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An ‘epic event’: Security, safety plans for F1 remain in high gear

Updated November 9, 2023 - 8:27 pm

Security will be tight for next week’s Las Vegas Grand Prix on the Strip with multiple public service agencies, both local and federal, monitoring the international event.

Officials estimate 20,000 to 30,000 people will watch the 50-lap, 192.56-mile Formula One race from specially built grandstands that require the closure of parts of the heart of the Strip in the early evenings and mornings from Thursday through the overnight into Nov. 19. The race will start at 10 p.m. on Nov. 18.

“We’re planning for this like it’s New Year’s Eve,” Metropolitan Police Department Undersheriff Andrew Walsh said during a news conference Thursday. “I think that’s the best way to look at it. The number of visitors that will be here is comparable to that, so that’s what we’re planning for.”

But “the preparation for this epic event has been unlike anything that we have gone through before,” he said.

Heightened security

Metro police “will have a large presence both inside the track and outside the track” and have a liaison provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security “in case we need anything from our federal partners” to help with security, Walsh said.

“You’ll also see hundreds of private sector security folks working inside the track each night,” he said.

Safety screens will be installed on all private and public pedestrian bridges over the track and in and around the footprint of the race to control the flow of pedestrians and for driver safety so people can’t throw things onto the track below the bridges, Walsh said.

Traffic closures will be enforced on parts of Las Vegas Boulevard, Koval Lane, Harmon Avenue and Sands Avenue from Thursday to Nov. 18 beginning each day at 5 p.m. with a “hard closure” at 7 and the roads reopening at around 6 a.m. the next day, “contingent on how fast the crews can clear the circuits,” he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration has implemented a temporary “no drone zone” over the track area and those trying to fly drones, perhaps to get an overhead view of the event, face a $30,000 fine and possible criminal prosecution, Walsh said.

The Clark County Fire Department and its emergency management division, the Regional Transportation Commission and the Nevada Department of Transportation have been working for months on plans to ensure safety during the event, said Jim Gibson, chairman of the Clark County Commission.

The Fire Department will link up with local ambulance companies to form emergency medical service teams along the track, and firefighters will be deployed on the track circuit during the title race to respond to emergencies, Gibson said.

“We want to remind the public that it’s not going to be easy to navigate the Strip or resort corridor during race week due to lane restrictions, scheduled closures and the like,” Gibson said. “Motorists should anticipate traffic delays and consider alternate routes.”

The event is open only to those with tickets, for whom the rules will be rather strict as far as belongings go.

Las Vegas Grand Prix Vice President Vanessa Anthes said that for attendees, no glass bottles, strollers, collapsible or noncollapsible chairs or stools, professional film, photo or sound equipment are permitted in the racing area.

Small bags can’t be bigger than 4½ inches by 6½ inches, and purses, totes and backpacks must be transparent and cannot exceed 12 by 6 by 12 inches, Anthes said. There will be no storage lockers or bag checks, and diaper bags are permitted only when accompanied by an infant, she said.

Anthes suggested for a guide, racegoers should download the official F1 Las Vegas app, for iPhones and Android mobile systems, at www.f1lasvegasapp.com.

F1 events

The event begins Wednesday with pre-race opening ceremonies for main grandstand and skybox ticket holders at 7:30 p.m. (gates open at 5) followed by the first full day of races with circuit events and two practice sessions on Nov. 16 with gates opening at 6 p.m. and the first practice session from 8:30 to 9:30, and the second from midnight to 1 a.m.

On Nov. 17 for the third practice session, gates open at 6 p.m., practice is from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., and then the crucial qualifying race for drivers — to be among those making it to the final — is from midnight to 1 a.m.

Nov. 18 is Grand Prix race day, with the luxury Paddock Club opening for partyers at 5 p.m. and other gates at 6, then a driver parade at 7:50 p.m. and the final race beginning at 10.

The F1 series, started in 1950, is famously conducted even in inclement weather, and the chance of rainfall in Las Vegas is 24 percent on Nov. 16 and 17 and only 4 percent on race day, according to weather.com.

“What I’ve been told is that the event is such that it will happen rain or shine,” Gibson said.

Contact Jeff Burbank at jburbank@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0382. Follow him @JeffBurbank2 on X.

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