What needs to change for next year's Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix

24th November 2023
Ian Parkes

Brutal! That was pretty much the over-riding feeling from all concerned in Formula 1 following a Las Vegas Grand Prix that saved itself from complete condemnation with a race to savour.It was a weekend that started inauspiciously, with first practice cancelled after just eight minutes after the concrete rim of a water valve cover exploded beneath the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz due to the powerful suction forces of his SF23 as he drove over it.


The subsequent repairs and assessment of every other cover resulted in a two-and-a-half-hour delay that led to FP2 not starting until 2.30am, and in front of empty grandstands as those fans that had remained behind in the hope of seeing some track action were forced to leave due to America's union labour laws, and the protection of support staff around the circuit.

A 30-minute extension to FP2 saw the session end at 4am, the knock-on effect of which on the drivers, engineers, and technicians, as well as journalists and photographers, led to exhausted minds and bodies by the end of the event in the early hours of Sunday morning.

After what unfolded with FP2, I returned to my hotel just as the sun was rising at 6am. It was the same, if not later, for many others in F1 that morning. Something has to give for next year. Yes, there is an extra week's break built into the calendar following the triple-header in the United States, Mexico, and Brazil, before F1 returns to America for the second edition of the Las Vegas GP.

The brutality of the situation stems initially from an eight-hour time difference (nine to Europe) between the UK and Sin City, added to which were the late session times, midnight for FP2, as it should have been, the same for qualifying, and 10pm for the race. Even on Wednesday night/Thursday morning, the last of the media sessions concluded at 1.10am. The unfortunate driver was McLaren's Oscar Piastri.


Some tried to switch to Japanese time in a bid to cope with the situation, but that proved problematic as the mind attempted to adjust to one time zone whilst trying to run to another 17 hours behind. The reasoning behind the schedule was simple: to accommodate the populous UK and European television audiences, with FP2 and qualifying starting at 8am and 9am respectively, and the race at 6am UK, 7am Europe.

The problem is, as the saying goes, you cannot please all of the people all of the time. Those on the east coast of the US were moaning at a qualifying session starting at 3am, and the race at 1am, underlining just how difficult it is for F1 to accommodate everyone.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes the timings for the Las Vegas GP have to be earlier next year, regardless of TV, although the latter will naturally counter, especially given how dramatic the first race proved to be. The stations, including Sky, will no doubt not want to play ball.


Horner said: "One of the things we look at is the running schedule because it’s been brutal for the team, and all the men and women behind the scenes. I think everybody’s leaving Vegas slightly f****d.

“We need to look at how we can improve that for the future. We’re running so late at night, so maybe we run it a little earlier in the evening.

“You’re never going to keep every television audience totally happy. This is an American race, so if you run at eight o’clock in the evening, or something like that, it would just be a bit more comfortable for all.”

Horner's point of view was echoed by, amongst others, Ferrari's Charles Leclerc. Outlining the issues with Las Vegas' debut, Leclerc said: "Mostly it's the fact that we were driving so late.

"I can see the point, with the audience in Europe. I don't know if that's even the point, or why we have been racing so late, but I felt it was a bit on the limit."


Worse still for those who were in Vegas is the 12-hour time-zone shift to the curtain-closing grand prix in Abu Dhabi.

Three-time champion, and Las Vegas race-winner, Max Verstappen spoke for all faced with such an exhausting situation when he said: "For next year, maybe that is not possible, but to maybe make it a bit better travelling to Abu Dhabi.

"At the moment, it's such a big time shift, especially at the end of the season when everyone is already a bit tired.

"It would be ideal to find a different date. Maybe we need more of an American tour. Of course, maybe for ticket sales, I don't know if that's ideal. Maybe we can find a bit of a solution there.

"But I think the 12-hour time-zone shift, and also completely different timings for racing, are a bit much."


Unfortunately for Verstappen, and everyone in F1, the end of next season sees Las Vegas as the start of a triple-header, with Qatar and Abu Dhabi following immediately after. Verstappen makes a serious point, though. Why Las Vegas is followed this year by a race in the Middle East, and next year two, is beyond all reasonable comprehension, particularly in an era when F1 is pushing the green message and aiming to be carbon neutral by 2030, which includes cutting back on logistics and travel.

Ideally, Austin and Las Vegas would be back to back. The distance is no worse than a European double-header, such as Hungary and Belgium, for argument's sake, as was the case this year. After a break, Mexico and Brazil would follow. Although a considerable distance apart - a 10-hour direct flight, the same as flying from Heathrow to Shanghai - they are at least close in terms of time, just two hours difference. Following another break, you then conclude with the Middle Eastern double-header.

It sounds simple and logical, but no doubt there are contractual obligations behind the schedule, which includes the immovable object that is Canada. It will not shift from its mid-June slot due to the long-term deal in its possession.


That has left F1 needing to plan its calendar around the Montréal race as its starting point, and organising other events around it. The calendar has long been a headache for all involved in its co-ordination.

Now there is the the added complication of the Las Vegas schedule, and whether the teams and drivers will be put first with earlier times for the sessions, or whether money again wins out and the paying TV stations call the shots.

Over to you, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali.

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images

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