Updated November 21, 2023 - 8:24 am
I was ready to fit Max Verstappen with a big red nose and floppy shoes. Maybe even some noise makers, puppets and stickers.
But then a suggestion caused me to pause.
As in, what if the Formula One star was right about everything?
Now, I’m all for global events such as F1 making Las Vegas home for an annual race. Part of being the Sports Capital of the World. But this venture had more hiccups than if you downed a six-pack of carbonated drinks in one sitting.
The traffic issues for months. The road closures. Businesses losing profits after being locked out because of road construction. The weird loose water valve cover damaging Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari and canceling a practice session after about nine minutes. A class action lawsuit being filed against the Las Vegas Grand Prix on behalf of fans being forced to leave the race following Sainz’s, um, issue. One after the other.
We’re not Monaco
Verstappen is correct. Las Vegas is a spectacle. Everyone involved knew that. Of course things like concerts and other forms of entertainment were going to be involved to connect fans. That’s this city. That’s how we operate.
Did you see the A-list celebrities who attended the race? That’s Las Vegas.
Verstappen even got into the fun a little bit, the racer wearing a “Viva Las Vegas” uniform in paying honor to Elvis Presley’s white jumpsuit. Max does have a personality!
But he was critical of peripheral events that surrounded the race itself. He even went as far as comparing the Las Vegas event to that in Monaco, the premier destination for F1.
“I think Monaco is like Champions League and this is like National League,” Verstappen told reporters.
Translation: When it comes to F1, he thinks Monaco is Real Madrid and Las Vegas is Bishop Gorman soccer.
Hey, we’re just starting out here.
He wants folks in America to be more educated about F1, to understand exactly what the racers do and how incredibly difficult it is. How powerful and expensive and detailed the cars are. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Knowing more about what you’re witnessing is never a bad thing.
I had never watched a complete F1 race until replaying Saturday’s Las Vegas Grand Prix (duty called in Colorado Springs with UNLV football winning another game) and enjoyed it more than not. The speed, the cars sliding into one another, the sparring for position, the overtaking of one driver to the next.
I’m sure there were many others experiencing such a race for the first time. Can’t believe some didn’t feel a level of thrill doing so. Even if the biggest competition was for second place.
It’s no shock that Verstappen changed his tune a bit after claiming his 18th race of the season. Winning cures all ills and bad feelings about this not being Monaco. “Had a lot of fun out there, great racing!” Verstappen posted on X after his victory.
Race saved weekend
Many locals will continue to decry staging the race, and they have legitimate reasons. This thing was an early disaster until Saturday night. It’s usually the opposite. The buildup to such an event is often memorable and the competition then disappoints. Sort of happened the other way around this time.
“A great crowd,” Verstappen said from the victory podium. “I hope everyone enjoyed it a bit; we definitely did. I’m excited to come back next year and do something similar.”
Maybe then there won’t be as many hiccups.
Global events are good for this town. Ticket deposits are already being taken for next year’s race. Just make sure the water valve covers are bolted down.
Max Verstappen was right.
But in the end, a clown show was saved by the actual race.
Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at email@example.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.