Why F1 hopes what happens in Vegas won't stay in Vegas
November's Las Vegas GP is set to be a landmark event for Formula 1, and it clearly has the potential to be the biggest and brashest event ever held.
What makes it unique is that it is being promoted by Liberty Media and F1 and not by a local third party. The city and the casinos that own the land are partners, but the commercial rights holder is taking the big risks and stands to win or lose depending on how the weekend pans out.
F1's role as a promoter is a fascinating development for the series and one that established race organisers elsewhere are watching with interest at a time when there is a queue of potential new hosts waiting to join the party.
Many existing races have already announced extended deals that guarantee them a long-term place on the calendar. It looks a little like a game of musical chairs, and nobody wants to be left standing when the music stops and 24 or so venues are locked in for the foreseeable future.
In that context, the prospect of F1 putting on its own races and potentially favouring them over established events has given other promoters plenty of food for thought.
"Las Vegas was a clear opportunity that was important for us to take, to maximise from one side what we believe a promoter should do," says F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali. "And on the other side to leverage on this experience.
"I would say that the beauty of today is that we have a great bunch of promoters. Around the world everyone is really not only [competing] in terms of, let's say, financial contributions, but they are also getting better and better in preparing new experiences for the fans and investing in new facilities.
"So that is good. So already, the effect of us being the promoter has really induced everyone to be better."
Thus far the message from Liberty Media has been that Las Vegas is a one-off. However, Domenicali hints that if the experiment works it would be logical to try a similar recipe elsewhere. But not at the expense of successful existing events, he insists.
"Of course, we are there to make the best business possible," he says. "And therefore if there are other opportunities, for sure we will not be shy.
"But on the other hand, I think we are very lucky that right now the quality of promoters around the world is really very strong."
Stefano Domenicali, CEO, Formula 1
Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
Those promoters have a very good relationship with Domenicali and his organisation. They regularly get together as a group in London to talk about the bigger picture and the common challenges that they face.
That open dialogue wasn't the case in the past. The last thing Bernie Ecclestone wanted was for all his race organisers to meet up and potentially swap notes on their individual deals. But it's a different world now.
Domenicali is adamant that all events will be able to learn valuable lessons from what F1 is doing with its own race. In other words, what happens in Vegas is not going to stay there.
"We need to be humble, we know what to do," says the Italian. "But also I think that we put in place ideas that other promoters take with a lot of experience.
"I think that the chance for us to create the perfect experience for our fans will be input other promoters can use in a way that could respect the differentiation of every Grand Prix. Because that's something that is key for us: every single Grand Prix has to be different, unique.
"I think that the briefing we're going to have together on the Monday after the race will be very important, because from that we're going to send a lot of input to our friends that will be looking on at us.
"Because the first that are going to see this Grand Prix with a different eye will be the promoters that have been working with us for many, many years.
"Of course, it's also for us a big challenge in a positive way to show what we believe is the right thing to do.
"And therefore it's a good place from where we can learn and improve the ecosystem in the right way. So I'm very positive about it. And I think that at the end of the day, next year, everyone will benefit from the experience we're going to have in Vegas."
Liberty Media boss Greg Maffei believes that jumping in as a promoter will give F1 more credibility when it tries to get other events to try new things.
"I think there will clearly be a learning curve," says Maffei. "We came to Vegas with a whole bunch of objectives. First, to be a promoter, partly because we had ideas about what great promoters should do.
"And we probably thought if we were going to opine on that, to some of our promoter partners, we might actually want to be a promoter so we can walk the walk as well as talk the talk."
F1 commercial boss Brandon Snow suggests that it's a two-way street, with his organisation learning lessons from other promoters while at the same time encouraging all events to take what they can from the Vegas experience.
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing in Las Vegas
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool
"We have a phrase sometimes called stealing with pride," says Snow. "And what I mean by that is we want to share with all of our promoters best practices, the things that work that we know that we can scale, and we can bring to other partners so that they elevate their game.
"We have a group of people inside the company who are focused on building those best practices, and sharing them with the rest of our promoters so that we are raising the game across the board, and talking about what works and what doesn't work well.
"And there are other sports industries that do this quite well. And we're going to build on that as well. So we want to make sure that we take the things that work, and help them be implemented in other markets."
Renee Wilm, the Liberty legal executive who has been seconded to the role of CEO of the Vegas event, makes an intriguing observation.
She says that now it is fully immersed in running an event her organisation has a much better understanding of what F1's other race partners have to deal with.
"We found even over the last 12 months that we're more sympathetic to the promoters because now we actually understand what they go through, day in and day out," says Wilm. "Dealing with permitting and track design. Selling hospitality, building hospitality, and an inflationary environment.
"And I think we've been able to work with Brandon's team to really reach out to the promoters and further enhance those relationships and help the negotiations and say, 'Okay, here's what we're seeing as a promoter. Here's how I think we can get to a better deal with you.'
"We've been able to really employ that for the benefit of everyone who's been renewing this year."
Inevitably, the races with the keenest interest in what happens in Vegas are Austin and Miami, the existing US events.
Wilm is adamant that there is no rivalry between the three venues, and stresses that she is working closely with her peers, Miami GP president Tyler Epp and COTA CEO Bobby Epstein. The hope is that by cooperating all three events will ultimately become stronger.
Miami update before
Photo by: Charles Bradley
"A lot of reporters tried to create dissension where there doesn't exist among," says Wilm. "But the reality is Tyler and Bobby and I are talking quite a bit.
"We're talking about sharing resources. We're talking about how we can leverage each other's activations in terms of what's working, and what's not.
"And we do believe that rising waters raise all ships, and that's the intention. It's not to galvanise or cannibalise anyone else in the process of building something here in Vegas."
Domenicali agrees that there's no need for Austin and Miami to feel threatened by Vegas – there's room for all three, and they all have their strengths.
"It is pretty clear that every race, not only in America, has a different personality, a different cultural approach, a different quality, a different segmentation of fans," he says.
"And by the way, sometimes we forget that just a couple of years ago, we were thinking, 'Do we really need to stay in the US? Is it really the market we should be in?'
"And thanks to the stubbornness we are here. We had two races last year, and this year, we are adding another one. So in the blink of an eye, we are getting there.
"I don't see any kind of cannibalisation, everyone is different, everything is different. I don't see any problem there."
The subject of other promoters learning lessons from how things are done in Vegas is an important one. Domenicali is keen to stress that no race, however strong its historic links to the sport, is guaranteed a place on the calendar.
In other words, even the likes of Monaco will have to keep up with the changing times and continue to improve the package that they offer spectators.
"I'm always saying to our promoters, when history is only looking behind, there is something that is not good," he says. "When history is a good foundation to look ahead with a different future, that is beautiful.
"So that's why with the so-called historical Grands Prix, we are really focusing on understanding what is the view of the future.
"I mean, to be arrogant and believe that you have a guaranteed future because you've had the race for the last hundred years, to be very honest, it's not enough. And there's a sign of respect. It's not enough for the tradition of these places.
"And I think that in this moment, everyone is understanding that. And we are not playing any games, we are very transparent with them. We have said that if they want to be on the calendar, they need to do the things that we believe are right for them. And also for us as F1.
Las Vegas Grand Prix track map
"So I think that I would say that the number and the quality of races are respecting also the so-called historical one.
"But it's pretty clear that in the last couple of years, the perception from these historical places has changed because they realised that the landscape is different."
Of course, all this depends on Vegas being a success on all counts. Liberty boss Maffei insists that the aim is to get it right first time and establish the race as a money spinner.
"Our goal should be long-term greedy, in the sense that we're going to have a high revenue stream, and we're going to have a high-cost stream," he says.
"But it's more important that we have a great experience for everybody involved than that we coin it the first year.
"I think we will make a lot of money in Vegas over the long term. I'm very excited, I think we will make money, good money this year.
"But way more important than that is that we have a great experience for our drivers, for our patrons, for our fans, for our viewers, for everybody involved. So that's the goal."
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