Las Vegas Grand Prix: Locals ‘hate’ F1 amid roadworks, closures, chaos

The motorsports world might be waiting with bated breath to see star drivers race on the newest track in F1, but many Las Vegas locals aren’t so excited.

In fact, according to many local publications, the highly anticipated event has wreaked havoc on the party city.

Las Vegas will host its first Grand Prix in more than 40 years this weekend, after a botched attempt in the ‘80s.

It’s been spruiked as the most spectacular event F1 has ever staged, with the company behind it spending more than US$500 million on the fit-out.

But many locals are worried that cash hasn’t been well spent, and has come at the cost of Vegas’s already teeming night-life.

One of the most frequently cited concerns was the impact the race has had on the iconic Las Vegas Strip.

The Strip, usually a stomping ground for showgirls and bucks nights, has been transformed for four days into a track that’s worthy of F1’s star drivers. Masses of asphalt had to be replaced along the 6.2-kilometre stretch, which centres around the Strip but extends onto its side streets, too.

For locals, that meant masses of diverted traffic and months of intensive road works. The iconic fountains at the Bellagio have been obscured by a grand stand, while the Venetian drained its famous canal on which tourists usually take gondola rides.

“Life as I knew it ended when that constructed started,” one local told racing publication Jalopnik, which spoke to 15 people who visited, live in or work in Vegas in the lead-up to the event.

Another said she had paid two hours’ worth of wages to get an Uber home from work because traffic diversions turned her other option into a five-hour bus journey.

“The arrogance and audacity of Formula 1 ‘needing’ to run its races in densely-populated cities strikes me as borderline sociopathic,” was another resident’s stunning assessment.

“Not only do I hope the Las Vegas event loses money for the organisation, I hope it bankrupts them.”

All of those road works may have gone awry on Friday, when the very first practice session was cancelled just eight minutes in after Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari struck a manhole cover.

The drivers were already struggling with the cool conditions making grip low.

After FP1 was cancelled, FP2 was delayed as engineers checked all the valve covers. That session was extended to 90 minutes to allow drivers time to learn the new track.

Of course, one of the benefits of hosting a world-class sporting event is the business it brings to the local economy.

Some 105,000 spectators are expected on each of the three days of track action, bringing their cash with them. Officials project the event will draw more than US$1 billion to the local economy.

But some business-owners aren’t convinced that the cash will be shared around.

“Only the rich get richer and the guy trying to sell T-shirts on the Strip is ignored,” reader John Michael Heath told The Las Vegas Review Journal.

“The average Joe is screwed once again.”

Those estimates were also based on initial ticket and room prices, which mightn’t have held their value so well.

According to The Messenger, room prices to spend Saturday night at The Flamingo hotel have plummeted from US$899 when tickets first went on sale, to just US$200 this week.

Many locals fear that they’re looking down the barrel of 10 years of hosting a Grand Prix, with little knowledge about what impact it will have.

“This race has made our lives a living hell,” one cocktail server at the Flamingo told The Messenger.

“They started road work in April. They’re telling us they might not be completely done with the tear-down until just before New Year’s Eve. And then what? Las Vegas is going to be back to normal for a few months before they get ready for the next race? Is this our new reality?”

Star driver Lewis Hamilton, for one, apologised to locals for the upheaval.

“I’ve heard there’s been a lot of complaints about the event being here from the locals,” Hamilton told Sky Sports News on Wednesday.

“I think we have to be respectful of the locals here, so many people working so hard — there’s a lot of money and wealth in this city.

“We’ve got to make sure people are taken care of. We can’t be a circus that shows up that’s all glitz and glamour and people are affected negatively by it, in my opinion.”

Originally published as ‘I hope it bankrupts them’: Vegas locals ‘hate’ Grand Prix