Max Verstappen secured his third consecutive Formula One World Drivers’ Championship more than a month ago. Red Bull clinched the constructors’ championship even earlier, back in late September.
Yet there are still competitive sporting reasons for watching Saturday’s Las Vegas Grand Prix.
Matt Gallagher, the co-host of the successful Formula One podcast “P1 with Matt and Tommy,” said the new race course, coupled with some of the sport’s continuing trends, can make the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix one to remember.
“I think there’s plenty to look forward to from a race perspective,” he said.
Here are three storylines entering the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix:
Battle for second
Mercedes driver and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton is third in the standings, trailing Red Bull’s Sergio Perez by 32 points. The British driver dismissed any notions about challenging for second Wednesday, insisting it was simply too large of a deficit to overcome in two races.
Hamilton is also involved in another battle for second. Mercedes leads Ferrari by 20 points in the constructors’ championship, which determines how much prize money each team receives at the end of the season. The difference between second and third can be millions of dollars.
“I think we’ve still had an amazing year given the car that we’ve had,” Hamilton said. “We never thought we’d be fighting for second in the constructors’ and knocking on the door of the most dominant car probably of our era, so I’m grateful just being where we are.”
Mercedes has rebounded from a difficult 2022, when it finished third, significantly behind Red Bull and Ferrari. It enters Las Vegas off a disappointing Sao Paulo Grand Prix in Brazil, where Hamilton finished eighth and teammate George Russell retired because of technical issues. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was sixth in Brazil, while teammate Charles Leclerc crashed during the formation lap.
Norris chases first win
McLaren driver Lando Norris has enjoyed a remarkable turnaround in 2023. The British team struggled early in the season, and Norris placed 17th in four of the first seven races.
He’s been on a tear since the British Grand Prix on July 9 and has arguably been F1’s best driver outside the indomitable Verstappen. He has seven podiums in the past 11 races, including six runner-up performances.
Gallagher called the 2023 campaign a “breakthrough year” for Norris, who has proven himself as a potential championship contender with the right car.
The 24-year-old British driver is still chasing the first win of his career. The Las Vegas Grand Prix, with all its unknowns, may be the perfect opportunity for Norris to finally reach the top step.
“I’d just like to win,” Norris said. “It doesn’t matter where, but you don’t do anything different because it’s Vegas to try and win. I’ve been doing my best since I started Formula One. Your time comes eventually, but that’s about it.”
Nineteen of the 20 seats for the 2024 season have been confirmed. Logan Sargeant, the lone American on the grid, is the only driver whose status for next year remains uncertain.
It’s been a difficult rookie season for Sargeant with Team Williams. He’s 21st in the standings despite there only being 20 regular drivers. AlphaTauri reserve Liam Lawson outscored Sargeant during the five-race stint when Lawson replaced the injured Daniel Ricciardo.
Sargeant’s teammate Alex Albon has 27 of Williams’ 28 points this season.
Sargeant scored his lone point by finishing 10th at the United States Grand Prix on Oct. 22 in Austin, Texas, but Williams has made it clear he needs to improve across the final two races before being confirmed for next season.
“There is quite a bit of pressure on his shoulders,” Gallagher said. “But he just needs to finish races and have consistent weekends.”