After years of anticipation about its race in Las Vegas, Formula One raced in Sin City over the weekend for the first time. Despite a rocky start, the event earned good reviews. After starting in second behind Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, Red Bull's Max Verstappen won the inaugural event — his 18th victory this season and Red Bull's 20th.
Here's a look at the good, bad and ugly from F1's showiest weekend.
The racing was fantastic. Many feared the Las Vegas Grand Prix would be a dud because of extreme temperatures for racing —fortunately, it was anything but. The cold track provided just enough chaos to keep things interesting — Fernando Alonso lost grip into a 360 spin before the first corner — but it didn't prevent cars from racing competitively.
The race featured more overtakes than just about every race this season. The track looks far better suited to wheel-to-wheel racing than its street-circuit sisters in Monaco, Singapore and Baku. That's excellent news for longtime F1 fans, who will be able to enjoy races in Vegas for the next decade.
Fan experiences need retooling. Las Vegas is no stranger to big events. But still, when things went haywire in the opening-night practice sessions, forcing cars off the track for safety reasons, race organizers seemed stumped about how to assist fans. Thousands of people — many of whom only had tickets for that one evening — faced uncertain hours in the cold before being unceremoniously thrown out of the circuit at 2 a.m.
As a further insult, they were forced out just as the cars were returning to the track. Many spent hundreds of dollars to watch just eight minutes of action. F1's solution? Give those fans a voucher for gear at the F1 shop ... and nothing else.
Las Vegas is the only race on the calendar run by F1 itself — via its marketing company, Liberty Media. The disorganization following the suspension of practice falls squarely on F1's shoulders. And it may have to answer for that in court because of a class-action lawsuit created on behalf of the affected fans.
Safety didn't come first. Street circuits are always dangerous because of their high speeds, rough surfaces and walled-in corners. Las Vegas, however, felt more dangerous than most. The aforementioned cancellation of practice on opening night came after Carlos Sainz's Ferrari split in half thanks to a rogue drain cover that hadn't been sealed properly into the asphalt.
That drain cover broke Sainz's floor and seat, and just a few more millimeters and it would've broken him, too. It also flew out from behind his car at high speeds, landing several yards away in the middle of the track. Had it landed on another car, it could have killed its driver.
There are hiccups and learnings from every new F1 race, but none of them should be related to safety. F1 must work tirelessly to reduce the risk of the Vegas circuit.
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