It is finally race week for Formula 1 in Las Vegas, and the much anticipated street race comes about in a thick fog of the unknown.
Those aren’t my words for it. That’s tire supplier Pirelli’s words for it, washing their hands of any potential situation.
Note that we can’t assume that the event being located in Las Vegas doesn’t imply that the race will be hot, or even held in comfortable temperatures, as deserts tend to get rather cold when the sun fades away.
So, whenever a new street race happens, the first race is always a little bit of a mess. The amount of traffic the build-up requires doesn’t sit well with a new populace not used to it, with construction of the track maybe not as optimal as it can be in years two or three. During Monaco Grand Prix weekend, the track even opens up to allow for public road traffic after the on-track sessions are done for the day.
Many NASCAR fans can remember these growing pains earlier this year, where a lot of local press in Chicago hyped up these problems the series would bring. Outside of the rain cancelling concerts and almost ruining the race, the weekend itself went off without much issue.
F1 itself also knows this, as the Miami Grand Prix faced opposition from the time of its proposal to the first time the lights went out. They even adjusted the proposed layout so that the cars would only race on one public street instead of the two surrounding the stadium.
But the Las Vegas backlash has been something else so far.
And the tickets, in spite of months of F1 promising a sellout, have not sold out whatsoever. There’s still plenty of ways to attend this race as of the time of this writing, with grandstand seating, three-day passes, hospitality packages, and standing room only tickets still available in bulk.
The reality is that F1 completely priced the tickets wrong. Even now, on the evening of Nov. 14, the F1 website has grandstand seats for Saturday night available for about $1,300. This is not a good price for an event struggling to sell tickets in year one!
Just to compare, if you go look at Daytona’s Rolex 24 Hour tickets, a four-day pass with an autograph session is available for $115. Yes, $115. And that comes with far more access than what comes at an F1 race, with a who’s who of racing figures to see in person. Jenson Button being there alone makes a four day pass at that price worth it, let alone no-name extras like Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden, and Marcus Ericsson.
Also that race is at the flippin’ Daytona International Speedway; it’s not the Strip but there are not many better locations in racing.
F1 races, especially in America as of late, have not come with cheap tickets. But at least before this, the tickets were being bought. They were not too expensive because people were buying them. The demand was there. Unlike in Las Vegas, where the demand has not been there.
Locals have complained about traffic, but so have a number of out-of-towners. Barricading up the famous Bellagio Fountains and covering up the walkways is such a self-own by the race organizers. It’s almost like somebody had a bet to see how many people could be pissed off in the build up to an F1 race, and so far the over is winning.
People openly talking about wanting the mob to take over a city again is truly a remarkable thing. Give NASCAR credit; at least they didn’t get people in Chicago to talk glowingly of Al Capone or Tony Accardo or Rahm Emanuel.
A huge reason for a lot of these issues may well lie in who is organizing the race. How an F1 weekend normally occurs is an organizer, promoter, or track will pay F1 Group a huge pot of money. Then the promoter receives the gate all to themselves.
For this race, F1 is doing something seen more in NASCAR and IndyCar and promoting the race themselves. Cutting the middle man out means that F1 simply collects all of the money.
But not having somebody “on-the-ground” promoting the race would theoretically run into the exact same issues F1 has this weekend; issues that other races, such as the Mexico City Grand Prix, don’t have.
For one thing, maybe a Las Vegas local would know it gets cold in a desert at night time in November.
The clashes F1 has had with hotels could have also been avoided in all of the build-up. A local may have also realized that, hey, maybe we shouldn’t block one of the most iconic sites of the city with grandstands that can’t sell out. They also might have been able to avoid so many issues with traffic.
But the cake has been baked, and now F1 has to dig in to what it has done. Not just this year, but also potentially next year with the schedule already pigeon-holing this race back in mid-November. That is, if there is a race there next year; at this rate, things have not looked too promising for that.
About the author
Michael has watched NASCAR for 20 years and regularly covered the sport from 2013-2021. He moved on to Formula 1, IndyCar, and SRX coverage for the site, while still putting a toe in the water from time-to-time back into the NASCAR pool.
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