This is not F1’s first visit to Sin City – in 1981 and 1982 the sport turned up in town to race in the car park at Caesars Palace. This time things are very different, with a layout that takes the drivers around some of the city’s most famous streets.
Expect to see cars flying under pedestrian bridges, past monorail tracks and between many of the big casinos on the Strip, racing on resurfaced roads that are billiard table smooth and wide enough for plenty of wheel-to-wheel action.
Over 30 designs were created before the final layout was chosen and it has taken more than a year to put all the infrastructure in place – including a brand-new permanent pit and paddock. So, will it all be worth it? We think so. Here is what the lap will look like.
Turns 1 and 2
The racetrack starts in what used to be a disused car park – but if that sounds all a bit 1980s, it could not be further from the truth. F1 has turned this area into a grandstand-filled entertainment zone with a $500m pit and paddock complex topped with the iconic F1 sign and housing the Paddock Club, the ultimate place to watch the race.
The first corner is a tight left-hander that quickly follows the short start-finish straight. On the grid, the cars will be lining up all the way back around turn 17 and will have a very short run to the entry point, so there should be plenty of first lap action.
In contrast, on a flying lap, the flowing turn 17 will lead cars across the start-finish line and into this corner at close to top speed. Throw in the possibility of a long DRS zone into the mix and this should be a good place to look out for bold overtaking moves.
Once through the tight first corner, the track opens into a wider second, with the combination having the feel of a double apex turn. Surrounded by grandstands, this part of the track will give fans a great close-up experience, while the drivers will be so close they can hear the crowd inside their cockpits.
Turns 3 and 4
Continuing through this section, the next two right-handers again effectively combine, this time into one long sweeping curve. That will accelerate cars out onto Koval Lane, a 1km straight that is one of the longer on the F1 calendar, but not even the longest on this track.
Las Vegas Strip atmosphere at night, including the Eiffel Tower restaurant
It is here where the visual spectacle of the new Las Vegas racetrack truly begins, as the drivers barrel down Koval Lane towards this 90-dregree turn, with the new Sphere – a crazy 112m-tall dome covered in tiny led lights – looming into view. It will surely be hard to stay focused here.
The corner itself is a classic street track style 90-degree bend and it takes the cars into what will be the second stadium-like complex on the circuit – an area that, in fact, actually houses the cheapest tickets available (albeit at a cost of a cool $500 for the race weekend).
Turn 6, 7, 8 and 9
This section was planned to be a long, sweeping 180-degree corner – similar to Turn 3 in Sochi – but since the initial designs were created it has had a chicane added, which now sees the circuit take to a specially designed section, circumnavigating the Sphere.
The flowing turn six leads into a sharp left-right followed by a short straight into a tight left-hander at Turn 9. That then takes the cars out of the complex and onto Sands Avenue, with the Sphere constantly in view and the monorail tracks appearing along the right side of the track at the exit.
Turns 10 and 11
As the cars accelerate down Sands Avenue, this flowing section of track sweeps right then left, making its way past the back of the Venetian resort. The money shot, however, will be the backdrop of the curved Wynn Casino hotel, sparkling in shimmering gold, as the drivers close in on the Strip.
This slow left-hander brings cars onto Las Vegas Boulevard – a.k.a. The Strip – alongside the Treasure Island hotel’s famous pirate ship. Here, X marks the spot for one of the circuit’s most important corners, as it determines how soon drivers can begin to accelerate onto the main straight.
When F1 is not in town, this is one of the busiest corners in the city, coping with five lanes of traffic flowing in all directions. That is great news for the racing, because it means the corner is relatively wide and there could be a few different lines explored through the weekend.
This section is the star of the show, with cars set to race side-by-side down the Strip at full-throttle on a near-2km run through the heart of the city. The gentle curve of Turn 13 is likely to be taken flat, and drivers will reach around 342kph – much faster than the usual traffic. It is also possible that a DRS zone will be added into the mix here.
The views will be jaw-dropping, with neon lights and legendary landmarks including the Venetian gondoliers and Campanile Tower, the Eiffel Tower and the Paris balloon on the left and the Bellagio Fountains and Mirage volcano on the right.
Turn 14, 15 and 16
The Strip section comes to an end between Planet Hollywood and the Cosmopolitan, and this corner is likely to see plenty of overtaking because, unlike the wide-open entry point, this time the junction will be used to create a chicane to slow the cars right down.
Drivers will have to kill their speed quickly to manage this tight complex, which involves a 90-degree left-hander feeding into an immediate right and left kink feeding out onto East Harmon Avenue, where yet another straight will see cars accelerating at full throttle again.
Just a little shorter than Koval Lane, East Harmon Avenue will quickly see drivers back up towards top speeds again, with the gentle left-hander at Turn 17 unlikely to require them to back off until they are over the start-finish line and heading into Turn 1 for another lap.
Work in Progress at the Las Vegas F1 course
Photo by: Jim Utter
Lap times and race conditions
It is hard to predict lap times until the cars set off for FP1, but fortunately the F1 23 console game has already allowed us to get a glimpse of what could be. Based on times from the game, drivers should be setting top times just over the 1m30s mark.
As usual on a newly surfaced racetrack, times are likely to come down every session but with qualifying and the race both starting at 10pm local time, ambient temperatures are expected to be between 5 and 10 degrees – making it much harder to get tyres up to temperature.
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