Formula 1 hasn’t even taken to the Las Vegas Strip Circuit for the first time yet, but it’s already been a chaotic trip to Sin City for drivers in the penultimate round of the 2023 season.
Drivers including Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon partnered professional golfers in the inaugural Netflix Cup, to near-fatal consequences, while the draw of the casino floor hasn’t gone unnoticed either.
Toto Wolff had insisted Mercedes would be banned from casinos, but Yuki Tsunoda‘s already seemingly found a way around that problem.
“It’s first time for me, I’m actually already impressed,” Tsunoda told the press. “After I landed here I already saw casino machines in the airport.”
However, Max Verstappen – who could be Tsunoda‘s future F1 teammate, had a different take. The Dutchman had already proclaimed he doesn’t gamble, but added that’s not the be-all and end-all in Sin City.
John Legend and Tiesto set the tone for the grand prix’s opening ceremony while Adele, Lady Gaga and U2 are among those to have completed Las Vegas residencies in 2023.
“It’s not only about gambling here,” Verstappen said. “You can also just have a nice time seeing a lot of nice shows, nice restaurants and just have a good time. It’s not all about spending your money.”
Gasly and Albon recount ’embarrassing’ near-miss
Gasly and Alex Albon took part in the inaugural Netflix Cup Pro-Am event, which was won by Carlos Sainz alongside two-time major-winner, and two-time Ryder Cup runner-up, Justin Thomas.
Albon and Gasly even faced off in an earlier round, with the Alpine driver triumphing alongside Tony Finau.
“It went as well as expected,” Gasly told the media. “I didn’t kill anyone which was the first target and I did try my best but I shanked a few balls and a few of them went close to spectators so I’m glad everybody stayed safe.
“I did get a couple of nice shots I was happy about but it was such a cool event, the course was the best course I’ve ever played on. I just felt like like a carpet all the way – even though I spent most of my time on the rough it was just so nice. It was a lot of fun.
“We played with Alex and against all odds I managed to get to the final which was pretty cool, my partner was just so amazing.”
Unsurprisingly the drivers’ competitive nature shone through even in the pre-race press conference, with Albon (whose girlfriend is Chinese pro Muni He) focussing on Gasly‘s off-shots on the way to victory, the Williams driver partnering Max Homa.
Only two positions separate the pair in the drivers’ championship, though Albon is 35 points behind Gasly – more than double his own tally – and would need to score a win and second place in the last two races of the season to overhaul the Frenchman.
“I did embarrass myself, I enjoyed it, it was a lot of fun,” Albon said. “Up against Pierre, he almost took someone’s head off.
“It’s definitely something when you’re not comfortable with performing and you don’t want to embarrass yourself in front of TV and at the same time you just knew you’re on TV being watched by so many people. It was a different kind of feeling.
“I think being surrounded by fans was the scariest thing because I think they’re a bit more in control than we are. But it was quite funny because when the pros were about to hit.
“You can see everyone was quite relaxed, the people watching around us and then as soon as we stepped up to the tee box, everyone’s just ready getting ready to jump down.”