May 26, 2024

LAS VEGAS — Max Verstappen said Formula One’s new Las Vegas Grand Prix is lacking emotion and passion, and that the circuit is not even close to matching Monaco, the sport’s most famous venue.

Las Vegas will host its first grand prix in 40 years Saturday night when 20 drivers take to a 3.6-mile street circuit that runs down the city’s famous Strip.

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The F1 event made a stuttering start Thursday when the opening practice session was canceled after eight minutes because of a loose water valve cover that damaged Carlos Sainz‘s Ferrari.

The second practice session was delayed until 2:30 a.m. to remedy the issue, by which point fans had been asked to leave the venue as the circuit’s security staff had come to the end of their shifts.

Verstappen has been skeptical about the event since his arrival Wednesday, when he labeled the event as 99% show and 1% sport and said he was made to feel like “a clown” during a lavish opening ceremony.

After qualifying second on the grid for Saturday’s race, he was asked to compare the feeling of driving on the new track with his experience at Monaco.

“I think Monaco is like Champions League and this is like National League,” he said.

The National League is the fifth tier of English club football.

Verstappen has been critical of the event, where a three-day ticket is priced at an average of $1,667.

He said too much emphasis had been put on concerts and entertainment surrounding the event and not enough had been dedicated to engaging fans with the on-track action.

“I understand that fans maybe need something to do as well around a track, but I think it’s more important that you make them understand what we do as a sport,” Verstappen said. “Most of them just come to have a party, drink, see a DJ play or a performance act — I mean I can do that all over the world, I can go to Ibiza and get completely s—faced, you know?

“But that’s what happens, they come and they become a fan of what? They come and see their favorite artist and have a few drinks with their mates and have a crazy night out, but they don’t understand actually what we are doing and what we are putting on the line to perform.

“I think if you would actually put more time into the actual sport and what we are actually trying to achieve here … because as a little kid [drivers] grew up to be a world champion. If the sport would put more focus onto these kinds of things and also what a team is doing, what they are achieving and what they are working for, then these kinds of things are way more important to look at than having all these random shows all over the place.

“It’s not what I am passionate about and I like passion and emotion at these kinds of places. I love Vegas, but not to drive an F1 car. I love to go out, have a few drinks, throw everything on red, be crazy, have nice food. … But like I said, the emotion and passion is not there compared to old-school tracks.”

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