The purchase of Formula One by Liberty Group in 2016 has raised a few questions, with one of them regarding the expansion of the Formula One event within North America. Given Liberty is an American company, a renewed push to implement more American events on the calendar would only make sense, right? However, would this be a good move for the Formula One category as a whole? And what would a race within the confines of Las Vegas bring to the sport?
History to forget?
Over the last few decades, there have been several attempts to bring the glitz and glamour of Formula One to Las Vegas. In 1981 and 1982, there was actually a Grand Prix run within the city; although it ran under a different name and did not take place on any of its actual streets or dedicated race tracks. Other cities such as Phoenix, Dallas and Long Beach attempted to garner public attention by staging Grand Prix of their own. Aside from Long Beach, none had really prevailed in their quest. The circuits were often hated by the drivers, the races were shunned as ‘boring’ by the viewers and the American public didn’t seem to care as attendance figures tended to be anaemic. The Caesars Palace Grand Prix is a classic case in point.
Following the 1980 season, there was a vacancy on the Formula One calendar after Watkins Glen International waved goodbye to the series. Following this, the organising body (F.I.S.A.) were looking for a new alternative for the season finale. Interest was found, in Las Vegas. Curiously enough, the circuit was not laid out on the streets of Las Vegas, but rather was held within the confines of the Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino carpark. The circuit was well made, with a smooth surface and good run-off areas despite the relative lack of space. Although, once the cars went out on track, this would turn out to be the only positive talk regarding the circuit. The event only lasted two years, but that was enough to give this event a horrible reputation. The heat was a factor as some drivers were heavily affected due to the gruelling temperatures that plagued this event. The circuit itself was also a point of interest as the nature of the circuit meant that a fair amount of load was forced onto the drivers neck, with some opting to rest their heads on the side of the cockpit whilst going through the fast left-handers. But the main reason behind the demise of this event was down to one thing – attendance. The low figures meant that the first year alone turned out to be a huge loss for the hotel. After the 1982 event, the circuit was written off the calendar and is often regarded as one of the worst circuits the series has ever visited.
Not long after the chequered flag dropped in 1982, the world of Formula One promptly forgot about the circuit. The finale shifted between South Africa and Portugal, before finding a home in Adelaide, South Australia. However, the circuit itself would continue for a couple of years, with the popular North American racing series (CART) racing on a modified version of the circuit in 1983 and 1984. Eventually, the circuit disappeared altogether and is now covered with urban development.
Would It Work Today?
So, with all that in mind, would it still be a good idea to bring the World Championship to Sin City? A lot of it is dependent upon how you look at it. Staging a race in the middle of Las Vegas has an appeal to it that you just wouldn’t get anywhere else. With the additional stipulation of the Grand Prix taking place under lights, it’s no wonder Liberty are keen. Another chip in the arsenal for the Las Vegas project is the $150 million USD investment from Chinese investors which should be substantial enough for the organisers to gain traction and get this event underway.
Staging a race within the confines of a metropolitan area late at night has proven to be a successful combination, as was demonstrated with the Singapore Grand Prix. Thanks to the marketing appeal of the race, the contract to host a Formula One event has been extended, attendance figures were at an all-time high and with the possible introduction of more events such as Supercars, the circuit of Marina Bay looks set for a fruitful future. However, for this event to become a success, they will require substantial backing and support before they start applying for a place on the Formula One calendar.
This brings us to the ‘Grand Prix of America’. In 2011, a race around the area of Port Imperial was pencilled into the provisional calendar. With the skyline of Manhattan overlooking the calendar and the close-proximity of the New York City Metropolitan transport, this event looked to be an unequivocal success. However, as quickly as it was on the calendar, it was taken off. The construction of the circuit and its facilities hadn’t started and for good reason – the organisers didn’t have the funds. It was instead postponed until the succeeding year, in 2012. After failing to obtain the funds by that time, it was finally postponed indefinitely and after having gone dark ever since 2013, the organisers seem to have finally given up on their ambitions, abandoning the idea indefinitely.
To summarize, a Formula One event on the streets of Las Vegas can be a fantastic opportunity for Liberty Group to expose the sport to a new audience; to garner additional interest from the American public. If this event is run in accordance to an efficient, well-funded and planned project, it could turn out to be one of the more profitable events on the calendar. Otherwise, it may be confined to the history books, much like its predecessor.
Josh Revell is a writer and eSports competitor who specialises in motorsport. Under the BOX THIS LAP format, Revell also manages a podcast, with episodes streaming every fortnight. Be sure to check back here for weekly content and follow him on Twitter for his views and opinions on all the happenings in the world of motorsport.