FROM THE EPIC halftime show headliners at the Super Bowl, to the star-studded FROW at the MLB World Series, Americans are known for making epic spectacles out of sporting events. And this weekend is no different, with all the glitz, glamour and theatrics of Las Vegas sure to dazzle Formula 1 fans.
For the first time in the history of the sport, Formula 1 will take its travelling circus to the high-rolling (and high stakes) streets of Las Vegas, quite literally, racing full throttle down the Vegas strip. While the atmosphere at any Grand Prix is electrifying to say the least, we’ve got to admit—Sin City as the setting is pretty spectacular. Even, homegrown favourite Daniel Ricciardo shared his excitement ahead of the event: “It’s cool, it’s always cool, of course. I think being in Vegas sober is already unique!” Ricciardo joked to media on Wednesday.
“Obviously that clip circulated of me mentioning it [would be cool] I think in 2017—I said it but a lot of people put in a lot of work to make this happen, I did nothing! But knowing that we’re here six years later, and we’re not somewhere in the outskirts of Vegas, we are on the Strip… I don’t know, it’s definitely surreal shared his excitement ahead of the event.
He continued: “I feel like we’re living in a movie. Put it this way, I’m very glad that I’m here to experience this for the first time. Obviously I thought I’d have the whole year off racing, but it was half a year and I’m glad that I’m here for the first one. I think it’s going to be pretty special.”
Below, we round up all the key points on the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix—to ensure you’re ready for F1 take-off.
It’s the Met Gala of sporting events
While it’s the first time in Formula 1 history that Las Vegas takes the reins of an F1 weekend, not everyone is enthused. Some F1 purists are complaining Vegas is a gimmick—calling it out for being less technical than other major races—meanwhile, locals and Sin City tourists are annoyed by the temporary track disrupting one of the busiest cities on the planet. But, let’s be honest it’ll be epic—and the opening ceremony proved it.
On Wednesday night, Vegas rang in their first F1 with a show for the ages; a mini Olympics, FIFA or Rugby World Cup style opener, if you will. Performances by Jared Leto’s Thirty Seconds to Mars, Steve Aoki, John Legend, and Tiësto got the party atmosphere started, while Aussies in residence, Keith Urban and Kylie Minogue, teased fans with scaled back versions of their popular, respective concerts.
And expect more members of the glitterati come come race day. Two sporting greats, David Beckham and Shaquille O’Neal, are teaming up to host a joint Grand Prix party; meanwhile Gordon Ramsay, Nobu Matsuhisa (as in the eponymous founder of the celeb-fave, global Japanese diner), Guy Fieri, and Giada De Laurentiis are all treating fans to sumptuous dining events; even Mark Wahlberg is bringing the beats with an epic bash at Vista Las Vegas, dubbed “one of the best views in Vegas.” And as to be expected, if you’re interested in attending any of A-List events, it’ll cost you. We’re talking upwards of AU $10K for Beckham and Shaq’s soirée and almost AU $154K for Wahlberg’s party.
How the Race is going to shape up?
Cue Elvis Presley’s Viva Las Vegas because we’re pumped for this. To briefly explain what has been a doozy of a season, Red Bull has undeniably dominated the 2023 competition—winning every major race besides a Ferrari fluke in Singapore, thanks to flying young gun Max Verstappen accelerating at rocket ship speeds. Statistically, he’s had the greatest Formula 1 season in history after breaking another record at the Brazilian Grand Prix in early November, with his 17th victory this year. With this in mind, Red Bull has quite literally run away with the 2023 season—and this weekend in Vegas should be no different. Expect their team principal, Christian Horner, no stranger to sparking off-track drama with a cheeky grin, to flex his Red Bull muscles throughout the weekend.
But also look out for the weather in Vegas. It’s predicted to be near freezing temperatures, with all the on-track sessions taking place at night. We’re talking temperatures dropping to near-single figures. And let’s be honest, cars going regularly above 300 clicks an hour on an ice-rink scream disaster. F1 drivers always warm their cold tyres up for speed and grip, usually an easy task given F1 races fall in a cities summer months, but Vegas will be a little different. The track has long straights with little to no high-speed corners, meaning those frozen tyres will remain cold, creating a potential slip-and-slide disaster for drivers.
When will the race start in Australia
While Aussie F1 fans are used to rough viewing times during the European races, which usually fall in the early hours, this weekend is almost perfectly timed for us. Friday’s practice, Saturday’s qualifying and Sunday’s big race all air during our late afternoons.
But, if you’re wanting to tune into just one event—Saturday’s qualifying is the way to go. Arguably, the most day on the exciting track, all the action kicks off at 7pm AEST, with the main race starting at 5pm AEST.