As the countdown to the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix inches closer, Formula 1 enthusiasts and critics alike are witnessing a clash of opinions, with former F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone taking center stage in this drama. Ecclestone, a name synonymous with Formula 1 for decades, has made headlines once again by casting doubt on the street race set to unfold along the iconic Las Vegas Strip. In his characteristically outspoken style, Ecclestone has not minced his words, stating that this event has “nothing to do with F1 racing.”
For those who have followed the sport closely, Bernie Ecclestone’s comments come as no surprise. He has long been an advocate for the traditional European roots of Formula 1, and this event on the glittering streets of Las Vegas represents a departure from the sport’s historic venues. However, what truly raises eyebrows is Ecclestone’s assertion that he deserves credit for expanding Formula 1’s global reach beyond the confines of Europe.
This latest twist in the Las Vegas GP saga comes on the heels of Formula 1’s recent forays into American territories, with races in Miami and Austin garnering significant attention. As the sport’s popularity continues to grow in the United States, the Las Vegas event is being hailed as a monumental milestone, both for Formula 1 and its current owner, Liberty Media. It’s worth noting that Liberty Media assumed control of Formula 1 in 2017, the same year Ecclestone stepped down from his role as CEO, marking a turning point in the sport’s history.
While Las Vegas may seem like a glamorous location for a Formula 1 race, it’s essential to remember the sport’s previous encounters with the city. In the early ’80s, Formula 1 ventured to Las Vegas, with the Caesars Palace Hotel playing host to two Grand Prix races in 1981 and 1982. Unfortunately, these events left much to be desired, as the circuit at the Caesars Palace was widely criticized and considered one of the worst tracks in Formula 1 history.
As anticipation builds for the Las Vegas Grand Prix, one factor that adds a unique dimension to this race is the weather. Unlike the scorching temperatures often associated with desert locales, this event is slated to be a night race, with temperatures expected to plummet to as low as five degrees Celsius based on current weather forecasts. Qualifying in the heart of Nevada is set to kick off at the stroke of midnight, while the race itself will commence at 10 pm on a Saturday night.
While Ecclestone played a pivotal role in Formula 1’s initial foray into Nevada more than four decades ago, he has shown a notable lack of enthusiasm for this weekend’s race. During an interview with the Dutch publication NOS, he remarked:
“I’m not really looking forward to it. Why not? It has nothing to do with Formula 1.”
Ecclestone claimed credit for pioneering the sport’s entry into burgeoning markets in Asia and the Middle East, including Bahrain, China, and Singapore, as the new millennium dawned. He also expressed his satisfaction with Formula 1’s continuous growth into diverse international destinations. The 2024 F1 calendar boasts an unprecedented 24 races, notably marking China’s return to the schedule after its last appearance in 2019. Expanding on this, he remarked:
“I am happy that the sport continues to develop around the world. I am the one who brought Formula 1 out of Europe and to the rest of the world.
“We are competing for a World Championship, not a European Championship. It is good that that remains the case.”
In the midst of these conflicting opinions and unique circumstances, Formula 1 fans can’t help but wonder if the Las Vegas GP will prove Ecclestone wrong and carve out its place in the annals of the sport’s history.