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Formula 1: ‘99% Spectacle and 1% Sport’, Extreme Grand Prix in Las Vegas

Abnormally low temperatures, poorly secured pit covers, spectators deprived of second free practice… The Las Vegas Grand Prix, Formula 1’s flagship event and showcase in the United States, has drawn criticism from drivers and spectators alike. The American group Liberty Media, the owner of the discipline, has nevertheless invested heavily in the city of games and excess, on the return of this race from November 16 to 18, which has not been on the calendar since 1982.

54,000 square meters of LED screens were needed to illuminate the night route, a little more than six kilometers long and crossing the most prestigious casino hotels in Nevada City – including the Las Vegas Strip Boulevard. On Wednesday, the opening ceremony, which featured twenty drivers emerging from giant boxes and being presented to the public directly in the pit, was an American-style show. A number of artists, including, Kylie Minogue and Cirque du Soleil, have added their own touch to the show, which was launched by Formula 1 – the entity that runs F1 on behalf of Liberty Media and is biting the dust .

A preamble that three-time reigning world champion Max Verstappen could do without: “I’m not talking about the singers, you’re just here and you look like a clown.” » The Dutchman also missed the VIP evening organized in Sin City. “99% performance and 1% sport”This is the definition of the third American meeting of the season according to the Red Bull driver. But not everyone thinks like him: thus, the dean of the grid, Fernando Alonso, believes that the huge investment of F1 – about 500 million dollars – in this excessive Grand Prix. “Deserves different treatment and more spectacle”.

Sealed well casing and accidents

In addition to these excesses, several drivers, including Max Verstappen, were curious in advance about the characteristics of this new urban circuit, which consists of long straight lines crossed by several slow turns. In the weeks leading up to the Grand Prix, there was another topic of conversation: the weather conditions that the organizers did not take into account when putting the race on the calendar, admitted Ross Brown, the former Formula 1 sports manager. During all sessions, the temp. It was hovering around 10°C, which was a major challenge for the single seater to operate, especially when it came time to heat up the tire rubber.

Extreme conditions have worsened due to an unprecedented situation. Eight minutes into the first free practice session on Thursday, November 16, driver Carlos Sainz wrecked his Ferrari on a loose shell casing that was released as he passed. Damage to his car led to a red flag and the cancellation of the rest of the session. The Spaniard also received a penalty of 10 places on the grid for reaching the quota of (two) authorized batteries for one season. “It’s a bit of a shame”– noted Frenchman Esteban Ocon, who also fell victim to a sealed plate and had to change the chassis of his Alpin.

Delayed for more than two hours, the second test session took place in front of stands that had been evacuated due to a lack of staff to provide security, fan transport or even hospitality. “We all attended the events […] Canceled due to factors such as weather conditions or technical problems. It’s happening and we hope people will understand.”Stefano Domenicali, President of Formula 1, said in a press release. In addition to this apology, the injured spectator must settle for a $200 voucher to spend at the official Grand Prix store.

Record number of viewers in the United States

The incident, which was the focus of discussion at the team’s directors’ press conference, was not questioned. Of course, not Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, who was irritated by the journalists’ questions. “It happened in the past. Nothing. Congratulations to the people who organized this Grand Prix, who made this sport bigger than everAustrian leader criticized. Liberty did a brilliant job and just because a well broke in free practice doesn’t mean we should complain. »

Because the success of the series Departure for survivalRunning on Netflix since 2018, the remaining two United States Grands Prix (in Austin and Miami) have helped to attract record numbers of viewers – in 2021, 400,000 viewers attended during the three days of the American circulation. Therefore, the Las Vegas Grand Prix, the exhibition and entertainment of Formula 1, must find a recipe. At around 10pm on Saturday (7pm Paris time Sunday), Charles Leclerc, who qualified on pole, will try to hold off the attacks of Max Verstappen, already crowned world champion and second on the grid. For once, Formula 1 will be hoping that what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas, but has as much impact as possible.

Source: Le Monde



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