Why F1's Vegas adventure could spell doom for some
The confirmation that Formula 1 is returning to Las Vegas, something the sport’s leaders have coveted greatly in recent years, has sent a bolt of energy through the sport like no other announcement before it.
That is not to say F1 was in any dire need of such a revitalising tonic given its upward trajectory since Liberty Media took control from former supremo Bernie Ecclestone five years ago. The introduction of Netflix's 'Drive to Survive' has also been instrumental in boosting the sport’s popularity in the US.
There’s no doubt the addition of the Las Vegas Grand Prix has captured the imagination of a city, of a nation that Ecclestone tried so hard but failed to crack, and of the F1 community that has longed to showcase what it considers to be the greatest show on earth in one of the most electrifying places on the planet.
The fact F1 held a 40-minute 'show' to present its announcement on an open-air stage and with the famous 'Strip' in the background, along which the cars will hurtle along at over 200mph when the event makes its debut in November next year, tells you all you need to know about the importance of such a race to its burgeoning roster.
The sport is desperate for this event to succeed. A previous attempt at a Grand Prix in Las Vegas around a makeshift circuit in a sprawling parking lot was doomed from the word go in the early 1980s. It lasted just two years before withdrawing with a whimper on the back of its failure.
Forty years on, this new version was given the bells-and-whistles treatment for its unveiling, and you can bet – no pun intended – there will be a production like no other in the build-up to the race in 2023.
As F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali remarked, with Las Vegas' brash, gaudy, neon explosion serving as a backdrop: "In November 2023, the best racing on the planet will be on the streets of Las Vegas. It will be amazing.
"Formula 1 has huge momentum, we are growing around the world, and the enthusiasm is super. The United States is a massive focus for us, there's no doubt about it, and we have seen the fanbase here growing all the time.
"The race in Las Vegas will be huge, part of our growing path for the sport to reach another level. There is no better place for Formula 1 to race than in the global entertainment capital of the world and we cannot wait to be here next year."
The fanfare was loud and clear, serving as a warning shot across the bows of a race that has long been regarded as F1's 'jewel in the crown' in Monaco.
The Grand Prix around the Principality, with the blue waters of the Mediterranean and the yacht-lined harbour providing a breathtaking setting, has stood the test of time.
The Monaco Grand Prix has ridden a wave of nostalgia and romanticism over the years. Harking back to its glory days of yesteryear when the circuit was lined with straw bales, and the crowd in attendance lining the track was so close they could almost reach out and touch their heroes.
There remains a degree of exhilaration with Monaco. You only have to stand at the end of its famous tunnel, feeling the vibrations beneath your feet of an 800kg beast coming towards you before it has appeared in view to know it is a venue like no other.
The trouble is, F1 has outgrown Monaco. Those streets are simply too tight and twisty to accommodate the sport's current leviathans, rendering the race a non-event because there is nowhere to overtake. Other than a sprinkling of rain to spice up the action, Saturday qualifying is as good as it gets.
There remains a certain mystique about it, though, given its storied history. You ask any driver which race he would most like to win in any given year - with the exception of his home event should circumstances allow - and chances are he will say Monaco.
But if Monaco needed a reminder of the standards to which it must aspire in modern-day F1, then Las Vegas has duly provided it.
With the announcement, an ace was pulled from a sleeve when it was revealed the event will run at 10:00 - the latest start time in the sport's history - showcasing Las Vegas at its finest given the kaleidoscope of colour that will be on show, and enough to lure its European audience from its Sunday morning slumber.
For F1 as a whole, there is also a significant commercial aspect to consider in that Monaco pays just $15million in hosting fees, a figure significantly shy of the $40-50m paid by all of the Middle Eastern venues.
With its contract coming up for renewal, that point was alluded to by, amongst others, McLaren CEO Zak Brown with regard to Monaco's shortcomings in relation to many of its contemporaries.
“Monaco always stood for the most glamorous part of Formula 1," said Brown. "Miami, Singapore, Las Vegas are starting to add some pretty glamorous markets.
“Monaco needs to come up to the same commercial terms as other Grands Prix and also maybe needs to work with ways they can adapt their track because as our cars have become bigger, the racing has become more difficult.
“You do need to take into consideration history but then I think you need to take into consideration how’s the show that it puts on.
“There is also an element, which shouldn’t drive our decisions but should be part of our decisions, of what’s the economic contribution to the sport.
“I’d much rather have Monaco than not but just like the sport is bigger than any one driver or team, it’s [also] bigger than any one Grand Prix.”
History may be on Monaco's side but F1 has proven in the past that counts for nothing. The ball is now firmly in the Principality's court to show it can continue to compete with brash newcomers such as Las Vegas.