Verstappen: Las Vegas GP ‘99% show 1% sporting event’

Max Verstappen already feels the Las Vegas GP is more show than motor race

Max Verstappen already feels the Las Vegas GP is more about a show than a motor race. Image: James Moy/XPB

Max Verstappen has delivered a scathing early assessment of the Las Vegas Grand Prix weekend, declaring it to be “99 percent show and one percent sporting event.”

Verstappen was speaking after being involved in an opening ceremony that incorporated a drone display, followed by musical performances from a range of artists before the driver pairings from each team were elevated onto a raised platform in front of a packed main grandstand along the start-finish straight.

For the three-time F1 champion, it was clearly a spectacle conducted through gritted teeth as in his media session that followed soon after he made clear his displeasure at being in Las Vegas for what he feels is already more of an exhibition.

After making his comment with regard to show versus sporting event, the Red Bull driver was asked about how he felt about the whole Las Vegas experience, insisting the event was not one he had been looking forward to.

“Not a lot of emotions, to be honest,” said Verstappen. “I just want to always focus on the performance side of things. I don’t like all the things around it.

“I know, of course, there are some places where it is part of it but, let’s say, it’s not in my interest.”

They are not comments Liberty Media will want to hear after investing almost half-a-billion US dollars in an event, that as the promoter for the first time in the sport’s history, it will be eager to see become its showpiece occasion.

Verstappen, though, was unrepentant, adding: “Well, I guess they (Liberty) still make money whether I like it or not, so it’s not up to me.

“But also I’m not going to fake it. I will always voice my opinion on positive things and negative things. That is just how I am.

“Some people like the show a bit more. I don’t like it at all. I grew up just looking at the performance side of things, and that’s how I see it as well, so for me, I like to be in Vegas, but not so much for racing.”

Verstappen has even dismissed the 6.201-kilometre, 17-turn circuit as “not very interesting” after recent simulator sessions.

“It’s just not many corners, to be honest,” said Verstappen. “It will also depend on how grippy it is. It doesn’t look like it has a lot of grip. But we’ll go with the flow.”

To add to Verstappen’s ire, he is also far from impressed with the scheduling, with qualifying at midnight local time on Friday, and the race starting at 22:00 on Saturday.

Just a few days later, and with a 12-hour time difference, the season concludes in the Middle East and the traditional curtain-closer in Abu Dhabi.

“Here it’s not so much a problem but then we have to fly to Abu Dhabi,” remarked Verstappen.

“It’s already 12 hours difference, but also a completely different time zone. Basically, we live on a Japanese time schedule, almost different days.

“I don’t really get that. That is very tiring, and also, at the end of the season that we have to do this, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense.”

Given the nature of the street track and the much cooler temperatures that are set to dip to around 10 to 11 degrees Celsius, the circumstances could work against the all-conquering Red Bull.

Asked as to whether it could be a tricky track, he replied: “It might be, but honestly, it can also be very good. I don’t know.

“At the moment, no one really knows where we’re at. I think it’s more fun that we just go out there, feel the conditions, feel the grip, and then just try to settle in and see what happens.

“From the sim work I’ve done, what was most important was just to learn the track, to be honest.

“We tried some things in terms of setup, but when you don’t really know how bumpy it’s going to be, how grippy it’s going to be, then you can’t really go into detail compared to some other tracks where you more or less know what kind of grip you’re going to get.

“So even there, it’s still hard to nail the setup. It’s really a bit of guesswork that goes into it.

“But also you prepare yourself for certain kinds of scenarios like higher grip, lower grip, medium grip, and once you get on track then you see a bit more how it feels and what you need to change as well.”

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