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Las Vegas Grand Prix: what time does it start? And why is it on Saturday?!

After more than 40 years away, F1 is back in Sin City. Only this time, the race isn’t in a hotel car park…

Published: 16 Nov 2023

It’s finally here! A year and a half after it was announced, the Las Vegas Grand Prix takes place this weekend a mere four decades after F1 machinery was last raced in what is basically the glitziest desert on the globe.

You have to rewind all the way back to 1982 for the last of two Caesars Palace GPs that formed part of the F1 world championship, held as they were on a makeshift track in the titular hotel’s car park. The event was not a success.

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Things have changed though: this time F1 will race on a much more expansive (though not particularly inspiring) layout that charges down the famous Las Vegas Strip and trots past the recently opened, LED-screen clad Sphere venue.

U2 is pausing its residency there because live music and a grid full of 1,000bhp race cars don’t mix terribly well… might this allow Bono to meet the real Bono of Lewis Hamilton race engineering legend?

It’s a pity both world championships are already done and dusted, but four teams - Ferrari, Alpine, Williams and Red Bull - have rocked up with one-off liveries, and the fact that this is an entirely new track could make for a chaotic race weekend.

The timetable is a bit unusual (more on that below), and the track conditions are set to be on the chilly side (again, more detail further down), but set against the city’s lights it should look spectacular.

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Let’s hope the racing lives up to expectations too…

What time is the Las Vegas GP? And what time is qualifying?

Right, weirdness alert: the Las Vegas Grand Prix actually starts at 10pm on Saturday local time. Yes, Saturday. That means UK viewers will need to tune in at 6am on Sunday 19 November for the beginning of the race. Confused? Organisers wanted this to be a night race and holding it then should limit traffic disruption… so this is the outcome.

Qualifying will commence at 8am UK time on Saturday 18 November, or midnight (!) if you’re lucky enough to be in town for the race. Vegas is a 24-hour city after all.

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What’s the weather going to be like?

Erm, cold. An eventuality that reports suggest F1 bosses didn’t see coming. Highs of 22 degrees Celsius are predicted over the race weekend, but that’s during the day. At night - when all of the action takes place - we could see that drop to single figures, which has huge ramifications for stuff like tyre temperature and the driver’s ability to stay out of the walls. Hmm…

It’s not set to rain at least, which is one less headache for the teams to deal with.

Where is the Las Vegas GP taking place?

Er, you’ve seen the name of the race right? Oh, you mean where in Vegas. Our bad. The Las Vegas GP is being held right in the heart of the city, including the world-famous Strip which is where all the big casinos and that half-size Eiffel Tower are located.

F1 has also built (at great expense, to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds) its own permanent pit building, which will serve as a year-round hub for the sport in the city as well as garages for all the teams. The days of packing everyone into Brands Hatch are long gone, aren’t they?

How many laps is the Las Vegas GP?

The track is 6.2km (3.85mi) long, and so we’ll get 50 laps to reach the 300km-plus-a-smidge-more race distance that makes up a grand prix. The layout consists of 17 corners, although in reality there are a trio of slow-speed sections interlinked by some flat-out straights. Also there are two DRS zones, so hopefully we won’t get a Monaco-esque procession…

Who’s going to win the Las Vegas GP?

Well, Red Bull has won 19 of the 20 races so far this season and Max Verstappen has triumphed in 17 of those. So if the three-time world champion doesn’t win here it’ll be something of a surprise.

That said, the teams head into the race with no data at all, which could make it tricky to find the optimum set-up and therefore shake up the order. Also, Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez is something of a demon on street tracks, having won in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan earlier this year.

Behind Red Bull, who knows which of Aston Martin, McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes fare best. Ferrari won at the last street venue in Singapore, so let’s pencil them in as Red Bull’s biggest threat.

How can I watch the Las Vegas GP?

By not being in Las Vegas, apparently. Unless you’ve got a ticket, F1 has gone to great lengths to ensure that casual spectators will find it almost impossible to get a glimpse of the track by shrouding all of the public walkways. There are good safety reasons for that, of course, but still… that’s a bit stingy, no?

UK viewers have the usual options of a Sky Sports membership to access its F1 channel, or streaming said F1 channel via a NowTV subscription. If the highlights will do - and given the 6am start, let’s assume they will - Channel 4 will broadcast those from 12.30pm on Sunday. Meanwhile, quali’s round-up will be shown from 11.40am on Saturday.

If you really must digest the action live even without a screen, BBC Radio 5 Live and Radio 5 Sports Extra will share live commentary of all sessions over the grand prix weekend.

What’s the Top Gear view on the Las Vegas GP?

Bit tricky to answer this one having never witnessed any racing on this new layout, but from a big picture point of view, the Las Vegas Grand Prix is an important addition to the F1 calendar that gives it another stake in the ground in a US market that is hot for F1 right now. Regardless of what you think of the race or the track, it’s a sign that F1 is in good health and that the long-term prospects for the sport are solid. Remember things looked rather bleak when Covid brought everything crashing down.

Meanwhile Las Vegas itself looks made to host F1: like Monaco it trades on that high-spending, YOLO vibe, and the sport should be able to put on a spectacular show off track. First though, it needs to deliver on track…

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