Walking down the Las Vegas Strip in the early hours of Sunday morning, with the noise of the 20 Formula One cars still ringing in fans’ ears, one man summed it up perfectly.
‘For all the s***-talking, that actually turned out pretty well.’
It was a week that started so badly and threatened to implode before it had even begun, but ended with a brilliant, dramatic 50-lap race around Sin City.
It was a week that saw the already-bonkers world of Vegas turned upside down by the madness of the most expensive sport in the world.
And it was a week that maybe, just maybe, was even worth the tens of thousands of dollars that fans had forked out to see it unfold.
Here, DailyMail.com goes behind the scenes at the Heineken Silver Las Vegas Grand Prix, to experience the ups and downs of the most expensive event in F1 history…
The Heineken Silver Las Vegas Grand Prix last weekend was the most expensive race in Formula One’s long history
Red Bull driver and two-time world champion Max Verstappen was victorious, spraying his rivals with champagne
The fans in Las Vegas were treated to fireworks and a closing ceremony fronted by Dutch DJ Martin Garrix (right)
TikTok star Alix Earle – and girlfriend of NFL player Braxton Berrios – parties at the Wynn; Lewis Hamilton also headed there
As soon as you step foot in the arrivals hall at Las Vegas Airport, you are hit by a wave of noise. Alongside the usual clinking of the casino machines, the voice of F1, David Croft, blares out of the speakers to welcome fans to the city.
Adverts of Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris adorn the walls, and a huge F1 helmet sits in between the baggage carousels. In Vegas not much is normal, but this is on another level.
In the casinos along the Strip, McLaren fans decked head to toe in orange play poker against Ferrari fans in red, and it feels like Monaco on steroids.
The race’s title sponsor, Heineken, have pop-ups around the city as fans clink bottles and get ready for the most highly-anticipated race of the season, and the Opening Ceremony on Wednesday night has been put together by the same people that curate the Super Bowl’s halftime shows.
But while the entertainment capital of the world is buzzing with tourists, it has not been plain sailing for the locals, with one taxi driver telling DailyMail.com that they have endured six months of disruption and road closures as the city got itself ready for this three-day event.
‘My prediction is that they’ll only do one year, and never come back,’ he tells me. In reality, like it or lump it, Formula One is here for the long haul.
Taxi drivers and locals were less than enthralled with the arrival of F1, with one claiming there had been six months of closures
On Thursday, a loose drain cover threatened to scupper the entire weekend, and took hours for officials to fix the issue
The Sphere provided an incredible backdrop for the Formula One cars as they made their way around the street circuit
Singer Tyla performs with DJ Marshmello at the Encore Beach Club inside the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas on raceweek
Five minutes down the road, a huge three-story permanent paddock building has been built on a plot of land bought by F1 for $240million, and too much money – $500m, to be precise – has been pumped into this event for it to not be a success.
Which is why – fast-forwarding 24 hours to Thursday night – the drama of the first practice session was the most unwelcome of starts for those with skin in the game.
Eight minutes was all it took. Eight minutes for the entire race weekend to be thrown into jeopardy… and all because of a loose drain cover on Las Vegas Boulevard.
After all the build-up, and with the session having barely begun, Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari inadvertently drove over a drain and created an unholy mess, both literally and figuratively.
With the car in tatters, the session was canceled and the FIA went about trying to fix every other drain on the entire track. At one point, there was genuine concern among fans that eight minutes was all they’d see across the whole weekend. How’s that for an expensive trip?
The second practice session, due to start at midnight local time, was then pushed back to an as-yet unspecified time, and in the early hours of the morning all fans were kicked out of the grandstands and told to head home.
Soon after, the noise of the F1 cars could be heard behind the makeshift fences, as fans craned their necks to try and get a glimpse of the unplanned 2am behind-closed-doors practice session.
It had all turned into a bit of a mess, and it could be an expensive one too, with a class action lawsuit soon filed on behalf of the 35,000 fans that were turfed out. The next morning, a statement was released by the CEOs of F1 and the Vegas GP. It was 649 words, but ‘sorry’ wasn’t one.
Justin Bieber was among the many celebrities appearing at parties and events around Las Vegas throughout race week
The entire city was transformed by the Formula One racetrack, creating an incredible atmosphere on the Las Vegas strip
Model Veronika Rajek, who was previously linked with NFL icon Tom Brady, wore a daring outfit on the grid before the race
Bridgerton and Sex Education actress Simone Ashley (left) was a guest of Heineken at the race, but Martin Garrix DJ’d
Usain Bolt was among the A-List celebrities in Vegas, and he was a guest of Puma at Paddock Club on Saturday night
David Beckham attended a Sports Illustrated pre-race party, before he made his way to the Aston Martin garage at the track
Thankfully, though – for both the fans and those in charge – it was firmly uphill from there. Friday’s practice session went without a hitch, and qualifying shortly after saw Max Verstappen put himself third on the grid.
In a season that has so often been too predictable, the Red Bulls away from the front row was a welcome sight for most. Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, was 11th, Lando Norris was down in 16th… and the sole American, Logan Sargeant, was a nosebleed-inducing seventh.
With the race set up to be a classic, the city breathed a sigh of relief… and then hit the town.
While the racing was at the forefront of most people’s minds, there is no getting away from the fact that Vegas is about so much more than the on-track action, especially at an event as highly-anticipated as this.
While Verstappen’s ‘99% show, 1% sport’ comment that garnered worldwide media attention is not quite fair, the two-time champion does have a point.
At the Wynn on Thursday night, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and French Montana partied in a VIP area, while TikTok star Alix Earle jumped in the DJ booth with Swedish House Mafia a day later.
On the same property , the premiere of the new film FERRARI was hosted by this year’s People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive and former race car driver Patrick Dempsey.
Will.i.am was joined by some dancers and two models in race suits when he headed to the Wynn for a pre-race party
Rihanna was one of the most high-profile guests touching down in Las Vegas, while French model Tao Wickrath (right) stunned in a black dress on the Ferrari red carpet at the Wynn
NFL star Odell Beckham Jr. jetted off to Vegas to enjoy the Grand Prix festivities, partying at The After by Wynn on Saturday
Kylie Minogue and Terry Crews pose for a star-stunned selfie in the Red Bull garage before the race on Saturday night
At the Bellagio Fountain Club, Mark Wahlberg, Jeremy Renner, Eva Longoria, Bill Burr, Davante Adams and Collin Morikawa enjoyed their high-octane weekend from a VIP viewing area.
Michael B. Jordan was spotted having brunch at NoMad Las Vegas, Brad Pitt watched the race from a private balcony at MGM Grand, and Kate Beckinsale dined at The Cosmopolitan. Further down the Strip, DailyMail.com joined David Beckham and Shaquille O’Neal at Sports Illustrated’s Club SI.
At the Bellagio, will.i.am enjoyed a dinner at The Mayfair Supper Club, and even Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc was spotted at CATCH Las Vegas before he donned his overalls. The list goes on, and on, and on, and on…
The whole week was a who’s who of celebrity superstars, with A-Listers sitting alongside merchandise-clad fans at roulette tables and every club along the Strip advertising big-name guests to entice the crowds through their over-priced doors.
When all is said and done, though, the racing was so much more than 1%, and even Verstappen was made to eat his words come the early hours of Sunday morning.
‘A great crowd. I hope everyone enjoyed it… we definitely did,’ he said from the top step of the podium before the fans were treated to a closing ceremony fronted by DJ Martin Garrix. ‘I’m excited to come back next year and do something similar.’
In the build-up, Mercedes star and seven-time world champion Hamilton had joked you could probably see the race from space, and you wouldn’t have been surprised if you could hear it from up there too.
It was a spectacle like no other watching the modern-day Formula One cars race around Vegas at 200 miles per hour
Lando Norris drives during the early stages of the race, before he suffered a frightening high-speed crash soon after
Verstappen started the weekend slating the Vegas race, but later admitted he can’t wait to return to Sin City next year
The 50-lap spectacle was watched by a sold-out grandstand and over 315,000 fans piled through the gates across the three-day event. The race featured the second-most overtakes of any event in the F1 calendar this year, and the track was more exciting than anyone could have imagined.
It was claimed in the lead-up to the race that the city of Las Vegas was expecting a $1.7billion boost to the economy – over double what it is projected to make when the Super Bowl rolls into town in February.
Stats from the Wynn Hotel and Casino in the days after the race back up that projection, with Joe Pompliano reporting that dealers on their tables split $700,000 in tips on Saturday night – six times more than their nightly average.
And so, while some of the locals may be dreading the return of the F1 trucks next November, the rest of the world will once again descend on Sin City for another wild weekend.
In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that Vegas has the potential to go down as the best event on the entire calendar. It has everything a good F1 weekend should have… entertainment for the fans, celebrity glitz and glamor – and a brilliant race at the center of it all.
Just spare a thought for the taxi drivers.
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