Friday, November 24, 2023

Formula 1 in Las Vegas: You Had One Job!

Miami F1 2023 race, and it's NOT the middle of the night!

Formula 1 raced in Las Vegas in the early 1980s for two races that are mostly remembered for being a really bad idea! This is because the "track" was set up in the Caesar's Palace parking lot. Not a great spot for a race. Fast forward to this past weekend of 2023, and F1 returned to Vegas, but this time with a huge amount of promotion, investment, and a really cool race right on the city streets! They even raced down the famous Strip, at night, under tons of neon lights. The race was actually pretty good, there were multiple lead changes, but a few issues came up before the actual race. 

One thing they did differently here is hold the race at 10PM local time on Saturday. This is very unusual, since F1 is almost always a Sunday event, making for a three day schedule of practice, qualifying, and racing, from Friday thru Sunday. My only guess is that they really wanted to race at night under the lights of the strip, so they moved it to late Saturday. Oh, and that probably was also influenced by being a time for the British fans to tune in early Sunday morning. Not so good here on the eastern part of the US, but oh well. With a sport that races around the world, there's always races going on in the middle of the night for your local time. I just never thought it would be from a race in the USA!

So, "you had one job" relates to having a good, safe, racecourse. At the first practice late Thursday, this did not happen. After only about 9 minutes of an hour-long practice, Carlos Sainz' Ferrari was damaged and stopped on track due to hitting a drain cover or manhole or something. Things like this happen maybe every 10 years or so in F1, but in this case, it was NOT a great way for Las Vegas and F1 to impress the fans around the planet. 

Once they realized they had an issue, they made the right call in the name of safety and cancelled the rest of that session, so that they could inspect the rest of the track for similar issues. OK, maybe not the end of the world, and surely things got on track after that, right? RIGHT? HELLO? 

With the loss of practice session #1, there were several hours to go before #2 was to start. Well, they were still checking things out, and that session was delayed also. Delayed, as in, it became the latest F1 event EVER. This is just what I've read, since I was in bed sleeping at 5AM my time, but apparently, they finally practiced at 4-5:30AM Vegas time.  

I can hear you saying "Wow, that's really terrible!" But wait...there's more!

In the middle of the delayed practice #2 session, the decision was made to clear all the fans from the grandstand, I guess so that they could finish the session and then get the local roads open as scheduled! I just can't imagine having gone through a super short practice 1, sitting in the stands, getting delayed for practice 2, it's now the middle of the night, and then being told to leave before the event is over! The event that I paid some big bucks to attend. Believe it or not, that's what happened. 

Now, to their credit, either F1 or the race organizer is offering all the fans at practice #2 a gift voucher good for $200 at the F1 store, so that's at least something. Maybe those fans can find a cool shirt that says, "I Lived Through F1 Vegas Baby!"

Happy ending: The race on Sunday was exciting, with multiple lead changes, and some good passing into turn 1. 

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