It is time for glitz and glamour to decorate the Formula One paddock as this weekend is the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix. Here are the stories to look out for.
Well, it is not quite the inaugural Grand Prix in Sin City. Those with a keen memory – traumatised by the sight of Formula One cars cast aside to a glorified parking lot – will remember the early 1980’s rounds in the Caesar’s Palace car park.
Luckily, the sport has gained popularity in the States since its previous visit to Las Vegas and is now returning, stronger than ever. A new layout utilising some of the most recognisable landmarks the city has to offer will provide a fantastic spectacle this weekend. But in truth, the real attraction of the event for many is not the racing. Instead, the showbusiness world is playing with Formula One, something that is causing a rift in the sport’s fandom.
Whether you are in favour of the simplification of the sport or not, one thing is for certain; the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix is intriguing for many reasons. Here are some of the stories circulating the paddock this week.
The Vegas GP Layout
That is not to say that the racing itself will not provide drama. In fact, whilst memes of the layout’s animalistic lookalike have filled social media, one must admit that is could well provide good racing. Failing that, it is sure to make for spectacular pictures on the coverage.
Measuring 6.2km, it is the second longest circuit on the 2023 Formula One calendar, just behind the almighty Spa. Much like the longest track on the calendar, the Vegas Street Circuit is also dominated by flat-out sections, so expect high-speeds during the race.
One can most definitely expect DRS to be a powerful tool as the cars barrel down the infamous Strip. So whilst many dismiss the Vegas GP as a snooze-fest, it is worth waiting to see just how well this new circuit races.
The back end of the circuit is certainly more technical as it rounds the now-recognisable Sphere location. However, with just 17 turns, most of which will not require much effort, there are limited opportunities to warm the tyres. Flying down so many straights is sure to provide a challenge in tyre temperature.
Despite having never been raced on, the Las Vegas Street Circuit is already prominent in sim racing. The venue featured in EA’s F1 23 at launch earlier this year. But it is also available to race in Assetto Corsa.
Las Vegas Street Circuit in Assetto Corsa
Thanks to an in-depth creation by RaceDepartment user @Tyrone – Nukedrop Mods the Las Vegas Street Circuit is available to drive in AC. Released in April of last year, it has since garnered almost 40,000 downloads and a 4.5-star rating.
Despite releasing before the layout was finalised, the mod perfectly recreates the circuit that the Grand Prix will race on this weekend. This includes the short-shoot chicane around the Sphere.
The circuit features fully working AI, plenty of lights to guide you around the track at night and all the landmarks one will get used to on the race coverage. In fact, a recent update even added a number of different animations to the Sphere, perfect for distracting drivers whilst trying to learn this city circuit. Elsewhere, the latest update also added a functioning start gantry, all the real-world grandstands, numerous replay cameras and several immersion-enhancing effects.
If ever you get bored of the racing action this weekend, surely this mod is worth a try!
Once again Formula One is arriving in the United States of America and transforming into a Hollywood drama. Opening up the event, Wednesday night saw a major Opening Ceremony take place, bringing together the teams and drivers for an eye-catching spectacle.
Following the show, Max Verstappen has already pronounced his disliking to the current state of the Vegas GP paddock. Shockingly enough, it seems media appearances and large on-stage shows are not the reason this three-time champ wanted to race in F1.
Wednesday night also saw EA Sports kick off the show with a major F1 23 tournament in the HyperX Arena, putting together F1 drivers, athletes and personalities. The Kick Off event also marked the beginning of a free-to-play weekend for the current Formula One game.
Finally, the event is most certainly set to see celebrities and public figures take away the limelight from the cars. Expect awkward interviews and flamboyant characters to fill your weekend’s coverage.
Desert Temperature Impact
The layout’s lack of technical sections is not the only element of the event that will prove a challenge for tyre management. In fact, being built in the middle of a desert, Las Vegas experiences shockingly low temperatures at night. When is F1 racing in Sin City? You guessed it right, yes.
Ambient temperatures are expected to fall below the 10°C mark during night sessions such as qualifying and the race. So keeping temperature will be a challenge, regardless of the layout. This low temperature is a sure-fire route to excessive graining on the tyres. This is when the tyre gets so cold and slides so much that the rubber can no longer flex. It causes tears in the tyre surface which then rapidly fuse again, creating ripples and inconsistent grip.
In addition to the tyre surface suffering from the cold, one can expect a greater risk of punctures due to the tyre’s lack of sidewall flex.
Elsewhere, drivers will also struggle to perform in these strange conditions. The Qatar Grand Prix saw extreme heat break the spirits of many drivers. But the Vegas GP will bring quite the opposite challenge. Lando Norris has previously mentioned that keeping one’s hands warm will be crucial to operating the cars easily.
An Untested Venue
All these problems boil down to one thing; a lack of previous data. Going into the event, the FIA, teams, drivers and engineers have little to no knowledge on how the weekend will play out. As a result, the entire weekend will be a learning experience for everyone involved.
From the FIA gradually perfecting its operations to each team figuring out the optimal tyre windows and passing strategies. Rarely in Formula One do we get to witness a completely new venue without previous experience for teams to learn from. So fans must relish this occurrence whilst we can.
With little to no prior information on the venue, one can expect some teams getting things wrong. This is sure to lead to a strange leader board come the end of the event. Luckily for teams, this is not a Sprint format weekend. So the cars get three hours of practice before hitting competitive running and Parc Fermé. However, there is still plenty of opportunity to get things wrong with the setup or tyre strategy come race day.
When to Watch the 2023 Las Vegas GP
Early on after the event’s announcement, the schedule was one of the first elements of the race weekend to perplex fans. Taking place in one of the most Westerly points in the world, the schedule adapts to suit a wider audience. Notably, the European crowd.
In fact, the Vegas GP is not your typical night race. The standard session start times we see in Saudi Arabia or Bahrain remain an acceptable 9pm-10pm local time. In Vegas, some sessions such as Free Practice 2 and Qualifying do not get going until after midnight local time. This means much of the USA will be staying up until the dark of night to catch live action. For Europeans, this does make for a Japanese GP atmosphere.
Furthermore, the entire weekend is moving forward a day earlier than one would expect. In Vegas, Practice Friday is indeed Practice Thursday Night. The Qualifying Hour will take up the first hour of Saturday morning. Meanwhile, the lights go green for the GP late Saturday evening. All this to give Europeans a better coverage time. Here are the times to look out for for the Las Vegas GP sessions.
|Free Practice 1||5:30am CET|
|Free Practice 2||9:00am CET|
|Free Practice 3||5:30am CET|
|Grand Prix||7:00am CET|
Will you be watching the 2023 Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix? Let us know on Twitter @OverTake_gg or in the comments below!