“I think for all those who were so negative about the weekend, saying it was all about show blah blah blah, I think Vegas proved them wrong,” says Lewis Hamilton; Max Verstappen had been outspoken in criticism of the new race on the Strip
Last Updated: 19/11/23 10:21am
Lewis Hamilton believes the action-packed Las Vegas Grand Prix showed that critics of F1’s big new event on the Strip – which notably included world champion Max Verstappen – were “wrong” to suggest it was all about “show” over substance.
Speaking to Sky Sports F1, Hamilton, who fought back to finish seventh after an incident-filled 50 laps in his Mercedes, said: “I’m really, really happy to have had a positive race and I’m really grateful the race was so good.
“I don’t know how it was as a spectacle for people to watch, but there was so much overtaking.
“It was like Baku – but better. I really wasn’t expecting the track to be so great but the more and more laps you did I just really loved racing it.
“Lots of great overtaking opportunities and I think for all those who were so negative about the weekend, saying it was all about show blah blah blah, I think Vegas proved them wrong.”
Returning to Las Vegas for the first time in 40 years in an event promoted by F1 itself and racing on a new street track with the world-famous Strip as its main attraction, the weekend began with an unimpressed Verstappen criticising the star-studded opening ceremony, and the role he had to play in it, while labelling the event as a whole “99 per cent show and one per cent sport”.
Running on the track then got off to a inauspicious start on Friday when the first practice session was cancelled after just eight minutes when a loose water valve cover was sucked up and pierced a hole in Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari at high-speed.
With organisers forced to check all drains around the 3.8-mile circuit and carry out remediate work, it was another five hours before Practice Two eventually started at 2.30am local time.
An hour before that ticket holders had been told to leave the grandstands and fan areas due to staffing issues over how long various workers could remain on duty.
In a media session after opening practice had been cancelled, Mercedes boss Toto Wolf had hit out at suggestions that the issues with the drain covers were set to overshadow the event and damage F1’s reputation in America.
Asked for his view of the event as a whole after the end of Sunday’s race, Wolff said: “That was an awesome weekend. The drain cover was nothing, like I said. When you look back tonight, Sunday: spectacular race, great audiences, mega event. I think some good racing at the front. That’s what I will remember. An inaugural Las Vegas race that ticked all the boxes.
Asked about the fact that fans on site still missed the delayed second session, Wolff added: “[Practice day] was so difficult anyway with the drain cover coming loose that the driving from 2.30am to 4am also to see whether everything was fine for the following day. I think it was unforeseen circumstances and you can’t make people work here on track that late.
“For next year maybe we can create some kind of buffer [in the schedule] but it was unforeseen circumstances. Now, often communication can do a lot to make the situation better. I hope for the people who ended up upset, for the right reasons we can find a good package for next year so they can enjoy the race and, in a way, maybe we can pay them back for the unfortunate situation.”
Verstappen: It was a fun race
Verstappen had elaborated on his reasons for not liking the nature of the event after qualifying.
While he derided the track itself as more “National League” – the fifth tier of English football – compared with Monaco’s “Champions League” circuit – he said he accepted that “a kind of show element is important” at F1 events. However, he said he did not feel Vegas and the special events around the weekend to attract fans carried the same “emotion of the sport” as at traditional tracks.
The Dutchman eventually won the inaugural race after emerging on top for a record-extending 18th time this season. This was achieved despite picking up a five-second penalty for forcing Charles Leclerc off track, in the first-corner move that had initially earned him the lead of the race, and then colliding with George Russell, an incident which the Mercedes driver was penalised for.
“I think today the race was good, yeah,” Verstappen told Sky Sports F1.
“Of course, it helps when you have a track with a lot of straights. There is a lot slipstreaming going on and of course the DRS effect seemed quite powerful out there.
“Plus low deg on the hard tyres so everyone could push quite hard, so it made it a fun race for sure.”
After the thrills of Las Vegas, Formula 1 heads to Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit for the 2023 season finale and another stunning spectacle under the lights. Watch the Abu Dhabi weekend live on Sky Sports F1, with lights out on Sunday at 1pm. Stream F1 on Sky Sports with NOW