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Did F1 underestimate the Las Vegas desert cold?

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The 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix could go on record as being the coldest Formula 1 race ever held, as night-time temperatures of 5°C (41°F) and maybe even lower are predicted for the weekend of 17-19 November.

The kind of temperatures F1 experienced during European winter testing in the past, but not during the season. The coldest GP on record was the 1978 Canadian Grand Prix which local hero Gilles Villeneuve (Ferrari) won in October with the temperature at 5°C  for most of the day.

Las Vegas is a night race and, being in a desert, the sunshine temperatures reach 20°C during this time of the year, however at sunset the temps plummet fast and it gets very cold.

During a TalkSport podcast, former F1 Chief Ross Brawn admitted: “The one thing we hadn’t considered initially but the tyre company have dealt with is it gets very, very cold at night. So when the race is happening, which is Saturday night, it has been known to drop down to three or four degrees.

“So, it can be really quite cold and of course getting the cars to work in those temperatures can be a challenge. [Pirelli] have done some work to make sure the tyres can cope with that. We’re definitely facing some new challenges which we’ve never had before, but I think it’ll be spectacular,” predicted Brawn.

Meanwhile, F1 teams have been running simulations in overdrive of the wall-lined street track consisting of three long straights and a variety of 17 bends/corners. Was the extreme cold factored in?

Isola: It is a step into the unknown for everybody

las vegas grand prix f1 track map

Tyres will be all important and Pirelli have been planning for Las Vegas since Brawn was still the F1 Chief. He has since been succeded by Stefano Domenicali.

Pirelli motorsport boss Mario Isola said of the trip to Vegas: “It is a step into the unknown, for everybody I believe. Las Vegas will be cold, it’s a street circuit.

“So we were working with the teams and we asked them for simulations in advance to try to understand how much energy the layout of the aircraft is putting on tyres. We had information from the companies that are making the tarmac in order to understand how abrasive is the tarmac, and which is the level of creep we can expect.

“But still, a lot of question marks are on Las Vegas. We decided to use the three softest compounds in the range to try to generate grip. I can imagine a lot of track evolution and very low grip. So they will complain! It’s fine. We will manage also this situation.

“But it’s a big unknown. Fast track, long straights, high speed and all conditions that are quite difficult to manage,” predicted Isola.

Regarding the journey to this point, on the eve of one of the most anticipated races of the year (decade?) in which the F1 owners (Liberty Media) are heavily invested, Isola recalled: “We had a lot of discussion with Formula 1 and the FIA before Las Vegas and also last year. I remember I started discussing Las Vegas with Ross Brawn, so it’s quite a lot of time ago.

“Obviously, we cannot change the weather, we cannot increase the temperature. A challenge could be to keep the temperature in the tyre. That’s why we decided to select the three softest compounds. And then, as I said before, it’s a bit jumping into the unknown because we just have data based on simulation, nothing else.

“So we try to do our best but consider that the tyres are homologated so we cannot make a special tyre for Las Vegas as we cannot make a special tyre for Monte Carlo, for example. So it is what it is and we have to just select the best option we have,” declared Isola.

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