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Las Vegas Grand Prix 2023

F1 and Las Vegas: An unhappy marriage?

This coming weekend, the F1 circus descends on Las Vegas. However, this is not the first time the royal class has raced in Sin City; the Sin City was also on the calendar in 1981 and 1982. However, the event went down ingloriously.

Caesars Palace Grand Prix Las Vegas GP Racing News365 4
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To news overview © McLaren F1

If you go back to the 1970s, Bernie Ecclestone was starting to take control of F1.

Ecclestone was quietly transforming the sport into a billion-dollar business thanks to the sale of TV rights and, with popularity flourishing, more venues sought to host races.

At the end of the decade, the former F1 supremo joined forces with the world-famous Caesars Palace hotel to agree a deal to race in Las Vegas for the first time, starting in 1981.

The race would take place mostly in the car park of the hotel and casino, on land now taken up mostly by the Mirage hotel and the Forum shopping centre.

The setting was simply too small for a race track up to F1 standards and, to meet the regulatory 2-mile length, a crammed circuit design with near-identical features throughout the lap did not promote any excitement.

With the layout set as anti-clockwise, a lot of strain was inflicted on the necks of the drivers, especially in the September heat of the Nevada desert.

Controversy

During the first edition of the Caesars Palace Grand Prix, there were three drivers in with a chance to win the F1 world title: Nelson Piquet, Carlos Reutemann and Jacques Laffite.

With the conditions so harsh, several drivers became exhausted and suffered from terrible neck pain. Brazilian Piquet vomited in his helmet during the race and had to be lifted from his car after the checkered flag fell. His fifth place, however, was enough for the World Championship - just one point ahead of Argentinean Reutemann.

While the race was largely denounced by the drivers, F1 returned to Sin City in 1982.

To make the event even grander - it wouldn't be Vegas if this wasn't attempted - the race organization planned to run CART [IndyCar] alongside F1 during the weekend.

The plan was to have sports cars running on Friday and F1 on Saturday, then switch the track to an 'oval' configuration for the CART event on Sunday, after the Grand Prix.

			© McLaren F1
	© McLaren F1
			© Williams F1
	© Williams F1

F1 and Indy on the same weekend...?

Shortly after the 1982 CART calendar was announced, FISA [predecessor to the FIA] confirmed that the Caesars Palace Grand Prix will be moved to another date. FISA chief Jean-Marie Balestre indicated this was to shorten the period between the trip to Italy and Las Vegas. NBC's coverage of the Major League Baseball World Series was another factor in the schedule change.

But this new date conflicted with the scheduled IndyCar race at the Michigan International Speedway.

FISA then introduced a special rule: During a race weekend, only one single-seater race, driving with two-litre engines, may take place. Then-CART President John Frasco commented: "I don't know about all the politics, but it's pretty clear that FISA doesn't want to race with us.

"I actually didn't think we were competitors because both races have a totally different format. Caesars Palace thought a race weekend with three draws would be very enticing. So did we, and so did Bernie Ecclestone.

"Unfortunately, there are those who think otherwise."

See you later, Vegas

When the race did come back around, the 1982 Drivers' Champion would be crowned.

Keke Rosberg took his only crown on September 25 by finishing fifth as Tyrrell driver Michele Alboreto took victory. John Watson and American Eddie Cheever rounded out the podium.

Not long after the race weekend, it was announced that there was little future for the Caesars Palace Grand Prix. The event didn't generate enough revenue and the hotel was suffering huge losses.

With their own suffering at an end, the drivers were no doubt relieved.

F1 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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