Inside F1’s Las Vegas GP launch party that left drivers ‘looking like clowns’

Lewis Hamilton previews Las Vegas Grand Prix

The Las Vegas Grand Prix weekend started on Thursday with all 20 drivers taking part in an eye-catching opening ceremony in front of a star-studded crowd on the streets of Sin City. Not all the drivers were impressed with the theatrics, however.

This has been the headline event of the 2023 season from the minute it was announced as a new race on the calendar, and F1 has gone all out to make the Las Vegas GP as memorable as possible. Thursday’s opening ceremony certainly added to the grandeur and excitement.

The drivers were placed on raised platforms that lifted them onto giant plinths lined up along the pit straight in a scene reminiscent of the Hunger Games franchise. From there, they could wave at the spectators while a striking lights show occurred in the background.

This VIP treatment also translated into the F1 paddock, where a giant ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign had been erected. As the drivers made their way into the area, the sign would change to show their name. Drivers were then greeted by a number of Elvis impersonators as they navigated past the melee as well as members of the Blue Man Group.

Magician Piff the Magic Dragon was also there, dressed as a dragon performing tricks for people walking by including some of the drivers. Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were pictured laughing along with the Englishman.

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Naturally, these theatrics have attracted some mixed responses with Lando Norris claiming: “It’s more of a show than it was a few years ago, to be honest, I just want to come here and drive.” Reigning world champion Max Verstappen added: “We are just standing up there, looking like a clown.”

Verstappen has been the driver most critical of the spectacle surrounding the Las Vegas GP. Speaking to RacingNews365 ahead of the opening ceremony, he stated: “This is 99 per cent show and 1 per cent sport.

“It doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t feel anything about it, to be honest. I just want to focus on performing. In any case, I don’t like all the things that come with it. Sometimes it’s part of it, but it doesn’t bother me at all.”

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He followed up these comments by explaining that he understands why F1 is in Las Vegas, but that he won’t shy away from voicing his frustrations. “The F1 bosses are still making money whether I like the race or not. It’s not up to me, but I’m not going to fake it,” he added.

“I let my opinion be known, positive or negative, that’s just me. Some People like the show more, but I’m not like that at all. I like watching the performance. I want to be in Vegas, but not to race!”

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