F1’s head of race operations admits Liberty Media focusing on the show in Las Vegas

The race has been embroiled in controversy since being announced in 2022

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Graham Watson is Formula 1’s current head of race operations and has over 25 years of experience in the sport, working for teams such as Benetton and Lotus, but even the demands of the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix have managed to catch the sport out, leaving Liberty Media prioritising a good show over a good race.

In the build-up to what he describes as “the biggest challenge of the year”, he also reveals that Liberty Media wants to focus on producing a good show for fans with the race quality not being a priority, as the American owners of F1 push a logical conundrum on their crews.

Liberty Media itself is a promoter of the race,” Watson says to Formule1.nl.com. “So we’re doing something we’ve never done before.

“It will be a special event in every way because the focus, more than in other races, is on the show. The Grand Prix is secondary.”

The ex-Honda man also highlights one such area that the runners of F1 bid to give the locals and commuters a good show, by exposing the track to the public before and after the sessions in order to help improve the local commerce of the Nevada city.

“One of the challenges is that they want to open the circuit to the public every day before and after the sessions,” Watson added. “In Singapore, the track is closed for four days, but not in Las Vegas.

“Because the Strip and the boulevard, for example, are important access roads for commuters and tourists who want to spend money in the casinos. It means, among other things, that we have to check daily that nothing has broken.”

Further issues with the Las Vegas GP

Watson also outlined other issues of hosting the race such as the fact that it’s at night at a street circuit compromises flexibility and preparedness, whilst security becomes an extra challenge to manage.

It adds to the growing list of controversies associated with the Grand Prix such as ticket prices and worker strikes.

Another issue is people have intentionally cut fibre optic and audio cables, leaving F1 unable to do anything about it in response although he notes that a Grand Prix is easier to stage than the Tour de France for security purposes and that they do “a good job.”

Preparedness is also an issue compared to other street circuits and night races like Singapore or Bahrain that have had years to iron out any problems. This is the first time the race has taken place in Nevada since 1982 and with the close walls gives little in the way of forgiveness.

When is the Las Vegas GP?

Free Practice 1 for the Las Vegas GP gets underway at 20:30 Pacific Time (PT) marking an early morning start for British and European audiences. Viewers from the UK can tune in at 04:30 GMT on Friday to watch the first cars hit the new track.

Qualifying takes place at 00:00 PT in Nevada, which is a start time of 08:00 GMT on Saturday morning for those in the UK. The race starts at 22:00 PT on Saturday night whilst UK fans will need to tune in at 06:00 GMT on Sunday morning to watch the lights go out.

Brandon Sutton
Brandon is an alumni of an NCTJ and BJTC Liverpool John Moores University course, and has been with Total-Motorsport.com for over a year now. He enjoys covering all forms of motorsport but particularly focuses on Formula 1, and Brandon loves to debate various topics of the sport and other interests, especially if that topic doesn't have an open/shut answer such as the GOAT debate.
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