F1 Vegas Grand Prix

Formula One News » F1 Vegas Grand Prix

On the face of it, Las Vegas must have seemed like an absolutely excellent place to host a Formula 1 race in 1981. The city is built on the love of risk, and all year round it’s full of holidaymakers determined to have a good time whatever the cost. It’s also incredibly photogenic in its own way. What could possibly go wrong?

Car Park or Casino?

As it turns out, several things. For a start, temperatures in Las Vegas, while dropping from their maximum, are still regularly high in October, when the race was held. Surrounded as they were by air-conditioned casinos, almost everyone in the city decided not to buy a ticket for the event. These days they could have at least played a little online roulette at a site like www.gamingclub.co.uk/mobile-casino/mobile-roulette/, but in 1981 nobody had got round to inventing the internet yet. Crowds were tiny.

The heat, though not as bad as the next year’s event, didn’t do the drivers any favours either. Battling against the unusual anticlockwise circuit, Nelson Piquet suffered heat exhaustion, though his fifth place finish won him the championship that year.

Temporary Fix

The track itself was reported to have been roomy enough for overtaking and very smooth, but its location in Caesar’s Palace car park gave something away regarding the city’s intentions long-term. The event had moved to Vegas because the previous year’s venue, Watkins Glen, had had financial difficulties after two decades of successful GP events.

The Vegas GP survived into 1982, when it was somewhat inadvisably held in September. This time temperatures at the circuit hit 37C. Alain Prost had pole position, while Italy’s Michele Alboreto took first place followed by Britain’s John Watson and the US’s Eddie Cheever. The following year F1 left Las Vegas for good, but Caesar’s Palace Car Park did host two CART Indy Car events in 1984 and 1985, the first of which was won by Mario Andretti.

A Future for the Vegas GP?

It’s difficult to conceive of such a circuit being used for Grands Prix today. The design of the track shows what comes from trying to squeeze a proper F1 course into a car park – however big the car park might be. The anticlockwise direction was fine for American drivers, but everyone else found it extremely hard work.

32 drivers retired during the two events. There wasn’t enough room for proper pit facilities, and as it was the last race of the season many drivers had a lot to fight for. And yet, Vegas does seem to be a great candidate for a future event. Modern circuit design, and sensible timing for the event, could one day see a great addition to the F1 calendar.

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