F1: Why The Las Vegas Grand Prix Will Start Late

Las Vegas 2023

Formula One will be racing in Las Vegas for the first time since 1982, but the local start times for sessions are unusual.

Formula One’s return to Las Vegas is one that the media have been brewing excitement for, ever since the announcement.

The 3.8-mile track will be cutting through the heart of the city, on the Las Vegas Strip. It will be a night race, with the cars glistening under the floodlights, surrounded by famous landmarks, hotels and casinos, a dreamy prospect for a sport as glamorous as F1.

Even before track times were released, there were initial speculations that it would be a night race, because it is Vegas after all. F1 is no stranger to night races, but due to timezones, a night race in the Americas has never happened.

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What time will the sessions be?

FP1: 20:30 – 21:30 (Thur 16 NOV)

FP2: 00:00 – 01:00 (Fri 17 NOV)

FP3: 20:30 – 21:30 (Fri 17 NOV)

Qualifying: 00:00 – 01:00 (Sat 18 NOV)

Race: 22:00 (Sat 18 NOV)

At 10 p.m. on Saturday night, the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix will set a record for the latest start time in F1 history. This could prove to be a challenge.

Why were these timings chosen?

Start times are always chosen to suit as many stakeholders as possible. Choosing to race in Las Vegas makes the task at hand all that much harder. Especially when you consider the nature of the city. Street races are always complicated as they usually go through major thoroughfares. This in conjunction with the city being one of the world’s leading entertainment capitals makes finding the perfect balance even more challenging.

Street circuits come with a sacrifice. F1 street races aren’t like other races which are held on racetracks or sporting events which are usually held in stadiums or arenas. For the Las Vegas GP to take place, major streets must be closed off starting around 5 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They must then be reopened to traffic by 4 a.m. each day. Likewise, the Monaco GP goes through a similar process.

Renee Wilm, the CEO of the Las Vegas Grand Prix, talked to The Athletic about the decision;

“Very much a compromise following multiple conversations with all the local stakeholders in Las Vegas.”

“We really tried to triangulate what was a good time for the locals. We want to be a good neighbor in Las Vegas. We’re here to race for many decades to come.”

Las Vegas is a city known for its vibrant nightlife, no matter how late. Having a night race is F1’s way of respecting that.

What this means for fans, drivers and teams

The race will start in the early to mid-morning hours in the UK and most of Europe and mid to late morning hours in Africa. In Asia and Australia, the race start will be in the afternoon and evening hours.  These times are in close range to the start times of the Australian and Japanese Grands Prix.

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F1 teams and drivers travel all year long between cities and continents. They are no stranger to having their sleep schedules messed up. At all races and night races, in particular, teams offset their schedules to align with the local timezone.

In any case, a 10 p.m. start time presents a challenge that has never been seen before in the sport. However, the sport is planning on regularly racing there. Regardless, it means that this first race week could serve as a learning point based on how the fans, but most importantly, the teams and drivers cope with the special situation will be observed.