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Why is the Las Vegas Grand Prix on a Saturday?

The maiden Las Vegas Grand Prix is this weekend with the Formula 1 race on Saturday instead of the traditional Sunday, but why is this and has it happened before?

F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix branding on the Sphere

F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix branding on the Sphere

Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

There is a huge buzz around F1 at the moment in America. The Vegas grandstands are up, the crowd has been partying to a live performance from Kylie Minogue, while colourful fireworks are popping ahead of a weekend like no other.

The 20 drivers were also presented to the Vegas crowd on Wednesday night as part of an opening ceremony, but it was not to everybody’s liking. Reigning world champion Max Verstappen said he felt like a “clown” as drivers were lifted onto huge platforms on the pit straight adding “it’s 99% show, and 1% sporting event”.

Vegas is going against the grain, and that can also be seen in the schedule. All 2023 grand prix weekends have taken place from Friday to Sunday, but not Vegas. Track time begins on Thursday with the race taking place on Saturday night, but why has F1 changed its schedule for the Las Vegas GP?

Why the Las Vegas Grand Prix is on Saturday

It is essentially a bid to get as many global viewers as possible due to the Vegas time zone. The city, which is in the western US state of Nevada, is eight hours behind the UK and nine behind central Europe.

If F1 kept to a traditional schedule with a race start time at 10pm on Sunday, it would be Monday morning in Europe with many citizens leaving for work and an underwhelming audience size would not be ideal. This way, by staging everything 24 hours earlier, more people should have the opportunity to watch.

But an argument to avoid that early start in Europe is to host the race at noon making it 8pm in the UK, however the Las Vegas GP was always going to be a night-time race.

F1 wanted it to be held during the city’s primetime, where the famous skyline is lit up for the huge occasion with cars racing down the iconic Strip. And if it were to be held just a few hours earlier, then it’s the middle of the night in Europe meaning more people would probably just watch it all on catch-up.

This is one event that F1 has been building up to for a very long time, and the weekend needs as many viewers as possible. CEO Stefano Domenicali said last year that the series must be flexible and such a start time makes watching the Las Vegas GP viable for everybody.

The opening ceremony

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The opening ceremony

Las Vegas Grand Prix full schedule

Thursday 16 November/Friday 17 November
Las Vegas GP Free Practice 1: 8:30pm local time, 4:30am GMT
Las Vegas GP Free Practice 2: 12am local time, 8am GMT

Friday 17 November/Saturday 18 November
Las Vegas GP Free Practice 3: 8:30pm local time, 4:30am GMT
Las Vegas GP Qualifying: 12am local time, 8am GMT

Saturday 18 November/Sunday 19 November
Las Vegas GP: 10pm local time, 6am GMT

Is the Las Vegas Grand Prix the first F1 race not held on a Sunday?

In short, no. Vegas will become the 74th official F1 world championship race to not be held on a Sunday as every day of the week has actually hosted one.

It began with the 1950 British GP on a Saturday, and the race continued to be held on a Saturday every year until 1975. Back then, it was quite common for world championship races to not be run on Sunday, especially when the Indianapolis 500 was officially part of the championship between 1950 and 1960.

Traditionally the Indy 500 was on 30 May, regardless of the day of the week, but if that fell on a Sunday then cars would race around The Brickyard the next day. This meant the Indy 500 used to happen on different days each season with it on a Tuesday in 1950, before being held on all of the other days in subsequent years.

As seasons went by, though, it became more of the norm for F1 grands prix to be run on Sundays. Vegas will be the first one not on that day since the 1985 South African GP, held on a Saturday, which is another race that used to alternate its days. In 1968, for example, it was even held on New Years’ Day which was a Monday.

Meanwhile, although it is the inaugural Las Vegas GP F1 has actually visited the city before but the event was held under a different name. The Caesars Palace GPs took place in 1981 and 1982 which were also on Saturdays.

The introduction of sprint races in 2021 added extra complexity, especially when it came to the championship. In 2023, Verstappen sealed his third drivers’ world championship after the Qatar GP sprint race on a Saturday, which made him the first driver to win the title not on a Sunday since Nelson Piquet in 1987.

The Brazilian triple world champion clinched it after Friday qualifying at the season’s penultimate round in Japan, as Nigel Mansell crashed heavily which ruled him out for the rest of the weekend meaning he could no longer catch rival Piquet in the standings.

Despite Piquet’s three championships, not one of them was won on a Sunday. His maiden title (1981) was clinched in Vegas on a Saturday, while Piquet’s second (1983) came in South Africa also on a Saturday.

Las Vegas venue was used in 1981 for Caesars Palace GP

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Las Vegas venue was used in 1981 for Caesars Palace GP

List of F1 World Championship races not held on a Sunday

*The list excludes sprint races

Race

Race winner

Day

1950 British Grand Prix

Giuseppe Farina

Saturday

1950 Indianpolis 500

Johnnie Parsons

Tuesday

1951 Indianapolis 500

Lee Wallard

Wednesday

1951 British Grand Prix

Jose Froilan Gonzalez

Saturday

1952 Indianapolis 500

Troy Ruttman

Friday

1952 British Grand Prix

Alberto Ascari

Saturday

1953 Indianpolis 500

Bill Vukovich

Saturday

1953 British Grand Prix

Alberto Ascari

Saturday

1954 Indianapolis Grand Prix

Bill Vukovich

Monday

1954 British Grand Prix

Jose Froilan Gonzalez

Saturday

1955 Indianapolis 500

Bob Sweikert

Monday

1955 British Grand Prix

Stirling Moss

Saturday

1956 Indianapolis 500

Pat Flaherty

Wednesday

1956 British Grand Prix

Juan Manuel Fangio

Saturday

1957 Indianapolis 500

Sam Hanks

Thursday

1957 British Grand Prix

Tony Brooks and Stirling Moss

Saturday

1958 Dutch Grand Prix

Stirling Moss

Monday

1958 Indianapolis 500

Jimmy Bryan

Friday

1958 British Grand Prix

Peter Collins

Saturday

1959 Indianapolis 500

Rodger Ward

Saturday

1959 British Grand Prix

Jack Brabham

Saturday

1959 United States Grand Prix

Bruce McLaren

Saturday

1960 Indianapolis 500

Jim Rathmann

Monday

1960 Dutch Grand Prix

Jack Brabham

Monday

1960 British Grand Prix

Jack Brabham

Saturday

1961 Dutch Grand Prix

Wolfgang von Trips

Monday

1961 British Grand Prix

Wolfgang von Trips

Saturday

1962 British Grand Prix

Jim Clark

Saturday

1962 South African Grand Prix

Graham Hill

Saturday

1963 British Grand Prix

Jim Clark

Saturday

1963 South African Grand Prix

Jim Clark

Saturday

1964 British Grand Prix

Jim Clark

Saturday

1965 South African Grand Prix

Jim Clark

Friday

1965 British Grand Prix

Jim Clark

Saturday

1966 British Grand Prix

Jack Brabham

Saturday

1967 South African Grand Prix

Pedro Rodriguez

Monday

1967 British Grand Prix

Jim Clark

Saturday

1968 South African Grand Prix

Jim Clark

Monday

1968 British Grand Prix

Jo Stiffert

Saturday

1969 South African Grand Prix

Jackie Stewart

Saturday

1969 Dutch Grand Prix

Jackie Stewart

Saturday

1969 British Grand Prix

Jackie Stewart

Saturday

1969 Canadian Grand Prix

Jacky Ickx

Saturday

1970 South African Grand Prix

Jack Brabham

Saturday

1970 British Grand Prix

Jochen Rindt

Saturday

1971 South African Grand Prix

Mario Andretti

Friday

1971 British Grand Prix

Jackie Stewart

Saturday

1972 South African Grand Prix

Denny Hulme

Saturday

1972 Spanish Grand Prix

Emerson Fittipaldi

Monday

1972 British Grand Prix

Emerson Fittipaldi

Saturday

1973 South African Grand Prix

Jackie Stewart

Saturday

1973 British Grand Prix

Peter Revson

Saturday

1974 South African Grand Prix

Carlos Reutemann

Saturday

1974 British Grand Prix

Jody Scheckter

Saturday

1975 South African Grand Prix

Jody Scheckter

Saturday

1975 British Grand Prix

Emerson Fittipaldi

Saturday

1976 South African Grand Prix

Niki Lauda

Saturday

1977 South African Grand Prix

Niki Lauda

Saturday

1977 British Grand Prix

James Hunt

Saturday

1978 South African Grand Prix

Ronnie Peterson

Saturday

1978 Swedish Grand Prix

Niki Lauda

Saturday

1979 South African Grand Prix

Gilles Villeneuve

Saturday

1979 British Grand Prix

Clay Regazzoni

Saturday

1980 South African Grand Prix

Rene Arnoux

Saturday

1981 British Grand Prix

John Watson

Saturday

1981 Caesar’s Palace Grand Prix

Alan Jones

Saturday

1982 South African Grand Prix

Alain Prost

Saturday

1982 Dutch Grand Prix

Didier Pironi

Saturday

1982 Caesar’s Palace Grand Prix

Michele Alboreto

Saturday

1983 British Grand Prix

Alain Prost

Saturday

1983 South African Grand Prix

Riccardo Patrese

Saturday

1984 South African Grand Prix

Niki Lauda

Saturday

1985 South African Grand Prix

Keke Rosberg

Saturday

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