Nov.17 (GMM) Top Formula 1 drivers are hitting back amid the neon glitz, glamour and “show” of the new Las Vegas GP.
On the eve of Liberty Media’s unique new blue-riband occasion, world champion Max Verstappen triggered widespread headlines by denouncing the “99 percent show, 1 percent sporting event” and a “not very interesting or exciting” street layout taking in the fabled ‘Strip’.
The Dutchman said the ‘opening ceremony’ on Wednesday made him feel like a “clown”, with mandatory attendance at a party at the Wynn casino looming and yet another round of controversial driver introductions also scheduled prior to Saturday’s late-night race.
At the same time, he admitted he feels like his protests will fall on deaf ears.
“They make money on it either way. It doesn’t matter whether I like it or not. But I don’t want to fake it either,” said the dominant Red Bull driver.
“If I was the owner, I probably wouldn’t listen to the drivers either. I would do what I want with my business. I’m just curious to see how long the fans will still enjoy it.”
Verstappen’s complaints come at the tail end of an arduous, year-long travelling schedule for a tired Formula 1 circus – with the drivers now tackling jet-lag and the prospect of yet another huge timezone jump for the season finale in Abu Dhabi next week.
“The time difference from here to Abu Dhabi alone is 12 hours,” he said. “Then it’s another schedule. It’s very tiring and I don’t fully understand it.
“It doesn’t make much sense.”
Verstappen’s views are not always shared by his peers, but on this occasion, he had plenty of support.
“I didn’t sign up for this part of it at all,” Lance Stroll admitted when asked about Wednesday’s opening ceremony.
“I just like racing cars, not trying to be a Hollywood star.”
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz agrees that F1 officials might need to “reconsider” certain expectations on the drivers that are getting “busier and busier” every year.
“We are adding races to the calendar and it’s getting to a point where I think, sometimes, everything feels a bit repetitive and everything feels a bit over-packed and we’re trying maybe to overdo it a bit,” the Spaniard added.
Sainz also said he feels like the drivers and other F1 staff’s “health” is often being overlooked due to the arduous schedule and rapid timezone leaping.
Pierre Gasly said: “In my life it’s going to be the first time I’m moving from one side of the globe to the complete opposite side within a few days. So I don’t really know how I’m going to be feeling.”
Rookie Oscar Piastri agreed that the final Las Vegas-to-Abu Dhabi double header of the season is pushing the limit in terms of what an athlete should be tolerating.
“Maybe next time the organisers should think about these things a bit more,” said the Australian. “I suppose driving at 350 centimetres from the walls will keep us awake.”
Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg added: “Obviously right now we have no seat at the table, no power and it would be a nice thing to be part of it and a stakeholder,” admitted Nico Hulkenberg.
Sainz continued: “I think keeping the drivers happy and taking their opinions is important because we then face the media and we’re not going to be happy about our sport.”
Lewis Hamilton, for instance, admitted that Las Vegas’ locals are right to be upset with some of the disruption to their lives caused by the event, while Daniel Ricciardo said he feels for fans being asked to fork out exorbitant amounts simply for a ticket.
“We have to be careful not to alienate ourselves from the fans because of the high prices,” Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc agrees. “We have a few races now where, in my opinion, the tickets are too expensive.”