Max was right in Las Vegas; you don't have to agree with him


Why even fans of the Las Vegas GP can agree with Max Verstappen; the reason drivers seemed weary; and Alex Albon's unfortunate comment: Chris Medland's paddock diary

Max Verstappen lifts trophy after winning the 2023 Las Vegas GP

Verstappen wasn't a fan of the event, but broke into a rendition of Viva Las Vegas after his victory

It was the penultimate grand prix of the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship, with no titles up for grabs or sporting jeopardies, but Las Vegas delivered more than its unpromising scheduling might suggest — amid plenty of opinions…


Max is right, Vegas doesn’t need to be everything to everyone

Max Verstappen ruffled a few feathers with his quotes on Wednesday when he described the Las Vegas Grand Prix as “99% show, 1% sporting event”.

I didn’t agree with him, but any counter argument wasn’t exactly helped by the start to practice that followed.

Sparks fly from Red Bull of Max Verstappen in 2023 Las Vegas GP qualifying

Verstappen created sparks on- and off-track in Vegas

Jared C. Tilton/Getty via Red Bull

But one thing that really struck me about Verstappen’s comments, and the reaction to them, is how other things he said were overlooked because they didn’t fit a wider narrative from those who don’t like the race. Verstappen was very clear that he didn’t feel it was wrong F1 was running in Vegas, and added that it is his job to focus on performance and the sporting aspect only, whereas he’d have a very different opinion to that of a driver if he was in charge of F1.

Related article

The picture that shows why Verstappen won the Las Vegas GP

The picture that shows why Verstappen won the Las Vegas GP

Charles Leclerc would have won the the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix had it not been for Max Verstappen and George Russell's clash, writes Mark Hughes. Far from hampering the Red Bull, the damage clinched F1 victory

By Mark Hughes

His overall view was refreshing in its honesty but lack of ego, as at no point did Verstappen say his opinion was one that needed to be listened to or acted upon. But he did keep making his apathy known right up until winning, at which point he was singing Viva Las Vegas over team radio.

Admittedly, that was due to team principal Christian Horner playing it and putting him on the spot, and Verstappen said he both expected and got a fun race given the track and conditions. That’s where Verstappen reflected the view that each race doesn’t need to be everything to everyone, as long as it has a chance of providing good racing. That’s the bare minimum that anyone wants.


Albon’s faux-pas

Jacques Villeneuve and Guilia Marra getting married in F1 Las Vegas wedding chapel

F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve married Guilia Marra in the Las Vegas GP chapel under the motto, “Lights out and together we go”

Grand Prix Photo

You know when you say something and it’s funny at the time, but then later down the road it risks being problematic? Well…

On Wednesday, Alex Albon came on the live SiriusXM show and chatted about the F1-themed chapel that had been constructed in the paddock. Asked if he was going to be marrying his girlfriend Lily Muni He in the chapel, he admitted a wedding was on the cards but that he would never do so in such a setting as Las Vegas. Albon even questioned who would do such a thing.

The thing was, a senior member of the Williams team had done just that ahead of the race, and then Williams’ 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve went and did so in the chapel itself the following day.



The schedule needs to change

There were drivers who liked this race, and drivers who didn’t. But whichever side of the fence they were coming down on, they were likely to be bemoaning the schedule facing them.

Daniel Ricciardo always manages to put on a smile, but arriving on Wednesday night to take part in the opening ceremony and his media commitments, you could tell he was tired. That’s because he had been sent on a marketing trip — as cool as it was to be driving from Death Valley to Caesars Palace — it meant he was awake in the morning to fly from Vegas out to the start location.

Daniel Ricciardo sits on AlphaTauri F1 car in Las Vegas GP pitlane

Ricciardo was put through an exhausting pre-race schedule

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

By the time Ricciardo was getting back to the track, he was feeling it already, and he was far from alone. The Netflix Cup golf tournament saw Carlos Sainz, Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly arriving around lunchtime to complete initial duties a number of hours before the tournament itself started, but Lando Norris committed to a sleep schedule that matched the timetable and arrived later.

It was the smart play. Arriving on a Monday before a race would have been seen as excessive anywhere else but here given the Saturday night grand prix time. Even that was soon found not be enough though. Two nights to change from the European timezone that most F1 teams are arriving from, to Pacific Time, eight hours behind, is just not sufficient time.

That was a result of the  late night schedule that F1 sources suggest was required by the local authorities. As the track opening and closing situation is improved in future years hopefully so too will the timing.


GM means business

Only a small point, but the approach taken by General Motors this weekend was notable. The announcement on Wednesday morning that it would become a power unit manufacturer in 2028 was clearly timed to try and make the most of the focus on Las Vegas, and in some US racing circles threatened to overshadow it.

But having made the statement, there weren’t any more comments made in public, despite a presence during the weekend. High level executives from General Motors were in the paddock but did not want to push any harder at that point. It would have been a losing battle against the race interest anyway, but it was a clever way of just strengthening Andretti-Cadillac’s hand without making it an ongoing talking point.


Only in Vegas

Williams F1 car in Las Vegas casino

Cars and drivers could be spotted in Las Vegas’s casinos

Grand Prix Photo

One thing arriving on the Monday did allow to happen was for drivers and team members to explore a little bit on their arrival, before the demands and obligations kicked in.

At no point did it feel more surreal than on the Monday night, when walking through a casino trying to work out how most of the games worked, the sight of Logan Sargeant playing Craps was added to by Nico Hülkenberg watching hands of Blackjack just two or three yards apart.

Gamblers were completely unaware that they were walking between 10% of the current F1 grid as they passed.

And at this stage, a word on Sargeant. The American has had a tough rookie year and some poor races but as the season’s end has approached and the pressure has mounted surrounding his future with Williams, he has performed far more consistently and on a closer level to Albon.

Logan Sargeant walks through Williams pit garage at 2023 Las Vegas GP

The final US race of the year saw Logan Sargeant shine


There’s still a gap that needs addressing, but even though the car didn’t have the pace in race trim, Sargeant showed during qualifying in Vegas that not only does he have the potential – as Williams always had seen – but he has the ability to deliver on that.

Perhaps the answer is a bit of gambling at the start of every race week…