While the names of the drivers and other luminaries associated with the sport literally are foreign to casual auto racing fans, here are 10 with which you already may be or should become familiar before the return of Formula One to Las Vegas in 2023:
His given name is Lewis Carl Davidson Hamilton, and he soon will legally add his mother’s maiden name of Larbalestier to his. But you can also refer to F1’s first and only Black driver as “Sir” given the Englishman was knighted after the 2021 season. There’s a good reason the 37-year-old star of the Mercedes team received the tap on the shoulder with The Queen’s sword: Hamilton, a seven-time world champion, holds most of F1’s top records, including most wins (103), pole positions (103) and top-three finishes (183).
Before Hamilton’s ascension to the crown, the kingdom of F1 belonged to this steadfast German, who won 91 races and seven world championships. After avoiding serious injury during his 20-plus years in a dangerous sport, Schumacher, who was known to frequent Las Vegas, where he could stroll down the Strip without being noticed, suffered a catastrophic brain injury during a 2013 skiing accident from which he has not recovered.
The revered Brazilian won world championships in 1988, 1990 and 1991 and is considered one of F1’s greatest all-time drivers for his talent and aggression. When he was killed at age 32 in 1994 while still in his prime, more than 3 million people flowed into the streets of his native San Paulo to salute him during a funeral procession. If you have yet to see “Senna,” the critically acclaimed documentary chronicling his life and times, now would be a good time to watch it on Netflix.
He’s one of two Americans to have won the F1 driving championship, having joined 1961 titlist Phil Hill in capturing the ultimate prize in international motor sports in 1978. In a cruel twist of fate, Hill and Andretti, who was born in Italy before becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1964, clinched their championships on the same day their racing teammates (Wolfgang von Trips and Ronnie Peterson) suffered fatal crashes. Andretti drove in both F1 races run on a temporary circuit at Caesars Palace in the early 1980s where the Forum shops now stand.
The only driver to be named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year after his third World Driving Championship in 1973, the wee Scotsman probably still is the F1 driver best known by American auto racing fans, owing to his distinctive brogue and long stint as Jim McKay’s Indianapolis 500 broadcast sidekick. Stewart also was a critic of the short-lived Caesars Palace Grand Prix — “You can’t hold a grand prix in a bloody car park,” he said.
The former chief executive of F1 took control of the sport during the late 1970s and transformed it into a veritable goldmine through the sales of TV rights. Known for turning molehills into financial mountains, when Ecclestone and his girlfriend were robbed of watches and other jewelry in 2010, images of the former’s bruised face were used in an ad by watchmaker Hublot that said “See what some people will do for a Hublot.”
When the powers that be decided to hold a bloody grand prix in a parking lot despite the protestations of Stewart, this is the guy who won the first one. The 1980 world champion bolted from second on the starting grid and pulled away for a 1981 victory that would be the last by an Australian in F1 until Mark Webber won in Germany 28 years later.
The blood red cars festooned with the iconic prancing horse logo won the last of its record 16 World Constructors Championships in 2008. But the team still evokes great passion among the Tifosi — the name by which its fervent supporters are identified. It also is off to a great start in 2022, with Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz having finished 1-2 in the season opener in Bahrain.
When Ferrari’s dynasty ended, it created an opportunity for other manufacturers to spray champagne on the victory podium. One of those was Mercedes, which has won the past eight constructors crowns with drivers Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Valtteri Botas. There have been 170 chassis builders in F1 since the series was founded in 1950, but only 15 have won the championship.
This is the American mass media company that purchased Formula One from Ecclestone in 2017 for $4.6 billion. It also in large part explains why, after 40 years, F1 is returning to Las Vegas, as expanding the sport’s footprint on its home turf was one of Liberty’s primary goals. Las Vegas will become the third grand prix on American soil, joining Austin, Texas, and Miami, which makes its debut on the F1 schedule in May.