F1 roars into Las Vegas with parties, concerts, celebrities and, eventually, an actual race

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Racing in Texas and then Mexico City and then Brazil, followed by a quick trip back to the United Kingdom before finally arriving in Las Vegas, Formula One driver Alex Albon could not stop thinking about his golf game.

He felt up to speed on the Las Vegas street circuit after turning about 500 laps on a simulator. His golf game? Not as sharp.

Albon was among the four drivers who competed in “The Netflix Cup," a made-for-TV golf match that paired F1 drivers with golfers from “Full Swing.” The streaming giant's first foray into live sports coverage kicked off a week of parties and concerts ahead of Saturday night's race down the Las Vegas Strip.

“We've had three races, been in Mexico, Brazil and the United States, and all I was worried about was this match,” said Albon, who upon landing in Las Vegas played a round with a golf coach and his girlfriend, Lily Muni, a player on the LPGA Tour.

The match at Wynn Golf Club was won by Justin Thomas and partner Carlos Sainz of Ferrari, who promptly dropped and broke the trophy as he and Thomas celebrated with champagne and checkered flag winner's jackets Tuesday night. Sainz laughed it off because it was a breakthrough moment for the Spaniard, an outstanding golfer who earlier this year played in the Ryder Cup All-Star Match in Rome.

“Unfortunately I am not progressing anymore, I am completely stuck because I cannot play more than I already play,” Sainz said. “My God, I would like to become a much better golfer. But F1 is taking me too much time.”

As will this week in Las Vegas, which promises to be nothing like any other race on F1's 24-event calendar. The casinos, clubs and restaurants have packages catered for fans looking for something to do while waiting for the cars to hit the track late each night, beginning Thursday.

There's a “Shoey Bar” at the Bellagio's Fountain Courtyard where guests can buy “limited-edition MGM Rewards-branded driving shoes hand-crafted by an iconic motorsport apparel designer” and then mimic Daniel Ricciardo and chug a cocktail from the shoe.

Over at the Aria, a celebrity stylist was giving the Valtteri Bottas haircut, which is presumably a version of the mullet the Finnish driver has been rocking all season. Bottas and Alfa Romeo teammate Zhou Guanyu were scheduled to stop by.

Ferrari has a pop-up boutique at the Bellagio, the Chandelier Bar in the Cosmopolitan is offering special drinks and show cars are everywhere — from baggage claim at the Las Vegas airport to multiple casinos along the Strip. Photo opportunities abound.

Hell's Kitchen in Caesars Palace has a special dinner with chef Gordon Ramsay, who will discuss his love of F1 during the four-course, $500 meal. Nobu has a sushi demonstration with chef Nobu Matsuhisa and a meal of toro, A5 wagyu, caviar and cocktails for $500. STK in the Cosmopolitan is offering “The Full Throttle Cocktail” for $32 in a souvenir cup.

Bravo fan? Vanderpump à Paris is showcasing A Very Vanderpump Brunch, with a special menu, Vanderpump-branded rosé and an appearance by Lisa Vanderpump for $250.

It's unlike anything the drivers have seen even in the sleek, upscale world that is Formula One.

“There's such a big hype, but personally, I underestimated how big this whole thing was going to be,” said Alpine driver Pierre Gasly. “There's people everywhere. The location is fabulous. The Sphere in the background? I can't stop staring at it.”

The Sphere, at 366-feet tall and 516-feet wide, opened in September and is billed as the world’s largest spherical structure. It has a massively bright exterior LED screen that will be on all week, including during the race itself.

Joel Fisher, executive vice president for marquee events and operations for MSG Entertainment, said The Sphere team worked with F1 on what colors can't be displayed during the race to avoid distractions.

Sainz wondered if he could have an image of McLaren driver Lando Norris wearing a dress displayed during the race in an effort to distract his close friend. Fisher said no, the images will be of driver cards, statistics, F1 helmets, graphics and more. The race will feature content created exclusively by Sphere Studios.

Aston Martin has partnered with The Sphere for the biggest marketing push in team history as the luxury brand will display its cars on the landmark. The Sphere itself is closed to the public all weekend and will be used for F1 hospitality.

“This is one of the world’s premier sporting events, and we are ready to showcase Sphere to our global audience via F1 – both in person in Las Vegas and watching around the world," Fisher said.


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