In short, through a loose drain cover, an ‘ice-rink’ and a whole load of controversy.Embed from Getty Images
The highly anticipated Las Vegas Grand Prix took centre stage over the past weekend, christening the latest addition to the F1 calendar. When Formula 1 took a gamble on Vegas, it’s fair to say that the odds were stacked against them as no one was quite sure whether the risk would be worth the reward.
Drain cover destruction and an ‘ice rink’ in Vegas
Putting it lightly, the weekend (or technically mid-week here in the UK) got off to a calamitous start, to say the least. Whilst we were expecting an explosive weekend jam-packed with on-track action, I don’t think anyone would’ve predicted that the catalyst to set the sparks flying on Sainz’s Ferrari would be a loose drain cover. Things would only go from bad to worse as this unprecedented disruption set off a track-wide review in which every drain cover had to be fixed down to the surface with cement. Impractical maybe, but the delays that were caused by this poorly planned practice meant that disgruntled fans only saw 9 minutes of the cars on track as they were swiftly kicked out of the event before the second session could take place at an ungodly hour on Friday morning. This infuriating mistreatment of the fans made many fall even further out of love with the idea of a Vegas Grand Prix.
The fans would not be the only ones to fall out of love with Sin City, as Carlos Sainz copped a 10-place grid penalty from the repairs that took place on his car following his impromptu collision with the drain cover. The reaction to this news was almost universal, with a majority condemning the F1 for penalising a driver as a result of their own shortcomings.Embed from Getty Images
Just when we thought that all of the teething problems had been teased out, we saw spins and spirals galore on the freshly resurfaced track. Unlike a majority of the circuits on the calendar, Vegas did not have any junior series’ to support the event and lay down rubber before the F1 cars took to the surface. In combination with the cold temperatures, which made it increasingly difficult to get the tyres up to temperature, we saw F1 cars gliding around as if they were driving on ice. This proved to be a monumental challenge for the drivers as they slid down the strip under the infamous neon-lit lights of the extravagant Vegas nights.
Hedge your bets
All teams entered into the weekend completely blind with no idea of how their cars would behave once they took to the track, it was a roll of the dice as to who would shine under the lights and who would fade into the background. Whilst it was expected that Red Bull would be Red Bull, even the reigning world champions found themselves struggling to keep up with Ferraris during qualifying.
With all eyeballs now focused on the first competitive running at this new track, to the surprise of many it… delivered. The aforementioned characteristics of the track allowed for complete unpredictability during qualifying with some high flyers, such as McLaren and Hamilton, plummeting down to the bottom of the grid, whilst both Williams’ staked their claim inside the top 10. The mixed-up grid set up an intriguing prospect for the Saturday night Grand Prix, heightening the allure of the showbiz spectacle.Embed from Getty Images
Hit the jackpot
With Leclerc taking his 23rd pole position in Formula 1, there was actually hope that he may be able to hold onto the win this time considering the pace of the Ferrari was much more in tune with the Red Bull. As the race unfolded it provided non-stop entertainment throughout, in an enthralling battle across the entire field (yes, even for p1) that undoubtedly silenced all of the criticisms that had built up heading into the weekend. From safety cars, to penalties, and a few close calls, this race really had everything to make it a permanent fixture on the F1 calendar.
Viva Las Vegas
So, where do we go from here?
With 3 races now in the US, Vegas and COTA have proved why they deserve to remain in the sport but this past weekend has unquestionably made it more difficult to justify Miami’s position in F1. The Miami Grand Prix has created a lacklustre atmosphere around it, with very little to look forward to both on and off the track. Although Formula 1 have made no secret of their desire to conquer the US, Vegas and COTA are more than enough to keep a wider audience interested. The outlandish distractions and manufactured performance off the track may not be for everyone, but the weekend can always engage the heart of the sport with the incredible racing that these tracks produce, making it impossible for anyone who truly craves top-tier racing to deny the quality of what we saw last weekend.