The build-up to the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix has been rife with contention. Fans have been skeptical while local residents have grown more and more frustrated by the sport’s meddling in its city.
But for all the missteps F1 has made with this event, it has also made plenty of smart decisions. Those decisions might not be apparent right now, but F1 has made a strong investment in its American growth with the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
Only eight minutes of on-track running saw a significant teething problem, however, when FP1 was abandoned after Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari required huge repairs after dislodging a manhole cover. But looking at the bigger picture, there are several elements that race organisers have perhaps overlooked heading into this weekend.
Outpricing Locals and Fans
While many locals were frustrated with the endless construction and subsequent traffic caused by the development of the Grand Prix street circuit, the primary concern I heard from many locals was anger at the sheer cost of the tickets.
One resident named Rich stated that F1 should have thrown locals a bone, only to sarcastically follow it up with, “Oh, wait. They did. They offered $200 tickets for Thursday practice. How hard would it be to create a ‘locals’ experience’?”
Other Formula 1 fans have also lamented the price of Las Vegas Grand Prix tickets, which started out at $500 for a three-day general admission pass and crept up to $2,500 for weekend grandstand tickets.
F1 hedged its bets on being able to draw a massive crowd that would be willing to dump tons of money into the sport and its host city — and its bets haven’t paid off.
Misunderstanding the American Market
Since its inception in 1950, Formula 1 has misunderstood the American motorsport market, and that sentiment has never been more obvious than in Las Vegas.
As the American fanbase quickly grew, F1 didn’t see an opportunity to engage fans for the long term; instead, it quickly added two expensive events to the calendar to rake in money. While fans were frustrated with Miami, they grew downright furious about Las Vegas.
“I was so excited to hear F1 was finally coming to my city, and that I wouldn’t have to fly anywhere to see it,” an anonymous Las Vegas race fan told me. “Somehow it ended up being cheaper for me to fly to Hungary for a race than it was to go to one literally in my backyard.”
F1 seemingly failed to target much of the American market at all; instead, it attempted to create an exclusive event for the ultra-rich, and no one took the bait.
Focusing On The Spectacle — Not The Reality
Las Vegas, as a city, often feels larger than life in a way that can be both ultra-luxurious and also a bit tacky — but at the end of the day, it’s still a city in which people reside, work, raise families, and forge a future.
Local Vegas author and poker dealer Lisa Lindell, for example, noted that F1’s presence on the strip has been “impressive and a major upgrade to [some] eyesores” that used to exist on the Strip; however, the attempt to wow audiences with big, bold grandstands and hospitality areas created problems with Lindell’s ability to get to work.
“I suppose The Strip should be flattered” by its makeover, Lindell said, but her ability to live life normally has been on pause for over six months while construction takes place.
Rather than allowing the Las Vegas Strip to flourish in its own right, F1 has created major obstacles that have made life difficult for anyone actually living, working, or even visiting the area.
Missing Out On Community Engagement
F1 intends to build a permanent home in Las Vegas, as evidenced by the construction of its impressive paddock facility. However, many locals I spoke to felt that they were mere afterthoughts in F1’s greater plans; many lamented a lack of actual community engagement that went beyond merely repaving Vegas’ streets.
As Rich noted above, many people had hoped for some kind of “locals only” events or activations that would include residents in the event, ideally in order to understand what this whole F1 thing is all about.
Instead, multiple residents complained that it seemed as if both F1 and Las Vegas had totally missed the boat on community engagement; days before the event, many still had no idea how they were expected to get to work at their Strip casinos, and even more couldn’t fathom what F1 could want with a permanent paddock building.