LAS VEGAS — After more than four decades Formula One returns to Las Vegas bringing together the world’s hottest sport property and the planet’s party capital for a turbo-charged weekend that could see more action off the track than on it.
With Red Bull’s Max Verstappen having weeks ago clinched a third consecutive drivers’ crown and a miserable forecast predicting cold, rainy weather for a Saturday midnight blitz down the Strip, the sporting elements for Formula One’s most hyped race ever are not optimal, Reuters reported.
But otherwise it is all systems go for the launch of an event F1 owners Liberty Media believe can propel the sport into a new money spinning orbit.
“I think once we have the event in Vegas there’s going to be a whole new recognition for Formula One in the United States, which still is our most important sponsorship market,” said Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei in April. “A night race down the Strip that’s going to be iconic.
“I think that is going to kick off a new round of sponsor interest as well, and more broad sponsor interest.”
While jaw-dropping prices have had Formula One fans thinking twice about a trip to Sin City, the sponsors, who provide the cash that fuels the sport, have no such concerns.
Close to 2,000 private jets packed with a cargo of well-heeled A-listers and deal-makers are expected to squeeze into local airports with visitors pouring US$1.7 billion into the local economy.
Wynn resort is offering the first-ever Las Vegas Grand Prix Million Dollar All-Access Experience that includes a US$100,000 philanthropic gift.
Red Bull has constructed a 20,000-square-foot hospitality complex where the centre piece is the Holzhaus, an alpine inspired three-level party palace for VVIPs and team use only.
Ferrari, Mercedes, Aston Martin and every other team will also spend lavishly to entertain sponsors.
From McLaren partners Hilton to Red Bull sponsor PokerStars everyone wants in on the Las Vegas F1 action, tying their businesses to the glamour sport’s most glamorous event through local activations and a massive global television audience.
“There’s no doubt Las Vegas is the race of the season this year, it’s been on every F1 fan’s lips since it was announced,” Rebecca McAdam Willetts, Director, Partnerships, Public Relations & Consumer Engagement at PokerStars told Reuters.
“Outside of obviously being the epicentre of poker, casino and sports betting, the GP in Vegas pairs perfectly with our approach to our community.
“Monaco is always a key moment in the calendar for us because of the links to gaming and the proximity to our own event — our annual European Poker Tour Monte Carlo.
“However, the brand synergies with the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix are unmatched.”
A quick glance at the companies setting up camp around the 6.1km circuit reads like the New York Stock Exchange with American Express, Heineken, Hilton Grand Vacations, MGM Resorts International and others constructing luxurious trackside suites.
The Bellagio Fountain Club in the heart of the Strip will provide the backdrop for the winner’s stage and post-race ceremonies but if you do not already have a ticket, which started at US$11,247, you are too late.
“I don’t know who is responsible for designing the track but they did a great job, the track runs right along our premier property Elara,” Mark Wang, CEO of Hilton Grand Vacations told Reuters. “We’re going all out to make this a first class experience.”
Formula One has long been a magnet for the celebrity class and Las Vegas is sure to be an irresistible pull.
For US$7,000 you can mingle with David Beckham and Shaquille O’Neal, who will be at Club SI hosting Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit and Saturday Race Night party, or bump into Mark Wahlberg at Drai’s Beach Club for what is billed as “The Ultimate Team Race Viewing Experience with McLaren F1”.
Even with temperatures expected to dip to single digits Celsius you can still watch the action on giant screens from heated pools at Circa’s Stadium Swim or dine trackside with celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay at Hell’s Kitchen Caesars Palace.
For those looking to mix some networking with their partying, there is Fast Cars and Industry Stars with Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff or you can give back a little, settling in at poker table for a PokerStars charity event.
Las Vegas may be the gambling capital of the world but there will be little bet on F1.
“I would say this is due to lack of parity,” Derek Stevens, owner of Circa and several other Las Vegas casinos told Reuters. “The fact Max Verstappen is such a heavy favourite it’s now everyone thinks how much is he going to win by.”