After more than a four-decade wait, the highly anticipated Las Vegas Grand Prix will finally make its debut in Las Vegas this week.
However, reigning three-time Formula One champion Max Verstappen seems less than pleased about the extravagance surrounding the event. Verstappen described the upcoming race as something that is “99% show and 1% sporting event.”
He also said he felt like “a clown” when he stood on stage during the opening ceremony.
Multiple notable music artists performed during a ceremony Wednesday night. Despite the Formula One president’s request that all drivers attend the VIP party in Las Vegas, Verstappen was a no-show.
“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,” the Red Bull driver said.
“I’m looking forward to try to do the best I can, but I’m not looking forward to (the show).”
This weekend’s race on the famous Las Vegas Strip is F1’s first attempt at promoting its own grand prix. F1 and it’s owner, Liberty Media, reportedly spent hundreds of millions of dollars leading up to the race.
The Las Vegas Grand Prix marks the third F1 stop this year in the U.S.. Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton argued the market demand is strong enough to sustain the series and make this weekend’s event a success.
“The sport continues to grow. It is a business ultimately, and I think you’ll still see good racing here,” said Hamilton, who admitted to seeing the movie “‘Casino’ a thousand times.”
“This is one of the most iconic cities there is amongst the other amazing cities they have in America. All the lights, the show. It is a big show, for sure,” he added. “And it’s never going to be like Silverstone, but maybe over time, the people in the community here will grow to love the sport. Maybe the track will be good, maybe it’ll be bad. I think don’t knock it until you try it.”
Verstappen eventually conceded he’s aware of what Liberty Media is trying to do with F1, even if he would rather solely focus on racing.
“You can look at it two ways, business side or sport side. So, I, of course, understand their side of it as well, but I’m just voicing my opinion on the performance side of things,” Verstappen said.
“We are not stakeholders, so we just go with it. I mean, they decide what they do, right? If someone really wants to go into this direction, that you want a lot more show attached to the kind of program, I guess we have to deal with that. Let’s see how long fans also like this.”
The first two practice sessions kicked off Thursday. Saturday’s race will feature 20 drivers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.