The 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix marks a journey into the unknown for Formula 1 – and not in the Hangover-esque fashion that’s usually associated with trips to Sin City.
A new track featuring sessions starting at midnight in a desert is a recipe for uncertainty, with tyre temperatures predicted to be a major issue, despite Pirelli bringing their softest compounds in an attempt to combat the problem.
The nature of the Las Vegas Strip circuit will only increase that problem, with long straights, not many corners and even fewer high-speed turns.
The flat-out run along The Strip itself is even longer than the nearly-straight to end a lap of Baku, a generous corner count tallies 16 and only a handful aren’t slow-speed, while the smooth track surface will make the rubber even more chilled.
But the factor that binds all these together is the weather, so just how cold will it be?
Thursday: Practice 1 and 2
The ‘weekend’ starts off relatively manageable, with FP1 starting at 8:30 PM local time in temperatures that shouldn’t dip below 15 degrees Celsius (62 Fahrenheit).
FP1 and FP3 don’t have too much specific relevance to the grand prix itself, but at least drivers get the chance to learn the track in the best conditions of the weekend.
FP2 actually finishes at 1 AM on Friday morning, mirroring qualifying 24 hours later, with Vegas effectively on the same timescale for European audiences as an eastern timezone race like Australia or Japan.
And temperatures will have sunk a further few degrees by the time drivers take to track once again – their only chance to simulate qualifying simulations.
One blessing is the wind though – or lack of it. As a nod to F1, The Strip can form a wind tunnel of sorts, funnelling the desert gusts straight into the heart of the city but wind speed will stay well away from double-figures for most of the weekend.
Friday: Practice 3 and Qualifying
It only rains an average of once every fortnight in Las Vegas, but unbelievably F1 might have picked one of just 26 wet days out of the year.
There’s a 30-40% of rain across both FP3 and qualifying, which would bring further chaos and frazzle team strategists even more.
The schedule is exactly the same as Thursday, but it will at least be a bit warmer – 18 degrees for FP3 and 16 when qualifying rolls around. A wind speed of three or four mph shouldn’t trouble many flags.
A quirk of scheduling means the grand prix is actually the first time drivers will have been on track at this time of day, as the race starts at 10pm.
It’s set to be 14 degrees come lights out, and that could’ve dropped to 12 by the chequered flag is unfurled.
There’s the possibility of rain earlier in the day but that should’ve cleared up by the time cars take to track for the main event.