There’s no bigger show in town than the Las Vegas Grand Prix. After nine months of preparation, including the construction of a permanent pit and paddock complex, it’s time for North America’s third and final race of 2023.
Nevada will host an F1 race for the first time in over 40 years and true Sin City fashion kicks off with an opening ceremony on Wednesday night. We’re back to three practice sessions after Sao Paulo’s Sprint a fortnight ago. The drivers will relish the practice sessions as their only point of reference for the 6.2km track is from the simulator.
Formula 1 has pulled out all the stops including leasing the land around the Sphere, a music and entertainment arena, east of the Strip. Irish rock band, U2, has suspended their show at the arena for a few weeks to accommodate the F1 circus.
The track features 17 turns ((11 to the left, six to the right), and the first sector is dominated by a straight that heads towards the Sphere. That’s also where the first of two DRS zones is located. Turn 5 is a sharp right-hander that could produce overtakes under braking.
Sector 2 is rather technical and features a chicane before a left-hander leads cars towards the iconic Strip. The second DRS zone is located down the close to two-kilometre straight and Monza-rivaling top speeds are expected. There’s another chicane at T15 before heading down from T16 to T17 for another high-speed section.
Red Bull And Verstappen Are Strong Favourites
At 6.2km it’s the third longest on the calendar and lap times are expected to be around 1:30 seconds.
Large parts of the lap will be driven at full throttle, and this means the most powerful car will have an advantage. It’s no secret the in-form team has been Red Bull. The Honda engine is utterly brilliant and gives the team a breadth of performance their rivals can’t match.
Triple world champion Max Verstappen (1.25) dominated in Jeddah and Monza earlier in the year. However, the RB-19 runs slightly higher ground clearance at street circuits due to its naturally bumpier surface in comparison to traditional tracks.
The Austrian team will have McLaren in their rearview mirrors. Lando Norris (17.00) challenged Verstappen in the early stages of the Sao Paulo GP a fortnight ago and finished only 8 seconds behind the Dutch driver.
We see Norris as Verstappen’s closest challenger this weekend. However, in-form drivers such as Sergio Perez (21.00) and Fernando Alonso (61.00) will also be hoping to stand on the podium. The former has a 32-point lead over Lewis Hamilton (17.00). The seven-time world champion has to outscore the Mexican by seven points otherwise Perez will secure Red Bull’s first-ever one-two finish in the drivers’ standings.
Hamilton and Mercedes teammate George Russell (36.00) are having a torrid time. The Briton finished eighth in Brazil and Russell had to retire the W14 after seemingly going ‘backward’ as the car lacked pace and grip.
The two variables that could bring other drivers into play this weekend are the track surface and cold temperatures. The surface is entirely new and could scupper Red Bull’s plans of producing their ultimate top speed due to running the car a tad higher.
The weather forecast for this weekend could see temperatures of between seven and 10 degrees Celsius. That makes it nearly impossible for drivers to get their boots into the correct operating temperature and we could see drivers being tentative as they start as they wait for their tyres to warm up.
What Time Is The Las Vegas GP?
The race promises to be a spectacle and expect to see a bunch of celebs at the grid walk. This year’s Las Vegas Grand Prix will get underway at 22:00 local time (8:00 CAT), making it the latest start to a race in the sport’s history. Qualifying takes place at midnight (10:00-11:00 CAT on Saturday) on the same day.
Winner – Verstappen
Podium – Verstappen, Norris, Sainz
Fastest lap: Piastri
First to retire: Russell
Most Team Points: McLaren
Both Cars Qualify for Q3 Shootout: Haas
Practice 1/2/3 Winning Car: Verstappen/ Red Bull
Safety Car: Yes
Top 6: Gasly, Ocon, Stroll, Tsunoda, Ricciardo
Top 10: Albon, Magnussen, Guanyu
Winning margin: Over 5 seconds
Number of classified finishers: 18