Why all F1 bets are off for the Las Vegas GP

Here are all the key talking points ahead of the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix in Nevada

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People say having more than 20 Formula 1 events in a year creates less anticipation and dilutes the quality of each race. There certainly hasn’t been a lack of hype for the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix but will we be disappointed by another dominant Max Verstappen win?

Verstappen doesn’t care too much about the noise of the event and simply wants to add to his 52 wins in F1. You can’t blame him for that as he’s saying it how it is and giving his own opinion on Las Vegas which is, I don’t really care and will just drive a racing car as quick as I can around a racing track.

You will hear a lot of noise about how the Las Vegas GP will be like a Super Bowl and one of the biggest events on the sporting calendar. But it also must deliver on the track too and the unintentional move of putting this race in the middle of November will have big consequences.

Calm before the cold

For some reason, a lot of people think Las Vegas is always warm. That’s not the case and when the cars are on track in qualifying and the race, the air temperature could be less than 10 degrees Celsius.

They say F1 follows the sun and temperatures that cold are rare for the championship. It’s a variable that has a massive impact on performance and the phrase tyre temperature can be put at the forefront of your mind.

Pirelli are so used to running their tyres in warmer conditions and overheating can be an issue. However, the teams will face the opposite problem in Las Vegas, with tyre warm-up being the problem.

Las Vegas GP 2023 Track Layout | Mercedes

The drivers will only have to touch the brake pedal six times on a lap and there are long straights including a 1.900 km (1.181 miles) down the Las Vegas Strip, past some of the city’s richest and most famous hotels and casinos.

This means the tyres will cool on the straight, so a car that struggles with cold conditions and generating tyre temperature will be exposed. The coldest races this year have been in Australia and Canada, where Aston Martin and Mercedes were competitive.

Red Bull could be vulnerable here too, especially as they have exceptional tyre wear which, in theory, means they may be weak at warming up their tyres. However, the brilliant engineering from Red Bull‘s technical team might mean this isn’t a problem. How they can be so versatile in all conditions is quite incredible.

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

“I don’t think it’s that exciting, that’s the only thing. I think already for me a street circuit is not that exciting, especially with these new cars, they are just too heavy.”

Perez looking to secure second

Sergio Perez is 32 points ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the battle for second in the F1 drivers’ championship and will secure the runners-up spot behind Verstappen as long as he’s not outscored by six points.

If, for whatever reason, Verstappen doesn’t enjoy the flow of the track and can’t get up to speed Perez must capitalise and find the confidence of getting up close and personal to the walls like he did earlier in the year.

Let’s face it, you can almost give Verstappen the win in Abu Dhabi because he’s so good there, so this is the last chance for everyone to knock him off his perch.

“We just have to do our own thing and make sure we maximise our next two weekends,” said Perez.

“It would be nice to secure second place [in the championship] here because it’s the first opportunity we have but other than that, I think it’s more important that we focus on having a strong finish to the season.

“I feel like we are in a good moment as a group, as a team. We haven’t been able to put the results all together in the last few weekends but I believe that we are on our way and we are getting a lot closer to our performances from earlier in the season.”

Ferrari and McLaren should push Red Bull hard

Charles Leclerc‘s crash on the formation lap and Carlos Sainz‘s underwhelming drive to sixth in Brazil has made some people almost forget about Ferrari. But, do not be surprised to see them fighting for pole position because they have very good traction and are a match for Red Bull on the straights.

Ferrari are the only team to beat Red Bull in 2023, thanks to Sainz‘s stunning Singapore drive, and the Spaniard thinks some aspects of the Marina Bay Street Circuit also feature in Las Vegas.

Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz embrace at the 2023 Las Vegas GP | Scuderia Ferrari

“We have better hopes than recently, mainly because the track looks probably a bit more suited to us than recent tracks,” said Sainz.

“Long straights, like in Monza. Tight corners, like in Monza or Singapore. Maybe there’s the combination of Turns 1 and 2 where we will not be very quick but then the rest of the track, I think our cars should be better suited than recent events and hopefully that gives us a better opportunity.”

Then there’s the form team of McLaren, with Lando Norris taking five podiums from the last six events. Oscar Piastri should be back on it after less competitive race weekends in Austin, Mexico City and Sao Paulo, where he was racing on the tracks for the first time.

The upgrades McLaren have put on the car mean there are very few weaknesses now. They are just losing out a little bit in the slow-speed stuff and with tyre wear compared to the Red Bull beast.

“I guess it feels a little bit different just night race and a lot of glamour and all of this stuff,” said Norris. “But inside it’s just another race weekend. So, concentrated and focused for the weekend ahead.

“Opportunities for everyone because it’s so different and a lot of question marks for everyone. Plenty of things to try and prepare for and be ready for – but also, with FP1, FP2 and FP3 a bit more time than what we’ve had the last few weekends with the Sprint races, to get our heads on things and making sure we’re prepared before qualifying.

“I’m extremely pleased with how we’ve done the last few weeks, especially Mexico and Brazil were a big a big chunk better than we were expecting, especially Brazil.

“To be so far ahead of the majority and close to the Red Bull through a lot of the race was definitely not something we were expecting so it’s a tough one. This will remind you a little bit more of Baku and Monza-type races which weren’t our best, definitely towards the weaker side.

“There’s the long straights and low downforce is not where our priority has been this season with developments and all of those things, because there’s so few races like it. So, maybe not as confident as we have been the last few weekends, but no idea at the same time.”

John Smith
John Smithhttps://total-motorsport.com
Editor at Total-Motorsport.com and all round Motorsport journalist specialising in Formula 1, IndyCar and Formula E.
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