Opinion: Las Vegas F1 Race Could Prove Final Key to Breaking US Market

  • According to the Wednesday announcement, lights will go out on the first Vegas F1 race in 2023
  • The night race will utilize parts of the city streets around the casinos of the famous Vegas Strip
  • F1 has struggled to break the US in the past due to the business model of ex-CEO Ecclestone
  • Vegas could prove the last piece of the puzzle, attracting US tourists from all over the nation
Las Vegas F1 race
The Las Vegas Strip will play host to a new F1 race in 2023, and VSO News writer Owain Flanders believes it could prove vital to breaking the US market. [Image: Tilke Engineers & Architects]

New dawn under the bright lights

Since 1950, the Formula 1 world championship has seen the world’s greatest racing car drivers duke it out for supremity. The competition is watched by fans from all across the world and sponsored by the largest companies in existence, but there is still one vital piece missing from its success: it is yet to fully break the US market.

drivers will battle it out down the iconic Vegas Strip

F1 execs have just announced the news that could change all of that. Liberty Media, the firm that owns the racing series, confirmed plans to establish a new Las Vegas race during a glittering event in the Nevada gambling hub this Wednesday. Starting from November 2023, drivers will battle it out down the iconic Vegas Strip.

It will mark the third F1 race in the US, adding to the regular Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas and a Miami race debuting in May. However, it’s safe to say that Las Vegas offers something a little different, and it certainly signals a new phase for the global racing series in its mission for US growth.

What will it look like?

Commenting during Wednesday’s Vegas announcement, president and CEO of Liberty Media Greg Maffei described the future race as “the perfect marriage of speed and glamour.”

The night race will utilize parts of the city streets around the casinos of the famous Las Vegas Strip. If all goes to plan, gamblers will be able to play in the iconic casinos of Caesars Palace, the MGM Grand, and Wynn Las Vegas before venturing outside to catch the racing action.

top speeds expected to hit around 342km/h

The 14-turn track will run for 6.12km with top speeds expected to hit around 342km/h. It will represent the first time F1 cars have raced on the Strip, with the track featuring three straights, a high-speed cornering sequence, and a single chicane. Drivers will battle it out for a total of 50 laps.

Undoubtedly, it sounds like a riveting spectacle for all lovers of motorsport, but this isn’t just about creating an iconic new race. F1 is finally establishing a strong foothold in the US after years of trying and failing to break the market.

A change of tactic

When Liberty Media bought F1 from a consortium of sellers in 2016, it knew full well that it had a number of issues to solve. The previous CEO of the competition, Bernie Ecclestone, took a peculiar stance regarding new fans. “I’d rather get the 70-year-old guy who’s got plenty of cash,” he explained in 2015. “So there’s no point trying to reach these kids.”

For obvious reasons, Liberty decided to employ a different tactic to Ecclestone. The media company wanted to increase viewership as much as possible, with the main area of attack being the US market. One way in which it did this was by announcing a deal with Netflix for a new F1 docuseries in 2019.

The resulting Drive to Survive Series has proved an undeniable success. Since 2019, the F1 has seen a 40% increase in US viewership and the most attended race ever at the US Grand Prix in Austin. Formula 1’s valuation has also increased from $8bn to $13b in the same time, a 63% rise.

With this series essentially working as a marketing tool – one for which F1 amazingly receives money from Netflix – US viewership is certainly on the rise. Officials have therefore doubled down on US races, adding a Miami Grand Prix this May to the already existing Texas offering.

Despite already offering racing in the US, Maffei believes Las Vegas can take the sport “to a new level,” and it would be difficult to disagree. The gambling hub is a global stage steeped in history, with a track record of hosting some of the world’s greatest entertainment and sporting events.

The last piece of the puzzle

Back in 2016, NASCAR driver Kurt Busch seemed to predict the future in an interview with Motorsport.com. The Las Vegas-born driver said F1 needed a race in his hometown to really crack the US market. “The way to get multiple returns is in the tourism industry, and that is what Vegas is known for,” he explained. 

a Vegas F1 race would attract Americans from all across the country

Supporting his point, Busch noted that 60% of tickets for the Las Vegas Motor Speedway are sold to US residents outside of Nevada and California. Much like its casinos, a Vegas F1 race would attract Americans from all across the country looking for a weekend away, much more so than the offerings in Austin and Miami.

Added to this, the race will feed nicely into the growing gambling and sports betting markets in Nevada. Last year, the state generated $13.4bn in gaming revenue, breaking its previous state record from 2007. Total betting handle reached $8.1bn in that time, an all-time record for the state.

Ultimately, an F1 race in Las Vegas could prove a perfect recipe for everyone. The racing series will win by achieving even greater exposure in the US, Nevada’s casinos will benefit from an influx of tourists, and existing fans will get to witness their favorite drivers racing along the Strip – an exciting prospect indeed.