When is a Formula One race not just a race? Well, from all the marketing hype and high-ticket pricing we've seen over 2023, it seems the answer is when Las Vegas is hosting. The sport's American owners, Liberty Media, made no secret of their hope to build up the brand in their home country. The 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix is the culmination of years of work since their 2017 F1 takeover.
There's no denying that the Las Vegas event is something different from the other races Liberty Media has announced. Qatar and Saudi Arabia have their off-track sportswashing issues. The Emilia Romagna GP at Imola somehow turned the pandemic negatives into a contract, while the ill-fated Vietnamese race had the opposite Covid fortune. Las Vegas, on the other hand, is making the over-the-top fanfare we saw for 2022's maiden Miami GP appear subdued in comparison.
It's little wonder, though, when you consider the spectacle of the sport is combining with one of the world's most unique cities. The Drive to Survive era of F1 has thrust the 20 drivers' personalities into the spotlight far more than at any point in the past seven decades. We're not just watching helmets in fast cars race around where one name possesses far more gravitas than others. No, this is a show where every competitor has star power to give fans heroes to cheer and villains to fear.
In essence, Formula One is far more of a show than ever before, and what better stage to wow the ever-growing audience than Las Vegas? The city is made for tourism to an extent that few other places can rival. If you haven't been, there's so much more than gambling the day away down The Strip. Vegas is a family-friendly vacation spot filled with world-class entertainment. There's live music, magic, stage shows, white-knuckle rides, museums, tours, experience days, and so much more. Formula One will feel right at home.
Of course, we must clarify that this is not the first Las Vegas visit for F1 after two previous grands prix in the 1980s. The Caesars Palace Grand Prix, as it was known, converted the hotel's parking lot into a, frankly, mediocre racetrack to try and thrill American fans who weren't as invested as they are today. High temperatures, a self-contained location, and its loss-making ways meant only two visits before the race's cancellation, but there's no chance of that repeating today.
Americans have fallen in love with the sport. Viewership is at record highs, and wealthy fans are eager to enjoy the show. The organizers and, perhaps more importantly, the hotels know the value of the product coming to Vegas and the appetite for entertainment of potential patrons. One look at the tickets, experience, and packages on offer can tell you everything.
F1 is not a grassroots access-all-areas sport like Little League baseball, but you'd need a Ph.D. to understand all the ins and outs of the Las Vegas GP options. We're not dealing with spectators standing behind hay bales like in the first Formula 1 years, after all. Attending Vegas, even for the lowest-priced ticket with trackside viewing, should make fans feel like a VIP, with all official tickets including food and non-alcoholic drinks.
For memorable experiences, F1 and some Las Vegas partners are more than happy to help. 'F1 Experiences', the official F1 partner for each race, promises guest appearances, a paddock tour, an autographed photo, plus lounge hospitality for $10,499 per person. Add another $2200 if you'd like to stay at the Hilton at Resorts World, too. But this is far from the only option.
Wynn Las Vegas is offering the 'Ultimate Race Week' available for nine days from the Friday before F1 arrives until the Sunday after the checkered flag falls. Nightclub access, invitation-only dinners, stand-up comedy, golf competitions with F1 drivers, film premieres, a Sotheby's auction, and, of course, the little matter of the Grand Prix (and practice/qualifying sessions) are included. Race viewing packages include the Wynn Grid Club Package starting at $100,000 and the Paddock Club™ Package starting from $40,000.
If allying yourself to a race team is more your style, McLaren has you covered. Vista Las Vegas bills itself as 'The ultimate team race viewing experience,' and attendees will find themselves atop Drai's roof terrace. The nightclub sits opposite Caesars Palace above The Cromwell and represents an excellent vantage point to watch the two MCL60s and their 18 competitors battle it out down The Strip.
There's no need to worry if Formula 1 isn't of interest should you buy tickets to Vista Las Vegas. Mark Wahlberg (yes, that one) will host those joining, accompanied by DJs, and live acts. For people who do care about the race, live commentary will be offered by F1 race-winner David Coulthard. Access to the terrace for the three-day weekend costs $5495 per person, and you get to enjoy 'complimentary’ food and drinks for that price.
If some privacy for you and your friends is a requirement, though, never fear! For the price of $89,400 (plus tax and booking fees), you and up to 11 others can enjoy an elevated VIP Private Cabana with regular food and drinks, a private restroom, and a dedicated server for the weekend. That's not to mention the exclusive television in your cabana either, should the effort of watching the cars racing past be too much after too many canapés and champagne.
The circuit is new, and there's no telling who might stand on the top step of the podium after the race. It doesn't really matter, though, as it's clear to anyone who the victor will be. The entire city will become a party house for F1, and, as always in Las Vegas, the house always wins.