On November 16, 2023, Max Verstappen, a three-time Formula 1 champ, expressed his displeasure with the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix. In an interview with ESPN, he referred to the race as “99% show and 1% sporting event.” Verstappen criticized the race track, which features a 17-corner layout with a nearly 2km long straight down the Las Vegas Strip. He stated that he found the track uninteresting due to the limited number of corners and his dislike of street circuits, particularly with the new, heavier cars.
Verstappen further added to the controversy by skipping an opening-night VIP party at Wynn Las Vegas, despite F1 president Stefano Domenicali requesting all drivers to attend. The opening ceremonies seemed to have soured Verstappen’s mood, as they featured a drone show, fireworks, and musical performances by Keith Urban, Kylie Minogue, and Journey. Additionally, the drivers emerged from giant boxes on the pit straight in the rain and were instructed to wave to the crowd, a performance that Verstappen felt made him “a clown.”
Despite the criticism, Verstappen defended his negative opinions, stating, “I just always voice my opinion on positive things and negative things. That’s just how I am.” He expressed his preference for focusing on the performance side of things rather than the show, adding, “for me, I like to be in Vegas, but not so much for racing.” Verstappen also downplayed the impact of his opinion on the race, stating, “I don’t know, I guess they still make money if I like it or not, so it’s not up to me.”
Despite the controversy, Verstappen remains favored to win the Las Vegas Grand Prix, with the race scheduled for 10 p.m. on Saturday.