Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB19. 18.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Las Vegas Grand Prix, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Race Day. – www.xpbimages.com, EMail: [email protected] © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images
Formula 1 teams and drivers have called for changes to the Las Vegas Grand Prix schedule in the wake of a ‘brutal’ inaugural night race in Sin City.
To minimise disruption to residents, the street circuit’s roads were closed to local traffic from 5pm for a 7pm handover to the FIA, before reopening to the public at 2am.
Meanwhile, the event programme pencilled session start times as late as midnight for both FP2 and qualifying ahead of a Saturday night race commencing at 10pm.
The schedule promised to provide a setting befit for the glitz and glamour of the sport, with drivers welcomed by a star-studded opening ceremony on Wednesday, before drivers would barrel down the Strip at speeds nearing 350km/h, adding to the spectacle.
However, the weekend got off to a tentative start when FP1 was cancelled after just eight minutes of on-track action when a water valve cover destroyed Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari.
Remedial work was carried out by circuit engineers on all manhole covers around the 6.2km track, causing a two-and-a-half hour delay to an extended FP2 session which eventually ran from 2:30am to 4am in the absence of fans.
The debacle exacerbated an already challenging schedule for the European-based teams, who now face a 12-hour time zone change for next weekend’s season finale in Abu Dhabi.
Las Vegas agreed to a 10-year deal with F1 and when the event returns in 2024, it will do so as the first race in a triple-header followed by rounds in Qatar and Abu Dhabi.
When asked about the difficulties of the Vegas schedule for team members, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner said: “As a first off, of course, there are going to be many lessons to learn.
“One of the things to look at is the running schedule because it has been brutal for the team and all the men and women behind the scenes.
“Everybody is leaving Vegas slightly f**ed one way or another! It has been a brutal weekend for everyone behind the scenes, and I think we need to look at how we can improve that for the future.”
Zhou Guanyu (CHN) Alfa Romeo F1 Team C43. 17.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Las Vegas Grand Prix, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Qualifying Day. – www.xpbimages.com, EMail: [email protected] © Copyright: Bearne / XPB Images
Horner is keen for organisers to consider shifting on-track activities slightly earlier in the evening to make a more ‘comfortable’ event for staff.
“We’re running so late at night, maybe to run it a little earlier in the evening. You’re never going to keep every television audience totally happy,” he added in reference to the early morning wake-up call for the prospective European TV audience.
“I think this is an American race. You know, if you run at eight o’clock in the evening or something like that, it would just be a bit more comfortable for, you know, men and women working behind the scenes.”
Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur echoed Horner’s calls for earlier session start times, saying: “In the past, we had no issue because F1 was just for the European people and we had to stick to the European timing and it was ok.
“Now it’s a worldwide project and it’s much more difficult to find something fitting with the expectation of the 24-hour zone, but we will adjust it.”
Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) AlphaTauri AT04. 16.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Las Vegas Grand Prix, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Practice Day. – www.xpbimages.com, EMail: [email protected] © Copyright: Bearne / XPB Images
AlphaTauri driver Daniel Ricciardo noted that Thursday’s 4am finish exaggerated the effects of the jet lag, leaving “all of us a little bit delirious”.
“It’s kind of felt like a bit of a whirlwind since that,” he continued. The Australian had said that his only change to the weekend for next year’s event would be the track’s asphalt until he was reminded the Las Vegas Grand Prix features as the first race of a season-ending triple header.
“Yeah, that does not have my vote! Now knowing that, they need to bring it forward. This will be a big round because we will be wrecked, especially at the end of the season. I’ve only done like six races [this year] and I already feel it! Hopefully they can make something like that.”
Former team-mate Max Verstappen, who flew out of Vegas on Sunday, said the immediate jump to Abu Dhabi was “a little bit much” towards the end of the season “when everyone is already a bit tired.”
The reigning champion and Vegas GP winner suggested the idea of re-shuffling the F1 calendar to provide somewhat of an “American tour “for a schedule more conducive for travelling personnel who have been functioning in an “almost Japanese time zone” the past week.
“Maybe it would be ideal to find a different kind of date because I find that maybe we need to do more of an American tour. I know, of course, maybe for ticket sales, I don’t know if that’s ideal. So maybe we can find a bit of a solution there. I think the 12-hour time zone shifts and also completely different timings for racing also is… I find that a bit much.”
Sergio Perez is keen to see Las Vegas become the final round of the season, given that the Nevada city is just a couple of hours from his hometown of Guadalajara in Mexico.
“For me, I think it was a great first event but I would change [it],” Perez commented. “Like Max says, just to think that we have to go now to Abu Dhabi, probably the longest distance that we have to travel in the whole year.
“So yeah, probably look at it and probably make Vegas the final race. That will be also very nice for me; I’m only two hours away from Guadalajara so that would be a nice end.”
Keyword: F1 teams encourage ‘brutal’ Las Vegas GP schedule changes