Since Liberty Media purchased the commercial rights to Formula One for $8 billion in 2017, they have been focused on achieving something that previous owners had failed to do: thoroughly penetrate the North American market. The pandemic coincided with the release of Netflix’s Formula 1: Drive to Survive, a documentary series that gave a behind-the-scenes look at the drivers and races of the Formula One World Championship and boosted the popularity of the sport. Following this success, Miami joined Austin as a host city in the United States. The owners of Formula One aim to capitalize on this momentum with a Grand Prix race in Las Vegas, 41 years after the last one. But the event on November 19 will be very different from the 1982 race won by Michele Alboreto on the Cesar Palace circuit.
Max Verstappen has not only proven himself to be the top driver on the F1 circuit, but also one of the most outspoken. He demonstrated this again when sharing his thoughts on the Nevada course. “I think we are there more for the show than the racing itself,” said the three-time world champion, who arrived in Vegas ready to win again. During a grandiose presentation where the drivers were paraded like Roman gladiators, Verstappen took it a step further. “We looked like clowns.” The show started off on a bad note during the first day of practice. The first session was cancelled just 15 minutes after it began when a drain cover damaged Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari. Sainz was then knocked back ten places from the starting line for using a new power unit. The second practice round didn’t fare any better — it started at 2:30 a.m., two and a half hours later than planned, with empty grandstands. The cars raced around a cold asphalt track in 50°F (10°C) temperatures.
Because Verstappen secured his third straight title at the Qatar Grand Prix last month, not much is at stake in Las Vegas despite huge expectations, a $500 investment by Liberty Media, and plenty of fanfare. The entire event seems tailored for Vegas high-rollers, like the 888 Experience costing $888,000. This package includes a four-night stay in a Crockfords Palace hotel suite with 24-hour butler service and five additional rooms for guests. It also includes six Paddock Club tickets, 10 grandstand seats, first-class plane tickets, and transportation in a Rolls-Royce.
Ticket sales have fallen way short of expectations, so you won’t see any “Need Tickets” signs at the RV camps that always spring up at races. Tickets are actually being sold at a 30-60% discount. Unlike typical Grand Prix races where a local promoter covers expenses and assumes the box office risk, Liberty Media is wholly responsible for hosting the Las Vegas Grand Prix. It’s a big enough event to postpone a few U2 concerts at The Sphere, the futuristic music and entertainment arena east of the Las Vegas Strip. Located in the heart of the racetrack, The Sphere boasts screens that cover its interior and exterior surfaces for a visually immersive experience.
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