While Lewis Hamilton accepts that the Las Vegas Grand Prix will “never be like Silverstone”, he will not be joining those complaining over this fresh attempt to grow the Formula 1 audience.
The United States has become a key market for Formula 1 in recent years, a popularity surge for the series triggered by Neflix’s hit docuseries Drive to Survive.
What was just one calendar stop in the United States became two with the addition of the Miami Grand Prix, while Formula 1’s return to Las Vegas, a race for which F1 themselves are the promoter, now looks to become the jewel in the crown and take the series to that next level.
Lewis Hamilton asks “don’t knock” Las Vegas GP
While this event is arguably the most eagerly-anticipated addition to the series yet, not all reaction has been positive, with a generally negative tone surrounding the Las Vegas Strip Circuit forming among the fanbase.
Three-time World Champion Max Verstappen meanwhile has said the glitz and glamour is not for him, while also tearing into the grand Las Vegas GP opening ceremony, claiming the drivers were left “looking like a clown”.
Put to Hamilton that many people see the Las Vegas Grand Prix as a triumph for showbiz over racing, Hamilton expressed his support for Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and commercial rights holder Liberty Media over their efforts to grow the series, even if this event will “never be like Silverstone”, home of the British Grand Prix.
“Well, the sport continues to grow,” said Hamilton when asked to give a positive for F1 returning to Las Vegas. “It is a business ultimately and I think you’ll still see good racing here.
“It’s just such a big country. I think to really tap into the market here and really captivate the audience here, I think we needed to have at least two races, the one wasn’t enough.
“This is one of the most iconic and unique cities that they have here and the lights, the show, it is a big show, for sure.
“It’s never going to be like Silverstone, but maybe over time, the people in this community here will grow to love the sport, just as we’ve had the privilege of growing up and experiencing.
“Maybe the track will be good, maybe it will be bad. It was so-so on the sim. It’s definitely not Silverstone, but I think don’t knock it until you try it.
“I hear there’s a lot of people complaining about the direction that Stefano and Liberty have been going, but I think they’ve been doing an amazing job. The sport is growing massively, it’s going to grow even more once we get this movie out.”
As for where Formula 1 can look to next for its expansion, Hamilton confirmed that he continues to push for a return to racing on the African continent.
“I’m onto Stefano, because I really want to get the race in South Africa or in Africa,” Hamilton continued. “So if it’s not South Africa, it will be somewhere else there hopefully, because we’re on all the other continents.
“And then we’ve just got to think about the impact that we have in these different places. It’s not just a circus that comes here and then we leave, we should look at how we can positively impact the community here.”
Formula 1’s Las Vegas comeback marks the first visit to the city since the 1982 Caesars Palace Grand Prix.