Max Verstappen bemoans Las Vegas Grand Prix festivities as F1 plants flag in Nevada
While the official race won’t take place until Monday (AEDT), the build up ahead of the first race in the Nevada city in more than 40 years began on Thursday afternoon, and it had all the bells and whistles you’d expect for Las Vegas’ foray into F1.
Parent company Liberty Media is said to have invested around $1 billion in creating a spectacle, with the opening ceremony featuring a half-hour show of 11 high-profile musicians including Kylie Minogue and DJ Tiesto, while Cirque du Soleil and the Blue Man Group performed on a series of motorised temporary stages.
The casinos, clubs and restaurants have packages catered for fans looking for something to do while waiting for the cars to hit the track late each night.
There’s a “Shoey Bar” at the Bellagio’s Fountain Courtyard where guests can buy “limited-edition MGM Rewards-branded driving shoes hand-crafted by an iconic motorsport apparel designer” and then mimic Daniel Ricciardo and chug a cocktail from the shoe.
Over at the Aria, a celebrity stylist was giving the Valtteri Bottas haircut, which is presumably a version of the mullet the Finnish driver has been rocking all season.
Bottas and Alfa Romeo teammate Zhou Guanyu were scheduled to stop by.
Ferrari has a pop-up boutique at the Bellagio, the Chandelier Bar in the Cosmopolitan is offering special drinks and show cars are everywhere — from baggage claim at the Las Vegas airport to multiple casinos along the Strip. Photo opportunities abound.
Hell’s Kitchen in Caesars Palace has a special dinner with chef Gordon Ramsay, who will discuss his love of F1 during the four-course, $773 meal (AUD). Nobu has a sushi demonstration with chef Nobu Matsuhisa and a meal of toro, A5 wagyu, caviar and cocktails for $773. STK in the Cosmopolitan is offering “The Full Throttle Cocktail” for $49.50 in a souvenir cup.
However, all the extra obligations have divided Verstappen, who had to change their Wednesday schedules at the last minute after being requested to attend a red-carpet event at a casino before returning to complete preparation for the first day of practice at the brand-new circuit.
Even on Thursday night, the show also featured a drone light display and a large fireworks display, while the drivers were introduced through a rising a set of platforms with their teammates, waving to the crowd.
“Ninety Nine per cent show and one per cent sporting event,” Verstappen told Racer.
“I just always want to focus on the performance side of things, I don’t like all the things around it anyway.
“I know of course in some places that is part of it, but let’s just say it’s not in my interest.
“There is no problem, but it’s just not really my thing.”
Asked about being put on display at the end of the opening ceremony, Verstappen said:
“We are just standing up there looking like a clown,” he said.
The Dutch champion added: “I fully understand. You can look at it two ways: business side or sport side. Of course I understand their side as well. I’m voicing my opinion on the performance side of things.
“We [drivers] are not a stakeholder, so we just go with it. They decide what they do, right? I would do the same if I was the owner, I wouldn’t listen to the drivers. It’s my sport, I would do with it what I want if that would be the case.
“If someone wants to go in this direction, you want a lot more show attached to the program, then I guess we have to deal with that — as long as everything goes well they can say everything is working well. Let’s see how long fans also like this.”
Verstappen also took a jab at organisers for not having the teams in the forefront of their minds with the scheduling.
Having the Las Vegas GP followed by next weekend’s season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, means drivers and staff will have to contend with a 12-hour time-zone shift. Throw in a starting time of 10pm local time in ‘Vegas as well, Verstappen believes the teams need to be considered.
“I don’t really get that,” he said. “That is very tiring, also at the end of the season that we have to do this, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense.”
Max Verstappen arrived in Las Vegas having locked up his third straight world championship nearly six weeks ago. The 26-year-old Dutchman has taken the checkered flag in 17 of 20 races this season and, unless something really unusual happens, he’ll be the first one crossing the line in his mighty Red Bull machine.
Despite the champ’s misgivings aboutthe Las Vegas race, rival and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton had a different view.
“I hear there’s a lot of people complaining about the direction that Stefano [Domenicali, F1 CEO] and Liberty have been going. but I think they’ve been doing an amazing job. This sport is growing massively,” he said.
“The sport continues to grow. It is a business ultimately, and I think you’ll still see good racing here.
“It’s just such a big country. I think to really tap into the market here and really captivate the audience here, I think we needed to have at least two races. The one wasn’t enough.
“This is one of the most iconic cities there is … all the lights, the show — it is a big show for sure.
“Everybody I know in Hollywood is coming, there’s a lot of high-net-worth people coming, there’s going to be a lot of business going on this weekend and hopefully a good spectacle for people to watch.”