Formula One's historic 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix kicked off on Friday amid disastrous scenes as just eight minutes into cars taking to the track for the first practice, a concrete framing for a water valve cracked, badly damaging two cars that drove over it. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz had his battery, engine, and chassis sustain catastrophic damage after hitting the manhole cover around 318km/h, while Esteban Ocon also suffered significant chassis damage.
The first practice session was cancelled completely after the incident, and the second practice was delayed by two and a half hours for repairs to the track. When the second practice session eventually began at 2.30am - the latest start time in F1 history – there were no fans left in the stands as they were kicked out at 1.30am due to staffing and logistical reasons. Martin Brundle on commentary said: “It’s got the feel of a (Covid-19) lockdown race. There’s nobody around!”
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The action was also marred by drivers struggling on the newly resurfaced street track. Mixed with the cold temperatures, the conditions for drivers were very slippery. It is the first time in more than 40 years the F1 has headed to Vegas but locals are not happy about the impact it has had on their beloved city.
While the motorsports world may have been eagerly awaiting the drivers racing on the newest F1 track, Las Vegas residents have said the US$500 million spent to construct the track is a waste of money. The highly anticipated Las Vegas Grand Prix has wreaked havoc on the party city as the iconic Las Vegas Strip, usually teaming with showgirls and bucks nights has been replaced by masses of asphalt and for locals that has meant diverted traffic and months of intensive road works.
“Life as I knew it ended when that construction started,” one local told racing publication Jalopnik, who interviewed 15 people who frequented Vegas in the lead-up to the event. “The arrogance and audacity of Formula 1 ‘needing’ to run its races in densely-populated cities strikes me as borderline sociopathic,” another resident said. “Not only do I hope the Las Vegas event loses money for the organisation, I hope it bankrupts them.”
Another said she had paid two hours in wages just to get an Uber home as traffic diversions left her either that or a five-hour horror bus journey home. Fans have also slammed the event as a 'bad idea' after a horror first night.
Business owners have also been left reeling from the event, with The Messenger reporting room prices at The Flamingo Hotel on Saturday night, which was previously advertised at US$899, plummeted to just US$200 this week. A cocktail server at the establishment said: “This race has made our lives a living hell”.
“They started road work in April. They’re telling us they might not be completely done with the tear-down until just before New Year’s Eve. And then what? Las Vegas is going to be back to normal for a few months before they get ready for the next race? Is this our new reality?”
Formula 1 fans aren't happy.
Las Vegas locals aren't happy.
F1 drivers aren't happy.
Can we admit this was a bad idea? https://t.co/L5TCttLBM6
— 𝘕𝘢𝘦𝘦𝘮 (@mrnaeembo) November 17, 2023
Some Las Vegas locals have expressed disappointment about trees being chopped down to make way for this weekend’s Las Vegas Grand Prix course — here are two Palm tree stumps, allegedly taken down just yesterday. | @ABC7 pic.twitter.com/22FYDObwxk
— Marc Cota-Robles (@abc7marccr) November 16, 2023
F1 drivers getting woken up at 2:30AM to take part in FP2 pic.twitter.com/WH1pRvFEVU
— emi 🏒 (@maraneIlo) November 17, 2023
Lewis Hamilton apologises to locals for the logistical nightmare
Seven-times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton apologised to locals for the effect the event has had on them. “I’ve heard there’s been a lot of complaints about the event being here from the locals,” Hamilton told Sky Sports News on Wednesday.
“I think we have to be respectful of the locals here, so many people working so hard — there’s a lot of money and wealth in this city. We’ve got to make sure people are taken care of. We can’t be a circus that shows up that’s all glitz and glamour and people are affected negatively by it, in my opinion.”
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