Formula 1’s drivers speak out on the “excitement” surrounding the recently announced Las Vegas race, whilst asserting that the sport’s history can not be “unimaginably” lost by removing classic tracks or disregarding established venues.

F1 recently announced that it’s headed for Las Vegas and its famous Strip in 2023, in a move that secures three races in the USA from next season with the inclusion of Austin and Miami. The all-new 6.12km Las Vegas street circuit will incorporate the famous Strip as a long straight, with the drivers set to race past famous landmarks such as the Bellagio and Caesars Palace.

After the announcement heralding an “exciting” new flagship Grand Prix for the American Liberty Media-owned championship, amidst the rumoured demise of several historic venues, the drivers shared their thoughts on the latest addition to the F1 calendar, the increasing focus on the American market, the status of a few of the existing races and the demands brought by the ever-increasing season length.

The position of the current Grands Prix in France, Belgium, Monaco and Mexico are all thought to be under threat, or at least undecided, for next season with the return of Qatar and China and the arrival of Las Vegas and Miami.

Several of the drivers also reveal how they would go about dealing with the Formula 1 calendar debacle, how concerned they are about F1’s current direction and even some of their previous experiences in Las Vegas.

Thoughts on Las Vegas gaining a spot on the 2023 calendar:

George Russell: “It is incredible to see the space Formula 1 is in at the moment and the excitement around the sport. I think it’s brilliant for all the teams, for the drivers. And I guess it’s put in Formula 1 and the luxury position that we can almost cherry pick the races we want to go to and whether in the future, there’ll be sort of rotations of races. I think that’s a really great idea. And I think there’s some further races that potentially, you know, could be coming on to the calendar, which I think is great. And we’ll be in Las Vegas.

“It’s just I mean, it’s going to be mental for everybody there and yeah, just good for the sport. So I’m sure a lot of people in the paddock are happy it’s a Saturday night race. They’ll be hitting the town on Sunday morning. I went to Las Vegas as a 12-year-old to do a go-kart race. So I definitely didn’t live the Las Vegas lifestyle. But I went there twice. And to be honest, even as a 12-year-old, the atmosphere in the city was amazing. Just walking down the strip, there was music playing and there was just a really cool vibe there. And I’ve already got a feel for the place. So I’m sure with F1 being there, racing on the strip, it’s going to be insane.”

Sergio Perez: “Vegas, yeah, I’m super happy. Formula 1 is becoming a bit more American, so definitely a bit closer to Mexico, so I might end up living finally at home. So that’s great. I mean, it’s great to see how the sport is growing so much in the States, in all of America. And yeah, I think Vegas is going to be a fantastic opportunity for  the sport and for the fans to see the cars, and see F1. I just think it’s a great combination: F1 with Vegas, it’s fantastic.”

Zhou Guanyu: “Yeah, it’s always exciting to go there. Because obviously I’ve never been there in the past… You know, we’re racing right in the centre, where everything’s happening, also in the night and yeah, I think it’s a very cool place to go and Formula 1 going into all these coolest places in the world is very nice for the drivers also. I guess there will be plenty of people around and the race will finish quite late. And now hopefully in the future one we request for tracks, and then this will come true. So I will request some more tracks back home in China.”

Mick Schumacher: “Yeah, it’s great to go to the States. I like the States and I have never been to Vegas. So surely it will be an interesting one… Yeah, so looking forward to it.”

Yuki Tsunoda: “Yeah, very good, excited to see the track. One of the most famous cities in the world. So yeah I’m kind of looking forward to it.”

Subject of classic tracks being under threat:

Lance Stroll: “Well, I think it’s, in a way, the direction Formula 1 has to take. It’s evolving, the sport, it’s great for the American market. And I think it’s bringing a lot of attraction to Formula 1 having the race in Miami, having the race in Vegas. So, you know, it’s great for our sport, in terms of audience, growing the sport, and I think it will be awesome to race in those cities. I’m sure that the weekends will be very exciting, and [there will be] great energy in Vegas and Miami.

“But yeah, it’s a shame that we’re seeing some of the tracks that are great to drive, that we’ve been going to for a long time, such as Spa, etc, I mean, I guess naturally for Formula 1… these are the right things to do from a business side of things, but definitely will be a shame to see some… maybe some very traditional tracks, that are great to drive, that we’ve been going to for a long time be under threat and potentially disappear.”

Fernando Alonso: “Yeah, not much to add, to be honest. It’s the way it is, the way Formula 1 is going. So, we accept. There are some positives, bringing Formula 1 to new countries and discovering these new races. I think Las Vegas, for example, it’s going to be very exciting. And Miami, and these kinds of weekends. On the other hand, I think we need to be careful with the number of races, which I think we need to… we should agree on a on a limit, because I think for the teams, it’s quite demanding, how the schedule and the calendar is now, especially that we don’t have so many races in Europe anymore. So, I think that’s the only concern if we keep adding races.”

Carlos Sainz: “Yeah, I agree with Fernando, I think there needs to be a limit for the number of races that we keep adding, so in the end some other races are going to pay the price of having to stay out. Obviously big fan of having to go to Miami and Vegas, but at the same time, big loss having to lose classic European races, I think. Hopefully for the future we can find a compromise where maybe races that cannot afford to be in the calendar every year, year-in, year-out, can be in the calendar once every two years, once every three years.

“And we keep coming back to the places that we’ve always been. Business is business. Liberty and Formula 1 will look at what they have to do, I guess, for business, but I wouldn’t like to stop racing in Europe. I think it’s a great place to go racing, it’s where our heritage is and I think we need to keep coming back, even if it’s not every single year, but at least keep it on the calendar.”

Alex Albon: “Alternating is a good idea to keep some of the races that we’ve been racing at going on. I’m sure a lot of us, we’ve started racing in Europe – that’s kind of our background roots. So, it’s great to go back and I think we will enjoy racing over there.”

Esteban Ocon: “We haven’t lost the great Spa, the great Monza and all these circuits at the moment, so yeah, it would be definitely a big shame to lose them, and I think we’re all on the same opinion, you know, drivers, teams, and probably Formula 1 as well. So, it’s not a topic for now, but happy to go to Vegas and Miami and discover a little bit of the States and the new tracks.”

Pierre Gasly: “Well, obviously, being French, I will always support the French Grand Prix and I have a special connection there because the thing is the motivation, the energy, the atmosphere is something you only feel in your homeland and that your people, your kind of fans can make you feel in this sort of moment. So, I really hope we can see the French Grand Prix over the next few years. Obviously, if it would depend only on myself I’ll sign the contract already now, but I’m not sure Stefano [Domenicali] will allow me to do that.

“And yeah, there are other things that they got to discuss first. So obviously, I don’t think these days any Grand Prix is kind of safe because F1, the popularity is so high, you know, everybody wants us. I think it is great to see the new tracks like Miami, Vegas, all these super entertaining places. and yeah, we’ll see how it goes. But hopefully, we can have a very nice addition, a very nice event this season. So really looking forward to this year. And yeah, fingers crossed [the French Grand Prix is] going stick with us staying on the calendar for the next few years.”

Subject of moving away from some of the more traditional venues:

Sebastian Vettel: “Well, I think it’s always exciting to go to new places, providing they are good places, right places for us to be at. Yeah, I mean, obviously we had an absence of racing in America and then Austin sort of came back on the calendar, which was very exciting and established as a great race. Maybe another great example is Singapore. We’d never been there before and now, you know, it’s great to be back this year. And, you know, the first night race, I think there’s something special about that track and that place so it’s good to explore new sides.

“And obviously you hope that all the new places you go to are an addition. Equally you don’t want to lose out, as you said, on the places you’ve gone to for so long. So it would be horrible to lose Melbourne from the calendar. It would be horrible to lose some of the tracks, the core tracks in Europe, but then there’s only so many weekends in the year and I don’t know, maybe altering one year and another year could be an option. But there’s plenty of interest. Obviously, there’s financial interests in new places that we are going and in the end F1 is a business.

“But I think, yeah, for us, it’s a sport, it’s our passion so we don’t see it as a business. I think we see it more as a sport and places mean something because of the history they have, or the tradition they have. And I think it needs to be sort of a mixture between exploring, but also holding on to places that have history, a big fan base. I think it’s unimaginable to lose Italy, for example, off the calendar for many reasons, even though they probably pay the least. But yeah I think this is something we need to hold on to.

Daniel Ricciardo: “Yeah. I mean, going to new places, I think there’s… call it a double upside, you know, you get to explore if you’ve never been to that place, a new city, new country, if it is. And then as a driver, you know, trying to let’s say, suss out a new circuit, and trying to break it down. And break it down quicker than anyone else. That’s something we also enjoy and thrive on. So I love getting to a new track and yeah, trying to just master it quicker than the others. So there is definitely some enjoyment and satisfaction from going to a new venue… so I’m all for it.

“Obviously the flip side is – whether it’s your Monzas or your Spas, your Silverstones – these are tracks we’ve competed at our whole life, so there’s also a lot of history, but also it’s kind of nostalgic and sentimental to race there and continue to compete there. And yeah, I think for those home fans and that crowd, it’s very special to them. And there’s probably generations or whatever have been going to those exact races at those exact venues. So, there’s definitely some special places that I would obviously want to keep continuing to go to, but equally excited to explore new ones.”

Subject of F1 continuing to expand in the United States:

Lewis Hamilton: “Yeah, I think it’s amazing that we bridge… the relationship that we have now, three races on one continent; I think that’s going to be awesome. I think it’ll be good for the business. I think Vegas will be an awesome addition. I have not seen the track layout so I don’t really know how that will be but just being there and the spectacle and I imagine it probably will be a night race, another night race maybe. Yeah, we welcome it.”

Valtteri Bottas: “Yeah good news. Should be a fun weekend and like Lewis said it’s good to see three races in the US. Obviously the fan base has been really growing quite a bit and there’s more and more support from US fans so I’m sure it’s going to be an amazing weekend. But next one for me, I want to say, is Finland.”

Lando Norris: “I guess yeah, very exciting. Another US race, similar I guess, in some ways, to what Miami is going to be like or what Austin is going to be like, so it’s going to be crazy, a cool place. We need to make sure we sort everything out already and get some good plans in place. But yeah, it’s good I guess for Formula 1 to go to a place like this. It’s good, you know, puts us on show and more and get some of those fans from all around the world involved and it’s good to see how much more they’re getting into Formula 1 as well. So it’s cool for everything and I look forward to the race.”

Max Verstappen: “Yeah, I think it’s a cool place and also I think the track and the general thing, the race weekend will be pretty crazy with a lot of people attending and I think just, you know, the scenery in general, it’s going to be insane. So yeah, it’s going be exciting to go there and see how we all hold up. And I’m pretty sure that there will be a lot of hydrated people in the paddock on Saturday.”

Have you ever been to Vegas?

Max Verstappen: “Yes.”

Lewis Hamilton: “I have, yeah. But the one I really want to see is South Africa. That’s the one I want to hear next that gets announced.”

Lando Norris: “I’ve only been once but I wasn’t at the age limit to enjoy Vegas as it should be enjoyed.”

Sergio Perez: “Oh yeah! Too many times. I mean, certainly the best nights of my life have been in Vegas.”

The story was written by Danny Herbert

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