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Glitzy F1 opening ceremony sets tone for divisive Las Vegas GP

Formula 1's Las Vegas Grand Prix got underway on Wednesday night with a flashy opening ceremony, which fittingly set the stage for a weekend that looks set to divide opinions.

The opening ceremony

The opening ceremony

Andrew Ferraro / Motorsport Images

If the groundbreaking, F1 promoted race around the Strip is earmarked as the series' very own Superbowl, then it already served up a halftime show to match a day before on-track proceedings even start.

F1 pulled out all the stops to produce a ceremony befitting its entertainment driven host city, featuring appearances by Kylie Minogue, John Legend, Journey, Keith Urban, Steve Aoki, Thirty Seconds to Mars, J Balvin and DJ Tiesto, as well as performers from Cirque du Soleil.

Drones performed a synchronised overhead ballet to welcome the main grandstand audience - tickets went for a cool $165 for the 30-minute show - with the event topped off by a driver introduction where all 20 drivers were raised onto platforms team by team as they greeted the fans.

The highly-produced set piece appeared to be well received by the spectators, despite some gripes about the audio, and less awkward than Miami's hamfisted boxing style intros, with more buy-in from drivers.

Online reviews from the show, which was shown delayed on F1's YouTube channel, were less complimentary, with many fans from F1's European heartland baffled by the spectacle, which is alien to the series' normal way of doing things.

Verstappen was not a fan of the glitz and glam of the opening ceremony

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Verstappen was not a fan of the glitz and glam of the opening ceremony

If fan opinion was divided, then so was the drivers' view. Never one to pull punches, world champion Max Verstappen caused a stir by proclaiming he felt like a "clown" during the segment in which he and team-mate Sergio Perez were hauled up the stage to greet the fans and then lowered back onto the platform again. A slow motion jack-in-the-box.

Daniel Ricciardo, never averse to a bit of glamour and one of the faces of the sport in the US, embraced the ceremony wholeheartedly. Meanwhile, elder statesman Fernando Alonso didn't necessarily love it but appreciated the circus act is exactly the kind of thing F1 must do capitalise on its unique opportunity at cracking Las Vegas, where 'low key' will simply not suffice to stand out.

Away from the track teams have been tripping over themselves to announce a spate of special one-off liveries and entertain their corporate partners, with over half of the grid sporting significant US-based sponsorship or investment. Red Bull grabbed the headlines by presenting its one-off livery by lowering a show car from the roof of the Omnia night club during a Tuesday night launch event.

Other eyebrow raising features include a wedding chapel at the entrance of the paddock and F1's custom branding on the spectacular MSG Sphere, with the colours red, yellow and blue banned during the on-track running to avoid distracting the drivers.

While the organisers were clearly scrambling to get everything ready in time, the general impression from the teams was that despite some typical first-day glitches, they seemed impressed by the spacious set-up that F1 built on its own plot of land. The logistics of moving around a busy street circuit went smoother than feared, despite a jam-packed schedule and the traffic disruptions the event has been causing.

PLUS: How F1 teams are attempting to negotiate Vegas unknowns

F1 has had to work out logistics in order to host a race on the Strip

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

F1 has had to work out logistics in order to host a race on the Strip

If anything, most issues were caused by the race's late-night schedule which, as part of the season-ending double-header with Abu Dhabi, is going to inflict some serious damage to F1's travelling personnel.

Fortunately, most teams reside in one of the nearby casinos and walk to the venue, which adds to the sense of the event being integrated into the city itself, rather than being a sideshow away from downtown like the other US rounds in Miami and Austin.

But while the Las Vegas Grand Prix's off-track pageantry was never going to cater to all tastes, at the end of the day F1 remains a sport and the outcome of its $500m Vegas bet will hinge on the on-track spectacle, which gets underway on Thursday evening with First Free Practice at 8:30pm local.

The prospect of 20 cars hurtling down the 1.9km straight on the Strip at night, on a circuit that promotes overtaking and lacks surface grip, is still a tantalising one.

And if F1's return to Sin City finally delivers, then perhaps even the most purist motor racing fans can be swayed. And forgive it for its opulent sins.

Has F1 gambled on being a hit in Vegas?

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Has F1 gambled on being a hit in Vegas?

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