The inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix took place in November 2023, with Formula 1 returning to Sin City for the first time since the early 1980s. The high-speed circuit along the Las Vegas Strip could, in time, become F1’s flagship event.
40 years on from F1’s last visit to Las Vegas, the sport returned in 2023 with the all-new Las Vegas Grand Prix. While the previous Caesars Palace Grand Prix was held in the parking lot of the famous hotel, the new Las Vegas Grand Prix is a much grander event. The Grand Prix takes place on a high speed street circuit, travelling over 6km through the city and passing many famous landmarks on the Las Vegas Strip.
The first Las Vegas Grand Prix attracted a weekend attendance of 315,000, making it the seventh best-attended Formula 1 race weekend of the season. The opening race weekend did not run without issue. Action was derailed after just eight minutes of practice on the first day, with the track requiring work following an incident in which Carlos Sainz made contact with a loose water valve cover.
Formula 1’s History in Las Vegas
The new Las Vegas Strip Circuit has certainly piqued more interest than Formula 1’s first foray in Nevada in the early 1980s. The so-called ‘Caesars Palace Grand Prix’ appeared on the schedule only twice, in 1981 and 1982.
The temporary circuit did not take in any of the sights of the city and instead was laid out around the car park of the Caesars Palace hotel. The track was derided by fans and drivers and is often named the worst circuit that the sport has ever visited. The event had low spectator numbers and the drivers struggled with the scorching desert heat.
In both 1981 and 1982, the event was the final race of the season. Both races resulted in the crowning of a new World Champion. Nelson Piquet won the title for the first time in 1981, while Keke Rosberg took the honours in 1982, despite winning only one race all season.
The All-New Las Vegas Grand Prix
While the Las Vegas Grand Prix was officially announced in 2022, plans for the event go back much further than that. Liberty Media acquired the sport in January 2017, and then-CEO Chase Carey expressed a desire to hold races in “destination cities”. Formula 1 subsequently trademarked three new race names in November 2017: the Miami Grand Prix, the New York Grand Prix and the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
Serious speculation about Las Vegas being added to the Formula 1 calendar began in October 2021, when representatives from the city travelled to the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas to discuss the possibility of racing in Las Vegas as soon as 2023.
Talks quickly advanced and by January it was reported that an announcement was expected within the first half of 2022 for a Grand Prix which would take place in 2023. The negotiations clearly stayed on track, as the Las Vegas Grand Prix was officially announced just months later, on March 31.
In 2023, there were three Grands Prix in the United States, with the Las Vegas Grand Prix joining the United States Grand Prix in Texas and the Miami Grand Prix, which takes place around the Hard Rock Stadium. 2023 was therefore the first season to feature three Grands Prix in the United States since 1982.
Saturday Night Racing
Unusually, the Las Vegas Grand Prix takes place on a Saturday night. Taking inspiration from the likes of Bahrain, Singapore and Jeddah, the event takes place under floodlights and the dazzling neon signs of the Las Vegas Strip. As a result of the race being on Saturday, the practice sessions take place on Thursday, followed by qualifying on Friday evening.
The 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix marked the first Formula 1 race to not take place on a Sunday since the 1985 South African Grand Prix. Strangely, after 680 consecutive Sunday races, the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix was one of three occasions across the next four races that the Grand Prix took place on a Saturday. The 2024 Bahrain and Saudi Arabian Grands Prix are also set to take place on Saturdays.
F1’s Investment in Las Vegas
The Las Vegas Grand Prix differs from other events on the calendar as Formula 1 and Liberty Media promote the race themselves in partnership with Live Nation Entertainment and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA).
Formula 1 has already committed to remaining in Las Vegas, having bought land in the city. A significant investment of $240 million has been made to buy 29 acres of land situated north east of the Strip. The site of a disused car park, it houses the pits and paddock complex over the Grand Prix weekend and is expected to host a Formula 1 exhibition throughout the rest of the year.
The Las Vegas Grand Prix holds an initial three-year contract through to 2025. However, with plans to make the race a “flagship event” – and with a ten-year agreement in place to utilise The Strip for racing purposes – it’s likely that the event will remain on the calendar for much longer than that.
The New Las Vegas Strip Circuit
31 different options for track layouts around Las Vegas were explored before circuit designers committed to the final design. The new Las Vegas Strip Circuit incorporates the famous Las Vegas Boulevard and runs 6.120km around the city.
The 17-corner, anti-clockwise track winds its way down Koval Lane, passing the recently constructed MSG Sphere arena, which opened just before the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix in 2023. This area of track was originally a long, sweeping left hand bend, but was revised in September 2022 and replaced with a chicane.
The track then passes down Sands Avenue before the cars emerge onto the Las Vegas Strip for a two kilometre run past Las Vegas’ most famous landmarks. After a tight series of corners, the drivers head up Harmon Avenue and into the complex which runs through land bought by F1.
The drivers are expected to reach top speeds of over 340km/h and the average lap speed could be similar to those seen at Monza – the current fastest circuit on the calendar. The entire track length was resurfaced ahead of the race to smooth out any bumps on the busy city streets.
Las Vegas Grand Prix: Fast Facts
- Las Vegas Strip Circuit was the 12th different venue in the United States to have hosted a round of the World Championship.
- The nearby airport, now known as Harry Reid International Airport, hosted a number of road races utilising part of the airfield in the 1960s. Jim Hall, who competed in Formula 1 between 1960 and 1963, holds the Lap Record at the now defunct track.
- Las Vegas’ High Roller Ferris wheel is the tallest trackside Ferris wheel on the F1 calendar. It stands just over two metres taller than the Singapore Flyer, near Marina Bay Street Circuit. The High Roller was the tallest Ferris wheel in the world until Ain Dubai opened in the United Arab Emirates in 2021.
- 2023 was only the third season to feature three races in a single country. The United States previously hosted three races in a year in 1982, while Italy hosted three races in the coronavirus-affected 2020 season.
- The Busch brothers are the most famous racing drivers from Nevada. Kurt and Kyle Busch were both born in Las Vegas. Kurt won the 2004 NASCAR Cup Series and the 2017 Daytona 500, while Kyle was the 2015 and 2019 NASCAR Cup Series champion.
- There’s yet to be a Formula 1 driver who hails from the state of Nevada.
- The last major open-wheel race on the streets of Las Vegas was the 2007 Vegas Grand Prix, held as the first race of the 2007 Champ Car season. The race saw Will Power take the first victory of his career.
- The Las Vegas Motor Speedway lies 25km north east of the Las Vegas Strip. The circuit held the Grand Prix of Las Vegas for sportscars between 1997 and 2000. Among the winners of the race are former F1 racers Eric van de Poele, JJ Lehto and Emanuele Pirro.
- The Golden Gate Hotel & Casino is Las Vegas’ original casino. It opened in January 1906 and the casino was in operation until 1909, when a state-wide ban on gambling was introduced. The casino re-opened in 1931, when gambling was legalised once more.
- At 6.201km, Las Vegas Strip Circuit is the second longest circuit on the Formula 1 calendar, behind Spa-Francorchamps (7.004km) and just ahead of Jeddah Corniche Circuit (6.178km).
- In 1995, the Indianapolis 500 race program promoted a new F1 street circuit along The Strip; but the plans never came to fruition.
Las Vegas Grand Prix Race Facts
|Las Vegas Strip Circuit
|6.201km (17 turns)
|50 laps (309.958 km)
|1:35.490, Oscar Piastri (McLaren), 2023
|1st Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:29:08.289
|2nd Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +2.070s
|3rd Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +2.241s