Formula 1, the undisputed pinnacle of global motorsport, announced on 30 March, 2022 that the sport would return to Las Vegas for a late-season event in 2023.
In a lavish VIP evening event from the pool deck of the Cosmopolitan Hotel & Casino, F1 President and CEO Stefano Domenicali heralded the potential of the highly-anticipated engagement, “This is an incredible moment for Formula 1 that demonstrates the huge appeal and growth of our sport with a third race in the US.”
The highly anticipated and finally revealed circuit layout will traverse a long section of the wlegendary Las Vegas Strip.
The gently curved Strip straightaway extends a full two kilometers (1.3 miles) and past a number of high-profile – and high-rise – Las Vegas resort properties. Speeds into the braking zone are expected to exceed 338 kph (210 mph).
Caesars Palace, Wynn, Encore, Venetian, and Bellagio will all front the planned 6.12km (3.8 miles) circuit, as well as the reveal host, the Cosmopolitan.
The famous Las Vegas neon lights (now largely LED) of the main stretch will offer an ambient backdrop rivalling Time Square in New York City or perhaps the classic La place de Brouckère in Brussels.
The inclusion of the Caesars Palace resort along the race circuit recalls the last time that Formula 1 visited the American gambling mecca.
The long-departed Caesars Palace Grand Prix was held on a purpose-built F1 course through parking facilities and fallow land just north of the Caesars resort in 1981 and 1982 before converting its twisting road course to an IndyCar roval.
Alan Jones won the inaugural 1981 Las Vegas Grand Prix for Frank Williams in an FW07C
Michele Alboreto claimed his maiden F1 victory for Ken Tyrell in 1982. Nelson Piquet of Brabham and Keke Rosberg of Williams claimed the respective F1 drivers championships in those two years.
Notably, those 1981-1982 events were originally intended to include a portion of the Las Vegas Strip, a notion that never extended past the planning stages.
The Caesars Palace Grand Prix also offers further contrast in the manner of promotion.
The 1981-1982 Caesars Palace Grand Prix events were promoted and branded solely by the Caesars Palace host resort under contract with Bernie Ecclestone, then representing both the Brabham works and the Formula One Constructors Association.
Promotion for the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix, however, will be undertaken by Formula 1 and Liberty Media in a partnership with Live Nation Entertainment and the host quasi-public Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). A consortium of premier Las Vegas resorts is also participating in the announced promotional efforts.
The somewhat unusual promotional arrangements perhaps tip prior legal action undertaken one-year ago by LVCVA against the P2M LLC concern of one-time Las Vegas F1 entrepreneur and promoter Farid Shidfar.
“The LVCVA entered the picture when P2M approached it … in March 2017,” reported Las Vegas’ ReviewJournal.com, “and convinced them to sign nondisclosure agreements forbidding the LVCVA to communicate with anyone but P2M to establish a race.”
Notably, Liberty Media sought to formalise its legal standing in Vegas within months of the LVCVA overture by Shidfar
“In December 2017, it was reported that Formula One Licensing BV, a company of the Liberty Media Formula One Group, submitted trademark applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.” documented the recent book (by this writer) Caesars Palace Grand Prix, “The official application sought exclusive merchandising trademarks for a proposed Las Vegas Grand Prix.”
The disposition of the LVCVA v. P2M LLC lawsuit remains unclear. It is of some further irony that Farid Shidfar was credited with the production of the 2010 grand opening events of The Cosmopolitan, host resort of this week’s F1 announcement of the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix.
Nonetheless, F1, Liberty Media, the LVCVA and the assembled promotional consortium will be planning not only for broad global viewership, but also for the international sporting success that eluded the 1981-1982 Caesars Palace Grand Prix.
As former F1 broadcaster, Bob Varsha told this writer, “F1 is taking on a challenge by self-promoting the weekend, or perhaps better said, it’s taking a gamble. One thing is certain: America’s exploding interest in all things Formula One means we’ll all be watching.”
Randall Cannon is the author of “Caesars Palace Grand Prix – Las Vegas, Organized Crime, and the Pinnacle of Motorsport” and “Stardust International Raceway – Motorsports Meets the Mob in Vegas.” Both books are available from the publisher McFarland Books.com, Amazon.com, and most online booksellers.