Formula One’s Las Vegas gamble came up trumps with one of the best shows of the season as Max Verstappen – chief critic of the £500million race – claimed victory on Saturday night.

Here, the PA news agency dissects the key questions surrounding F1’s maiden extravaganza in Sin City.

Did the Las Vegas Grand Prix live up to the hype?

Formula One bosses were in crisis management mode in the early hours of Friday morning. First practice had been abandoned after eight minutes, and the delayed second running – which finished at 4am – was played out in front of empty grandstands.

It was a catastrophic look for the event which F1 had billed for months as the greatest show on Earth.

By the close of Saturday’s thrill-a-minute 50-lap race – which saw the lead change hand on five occasions – F1 chiefs were celebrating a triumph.

Sin City had delivered on the hype, providing a 48-hour turnaround to savour for the sport’s relieved American owners’ Liberty Media.

What went wrong in practice?

A faulty drain cover tore a hole through Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari. First practice was scrapped and fans were kicked out after witnessing only a handful of laps.

F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali stopped short of an apology, while the organisers did not offer a refund, but a 200 US dollar (£160) voucher to spend on merchandise instead.

The goodwill offer, which largely went down like a lead balloon, did not take into consideration money spent on flights and hotels.

A lawsuit has since been filed seeking damages for the 35,000 spectators who were left feeling aggrieved.

What were the other gripes?

The scheduling on the Strip left much to be desired. Following the 4am finish to Thursday night’s delayed practice, qualifying concluded just after 1am, with Justin Bieber waving the chequered flag on Saturday’s race shortly before midnight.

A jet-lagged paddock was forced to adjust to an effective Japanese time zone on America’s west coast. For three straight days, weary mechanics downed tools as the sun rose before they were required to return to the track only a handful of hours later.

The travelling circus will now head to Abu Dhabi – a mind-boggling time swing of 12 hours – to do it all again for the sport’s fifth race in six frantic weeks.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner did not mince his words when he said: “Everybody’s leaving Vegas slightly f*****.”

Will F1 make changes?

The sport is already locked into a 24-round calendar next season which sees the Qatar Grand Prix immediately follow the race in Vegas.

The running on the Strip took place at unsociable hours to avoid road closures during the day.

F1 executives will need to reach an agreement with the city to bring forward the track schedule for its future visits.

So, was it a success?

Verstappen spent much of the weekend pouring scorn over the event, labelling it “99 per cent show and one per cent sport”. He also likened it to English football’s National League.

But even prior to the triple world champion’s derisory comments, there had been plenty of negativity – much of it unwarranted.

A former F1 driver said he had been bamboozled as to why the event was proving so unpopular before an engine had been fired up in anger.

Of course, the celebrity-fuelled razzmatazz isn’t for everyone – particularly F1’s traditionalists – but there is little doubt that the race captured Vegas’ imagination.

And as F1 continues to build on its sudden popularity surge across the Pond, Las Vegas – whether Verstappen likes it or not – will remain front and centre of Liberty’s plans.

Max Verstappen compared Formula One’s £500million Las Vegas Grand Prix to the fifth tier of English football – and suggested the sport’s new generation of fans are only interested in partying.

Verstappen will start from second place for Saturday’s 50-lap race on the strip after Charles Leclerc put his Ferrari on pole position with a dazzling lap under the Las Vegas lights.

F1 has sold the sport’s Sin City comeback after four decades away as the greatest show on Earth, but fans witnessed just eight minutes of practice on Thursday after a drain cover broke free and tore a hole into the underbelly of Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari.

A delayed second practice – which concluded at 4am on Friday local time – took place in front of empty grandstands after angry spectators were turfed out to comply with local employment laws.

An estimated crowd of 70,000 watched qualifying on Friday night while organisers had been expecting 100,000 attendees each day.

Earlier this week, Verstappen criticised F1’s maiden street race on the strip as “99 per cent show, and one per cent sport”. And in the moments after qualifying, he took another swipe at the event.

“Monaco is Champions League and this is National League,” he said.

“I feel like the show is important, but I like emotion. When I was a little kid it was all about the emotion of the sport that I fell in love with and not the show. As a real racer the show shouldn’t matter.

“An F1 car does not come alive on a street circuit. It is not that exciting. It is about proper race tracks. And when you go to Monza and Spa, these kinds of places have a lot of emotion and passion, and for me seeing the fans there is incredible. When I jump in the car, I am fired up. I love driving at these kind of places.

“I understand fans need things to do around the track, but it is more important that they understand what we do as a sport. Most of them just come to have a party, drink, see a DJ, or a performance act.

“I can do that all over the world. I can go to Ibiza and get completely s***-faced and have a good time. People come here, but they become a fan of what? They want to see maybe their favourite artist and have a few drinks with their mates, and then go out and have a crazy night.

“But they don’t understand what we are doing, and they don’t understand what we are putting on the line to perform.”

John Legend and Kylie Minogue were among a number of high-profile artists to perform in a dazzling 30-minute Superbowl-style show here on Wednesday, designed to kick-start the penultimate round of the season in style.

Verstappen and his fellow drivers were introduced to the crowd via an elevating platform. Verstappen, who secured his third world title in Qatar last month, later said he felt like a “clown”.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, he continued: “As a little kid I grew up wanting to become a world champion. More time should be invested into the actual sport, and what we are trying to achieve.

“The sport should explain what the team has done throughout the season, and what they are working for. That’s way more important than having these random shows all over the place. I am not passionate about that. I like passion and emotion.

“I love Vegas, but not to drive an F1 car. I love to go out, have a few drinks, throw everything on red and be crazy, but emotion and passion is not there compared to the old-school tracks.”

Despite starting behind Leclerc when the lights go out at 10pm local time here on Saturday (6am Sunday GMT), Verstappen will be favourite to take his 18th win of the season. George Russell will line up from third but Lewis Hamilton will start only 10th.

Hamilton, who finished half-a-second behind team-mate Russell, said: “I was lacking confidence and grip. I struggled.

“Yesterday, the car felt better and I was more competitive and I made changes overnight and it didn’t feel great today. I have got a lot of work to do.”

Charles Leclerc danced his way to pole position with an emphatic performance for Ferrari under the Las Vegas lights.

At just after 1am local time – the latest conclusion to a qualifying session in Formula One history – Leclerc finished just 0.044 seconds clear of team-mate Carlos Sainz.

However, Sainz will start down in 12th after a loose drain cover destroyed his Ferrari in practice and triggered a 10-place grid penalty.

Triple world champion Max Verstappen, a winner in 17 of the 20 rounds so far, took third spot for Red Bull, but will move up to second following Sainz’s demotion. Lewis Hamilton was eliminated in Q2, leaving him only 10th on the grid.

Hamilton finished half-a-second behind team-mate George Russell, who hauled his Mercedes into Q3 before taking advantage of Sainz’s penalty to secure third on the grid for Saturday’s 50-lap race.

Following the shambolic start to F1’s Sin City comeback here on Thursday night, qualifying passed off without significant incident – much to the relief of the sport’s under-fire bosses.

F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali stopped short of issuing an apology to the furious spectators, who saw just eight minutes of practice before they were ejected from the stands.

However, in the early hours of Saturday morning, the estimated 90,000 fans who filled the 3.8-mile street venue – 30,000 down on capacity – were treated to an uninterrupted session which saw Leclerc romp to top spot in his scarlet machine.

“I am happy,” said Leclerc. “To have first place in Las Vegas is great.

“I was a bit disappointed because my lap was not great but it was all we needed. In the race we usually lack pace but hopefully we can put it all together in the race.”

Against the backdrop of Caesars Palace, the MGM Grand and Bellagio hotels, Ferrari delivered, but it was another underwhelming showing for Hamilton.

A fortnight after the seven-time world champion finished eighth in Brazil – 63 seconds behind winner Verstappen – he struggled for pace in his underperforming Mercedes.

“Couldn’t go faster, mate,” said Hamilton following his elimination. Behind Hamilton, Sergio Perez qualified one place back.

Lando Norris arrived in Nevada as the grid’s in-form driver after scoring more points across the last three rounds than anyone else.

But the British driver failed to make it out of Q2 with his McLaren machinery not suited to the three long straights here coupled with slow corners.

He qualified only 16th, three places ahead of team-mate Oscar Piastri who also fell at the first hurdle.

“Very disappointed,” said McLaren CEO Zak Brown. “We thought we’d struggle this weekend but I didn’t think either car would be out in Q1.

“Not a good start to the weekend and now all we can do is focus on the race tomorrow.”

Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali has refused to apologise for the farcical opening to this weekend’s Las Vegas Grand Prix.

After months of hype leading up to the £500million race, opening practice was abandoned with just eight minutes on the clock on Thursday night.

The second running was delayed by two-and-a-half hours, and then took place in front of vacant grandstands after furious fans were ejected to comply with local employment laws. Practice finished at 4am on Friday morning.

But in a 650-word joint statement by Domenicali, and CEO of the Las Vegas race, Renee Wilm, the sport’s red-faced bosses stopped short of saying sorry.

“We have all been to events, like concerts, games and even other Formula One races, that have been cancelled because of factors like weather or technical issues,” they said.

“It happens, and we hope people will understand.”

Fans who held a 200 US dollar (£160) general admission ticket for Thursday’s two practice sessions have been offered a voucher for the same amount to be redeemed on merchandise.

But those in attendance on a three-day pass – the cheapest of which is 500 US dollars (£400) – will not receive any compensation.

The statement continued: “We know this was disappointing. We hope our fans will understand that we had to balance many interests, including the safety and security of all participants and the fan experience over the whole race weekend.

“So how will we address this tonight?

“We have worked overnight to adjust our staffing plans across security, transportation and hospitality to ensure that we can function and serve fans with the best possible experience in the event of an extended race schedule.

“We are excited about the racing today and thank our entire team and our fans for their support. We know this is going to be a great event. With that, let’s get back to racing.”

Qualifying for Saturday’s 50-lap race will take place at midnight local time (8am GMT on Saturday).

Formula One bosses were dealt a hugely embarrassing blow after first practice for the Las Vegas Grand Prix was cancelled.

The running under the lights of the Las Vegas strip was suspended when Carlos Sainz broke down in his Ferrari with just eight minutes on the clock.

And then 11 minutes later, at 8:49pm local time, it was announced the session would not be resumed – it emerged Sainz’s failure was caused by a loose manhole cover.

Television replays showed Sainz being jolted in his cockpit as the cover struck the underneath of his machine as he approached 200mph on the Las Vegas Boulevard.

Esteban Ocon also smashed into the debris – against the backdrop of Caesars Palace, Bellagio and Venetian hotels – causing significant damage to his Alpine.

Ferrari described the damage to Sainz’s car as “extensive”, while Alpine said Ocon will require a new chassis.

Ferrari team principal Frederic Masseur said: “He (Sainz) said I hit something on track, and he didn’t know what it was. It is just unacceptable for F1.”

An FIA spokesperson said: “Following an inspection, a concrete frame around a manhole cover has failed.

“We now need to check all of the other manhole covers which will take some time.

“We will be discussing with the local circuit engineering team about the length of time it will take to resolve and we will update with any resultant changes to the schedule.”

Second practice is due to begin at midnight local time (8:00 GMT). But there are significant doubts if there will be any running today at the 3.8-mile temporary street venue.

Speaking on Sky Sports, the highly-respected TV pundit and former driver Martin Brundle, said: “That’s it for today from my experience.

“Fixing that and checking everything else, letting it dry and making sure it won’t come out again is going to be a big job.

“Theoretically, they are going to re-open the Strip (for public use) after the F1 practice sessions. That is a very, very big issue if there are other areas like that around the track.”

The problems of loose manhole covers at street venues is not a new one in the sport.

Jenson Button struck a dislodged drain in practice in Monaco in 2016, while George Russell also ran over a drain cover in Azerbaijan four years ago.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said on Sky: “It’s a shame that we are not allowed on track.

“They are going to have to check all the manhole covers and weld them or do something because you can see the damage that it has done.

“It’s a great shame for the fans but safety comes first. We have got to get this right and hopefully it won’t take too long.”

The cancellation of opening practice comes 24 hours after triple world champion criticised the staging of the Las Vegas Grand Prix – the first here in four decades and maiden event on the strip – as “99 per cent show, and one per cent sport”.

Formula One bosses were dealt a hugely embarrassing blow after first practice for the Las Vegas Grand Prix was cancelled.

The running under the lights of the Las Vegas strip was initially suspended when Carlos Sainz broke down in his Ferrari with just eight minutes on the clock.

And then 11 minutes later at 8:49pm local time, it was announced the session would not be resumed after it emerged Esteban Ocon smashed into a drain cover.

An FIA spokesperson said: “Following inspection, it was the concrete frame around a manhole cover that has failed.

“We now need to check all of the other manhole covers which will take some time.

“We will be discussing with the local circuit engineering team about the length of time it will take to resolve and will update with any resultant changes to the schedule.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.