Las Vegas Strip Street Circuit
A mega fast street circuit which takes in the casinos and hotels of the Las Vegas Strip as a colourful background, Formula One’s latest venture into the US market is probably among the most eagerly-anticipated in history.
With an almost insane 1.9km back straight, the track will see Monza-like top speeds and the cars flat out in eighth gear for longer than any other circuit. It is expected top speeds in excess of 212mph will be reached.
The course has been designed by Tilke GmBH, with the project led by Carsten Tilke. Unusually, Formula One has bought a block of land on which to house the permanent pit and paddock facilities used during race weekends.
With the popularity of Formula One on the rise in the USA like never before, series bosses wanted the perfect backdrop for a third race in the country. In Las Vegas, they found it.
A night race around the hotels and casinos taking in the world famous ’Strip’ along Las Vegas Boulevard means that the city that never sleeps is an ideal host. Unlike the aborted 1980s races around the Caesar’s Palace car park, this time the event is sure to see greater success, not least because of F1’s greater investment.
Such is the importance to Formula One owners Liberty Media of firmly establishing the sport in the USA, the whole event organisation, including the cost of design and construction of the course is being borne by Formula One itself. This flies in the face of the usual practice of agreeing a deal with a third-party promoter.
Planning the course
Not surprisingly, Formula One turned to Tilke GmBH to make its dream a reality. The circuit-design and architecture specialists have a long history of creating Grand Prix circuits, but Las Vegas created some considerable new challenges.
Hermann Tilke’s son Carsten was in charge of masterminding a complex programme of design, permit authorisations and negotiations with the hotels and casinos to ensure everyone remained happy. A total of 31 different layout variations were initially produced, before the final version was agreed.
“In Las Vegas, the biggest hotels in the world are in the middle of the circuit,” Carsten Tilke explained to Motorsport.com.
“We have The Venetian with more than 6,000 beds and next to it is the fourth largest hotel (The Wynn). There are so many hotel rooms inside and around the circuit.
“Also, with Las Vegas Boulevard, we have one of the liveliest streets in the world. We need to get in the way of the casinos, restaurants and shops as little as possible.
“With the build-up, this requires some organisation. This all has to go smoothly. That is the biggest challenge there. We have less time than usual, so everything has to be right at once.
“People should not feel compromised by the race. It has to be an addition, an extra big show.”
Racing under the lights
The Las Vegas Grand Prix will be a night race, allowing the city to come alive with its oasis of glittering lights to deliver a visual spectacle.
Every night is party night in Vegas, but Saturday is the showpiece, so it’s fitting that the Grand Prix will uniquely take place then, allowing race goers to watch the world’s best going wheel to wheel before kicking on their night with a visit to a casino, drinks at a rooftop bar or some late-night shopping.
That means everything will happen a day earlier than usual, with qualifying on Friday and practice on Thursday. Expect the drivers to get there early to adjust to the timezone and get some downtime.
The lap described
The start and finish line is located on a former disused car lot, which is being transformed into a permanent pit and paddock area, surrounded by grandstands. Running anti-clockwise, the first corner is a hairpin, followed a slight left and a fast right-hand bend which leads onto the city straights, heading north on Koval Lane.
After a half-mile straight, a 90 degree right-hand bend leads onto another new section of road which encircles the MSG Sphere Arena. Original plans saw the cars sweep around the structure in a sweeping 180-degree curve, but this was subsequently modified with the addition of a chicane section at its mid point.
The left-right corner combination leads to a short straight before a tight left-hander at Turn 9, leading back out onto Sands Avenue. With the monorail track hugging the course on the left until they pass over the junction with Koval Lane, the cars head west and into a series of sweeping corners past the Palazzo Venetian at Turns 11 and 12, before a slow left-hander overlooked by Wynn Hotel brings them onto Las Vegas Boulevard.
Here the cars accelerate hard along a 1.9km section, which has a gently curve towards its mid-point. Treasure Island, The Mirage, Caesar’s Palace and the Bellagio Fountains all flash past in the blink of an eye as the cars hit maximum speed before reaching Turn 14. A 90 degree left-hander, this is expected to provide the best overtaking opportunity on the course.
A right-left medium speed chicane leads the cars south onto East Harmon Avenue until the final sweeping left-hand corner leads back into the stadium section and the start-finish line.