Formula One’s ambitious gamble on its first Las Vegas Strip race has been deemed a success, despite the litany of issues which plagued its opening.
Opening night on Thursday, Nov. 17 saw first practice canceled after just nine minutes, as Carlos Sainz Jr. ran over a water valve cover, causing major damage to his Ferrari. Practice did not resume for another 2 and a half hours, and spectators were asked to leave at 1:30 a.m., ahead of the second practice.
Thursday-only ticket holders were offered $200 in merchandise credit as compensation, which reportedly left many spectators feeling ripped off – as tickets went for as much as $5,000 in the leadup to the race, with the lowest being a $250 non-refundable deposit to buy a seat later. A class action lawsuit has since been filed by fans against Grand Prix, seeking at least $30,000 in damages.
Many businesses have also complained about the disruption caused by the race taking up otherwise high-traffic street space.
Despite this troubled start, the Saturday night race saw the $500 million gamble by F1 win back an estimated $1.2 billion, with secondary ticket sales for Saturday surging – though they still fell short of selling out, as race CEO Renee Wilm had promised in a Nov. 3 earnings call.
Race officials admitted they could have handled the race’s problems better.
“I think we could have done a much better job communicating, particularly with all the local residents,” Wilm told AP. “We were posting to the websites we were required to, but I just think we were moving so quickly that we internally did not have the right resources to say ‘In addition to that, we also need to be communicating in the following 10 ways.’”
Reigning F1 World Champion Max Verstappen won his 18th race of the season at Vegas, reportedly singing “Viva Las Vegas! Viva Las Vegas!” as he passed the checkered flag waved by Justin Bieber.
“I hope everyone enjoyed it, we definitely did. Excited to come back here next year and try to do something similar,” said Verstappen, who had previously trashed the race for being excessive and over-the-top.