disappointing with Alan Jones scoring his final Grand Prix win there, and Piquet winning his first ever championship.

Alan Jones on the podium; Image Credit - Motorsport Images

Despite the race being boring, it was hard due to Nevada's desert heat that caused cars to break down and drivers to faint after the race. Nelson Piquet had to be carried out of his car at the end of the race.

In 1982 the circuit witnessed another title fight between Keke Rosberg in his Williams and John Watson in his McLaren. Michele Alboreto went on to win the Grand Prix in his one and only win for Tyrell and the last one of the team. Keke Rosberg went on to win the title and Formula One.

The start of the 1981 Caesar's Palace Grand Prix; Image Credits - Auto Bild

Nowadays this venue is often forgotten, due to the lack of interest the races had, and the economic and sporting failure it was, for the FIA as well as the Caesar Palace hotel managers. But as the F1 circus rolls again in Las Vegas, will it be finally successful with a new track layout that covers the Las Vegas strip, the heart of the city?


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