Max Verstappen: Las Vegas GP ‘99% show, 1% sporting event’

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Three-time world champion Max Verstappen has been an outspoken critic of this week’s Las Vegas Grand Prix, voicing his displeasure with everything from the layout of the track to the late start times to the pomp and circumstance around the event.

The Red Bull star was among several who skipped a VIP event at the Wynn Las Vegas on Wednesday night that F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali had asked all drivers to attend. Verstappen had no “interest” following an extravagant opening ceremony held on the start-finish line.

“(It’s) 99 percent show, and one percent sporting event,” Verstappen told reporters. “I just like to always focus on the performance side of things. I don’t like all the things around it, anyway. I know, of course, in some places, they are part of it, but let’s say it’s not in my interest.”

Verstappen, 26, has won a record 17 of the 20 races so far this season and already has wrapped up his third title. He’s the heavy favorite ahead of Saturday night’s race, but he’s not interested in the pre-race festivities.

Wednesday night’s opening ceremony included musical performances from the likes of Kylie Minogue, John Legend and Journey, along with a drone show with lasers and fireworks. The drivers were also elevated by lifts on to stages to greet the crowd.

“For me, you can all skip this,” Verstappen said. “It’s not about the singers. We are just standing up there, looking like a clown.

“I’m looking forward to trying to do the best I can, but I’m not looking forward to (the festivities).”

Verstappen also said the layout of the 3.8-mile street circuit is not “that exciting,” citing the low grip of the heavy F1 cars.

One of Verstappen’s chief rivals, seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, has been one of the drivers to embrace the glitz around F1’s return to Las Vegas. The event is the first to be promoted by F1’s owners, Liberty Media.

“I hear there are a lot of people complaining about the direction Stefano and Liberty have been going,” Hamilton said. “I think they have been doing an amazing job.

“It is a big show, for sure. It is never going to be like Silverstone. But maybe over time the people in the community here will grow to love the sport.”

He continued: “It is a business, ultimately. You’ll still see good racing here.”

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc echoed the sentiments of his Mercedes rival, viewing the Las Vegas GP as an opportunity to bring new fans to the sport.

“It’s a lot, but I think if you don’t do that here, you don’t do that anywhere,” Leclerc said, via RacingNews365. “I mean, what’s most important to me is that the DNA of the sport remains the same.

“However, we need to also take opportunities of these kinds of events in such incredible cities, and make something around it that will maybe attract people that are not interested in racing at first, but then once they get to see the cars in real life then they get interested in racing.”

Verstappen understands there is a business side to bringing F1 to Las Vegas, but he’s focusing on adding to his trophy collection.

“They still make money if I like it or not, so it’s not up to me,” Verstappen said. “But I’m also not going to fake it. I just always voice my opinion on positive things and negative things. That’s just how I am.

“Some people like the show a bit more, I don’t like it at all. I grew up just looking at the performance side of things and that’s how I see it as well.

“So for me, I like to be in Vegas, but not so much for racing.”