Las Vegas Grand Prix Organisers Overestimated American Interest In Formula 1

High expectations for the city's high rollers.

Las Vegas Grand Prix Organisers Overestimated American Interest In Formula 1

Image: Getty

The inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix is expected to be the “biggest sporting event of the year,” but with a surplus of tickets and prices around the Strip plummeting, it’s clear event organisers vastly overestimated Formula 1 fans’ willingness to spend big.

When you seek to maximise profits by capitalising on renewed interest following the success of Netflix’s docuseries Drive to Survive; charge increased rates for merchandise during the two other North American circuits; terraform the iconic sights and skyline of Las Vegas Boulevard; erect structures to obstruct the view of the race for businesses who refuse to pay a licencing fee; and build temporary areas to accommodate the enclave of visiting Formula 1 fans, challenges are bound to arise.

But just a week away from the Las Vegas Grand Prix and Formula 1 fans are anticipating a race event that will undoubtedly be a spectacle like no other.

With a proposed Opening Ceremony set to rival the pomp and ceremony of the Super Bowl Halftime Show, boasting global megastars such as Kylie Minogue, and Mark Ronson, the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix has been promoted more like a week-long festival than a traditional racing event… but fans clearly haven’t felt compelled to spend big.

“When you consider a location such as Las Vegas, which is known for the pinnacle of entertainment, and you marry that with the glamour that is Formula 1, our week is going to off the charts.” Las Vegas Grand Prix CEO Renee Wilm said on the F1 Nation podcast. “We are going to absolutely set an entirely new standard here.”

With musical artists and performers, world-class food and entertainment and the many salacious delights for race-goers to revel in amongst the iconic Vegas strip, the Las Vegas Grand Prix will certainly be one for the history books. But just days away from the launch of this momentous racing event, Formula 1 organisers have clearly overestimated the interest from American fans.

Tickets are still available just a week out from “the largest sporting event in the world this year” as McLaren’s American boss Zak Brown labelled it; the prices, initially the most expensive throughout the entire 2023 calendar, are falling on the resell market and plenty of big-money hospitality and entertainment packages are up for grabs.

Of course, money talks – and this is no truer than in Sin City, the Entertainment Capital of the World. In 2022 alone, Forbes reported that “the Las Vegas Strip led the state in revenue last year (2022) with $8.28 billion USD (~$12.73 million AUD), which is up 17% from $7.96 billion in 2021.” There’s no doubt that F1 and Liberty Media were looking to capitalise on the host high-rollers that come to Vegas to play.

Now, with a surplus of tickets, prices have been slashed by around 60% for daily “Get-In” rates and hotels, that were once raising their prices by 1380%, are now seeking to salvage potential losses from inflated prices.

Pressure has mounted on Formula 1 and its Liberty Media owners for the disruption caused to locals and their town; if they are starting to feel the financial pinch, they’re not revealing it just yet.

“I want to apologise to all the Las Vegas residents and we appreciate that they have their forbearance and their willingness to tolerate us,” Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei said to Fox 5 Vegas.

“We’re going to bring something like $1.7 billion of revenue to the area. So it’s not just for the benefit of fans who want to view. We hope this is a great economic benefit in Las Vegas. We hope this is the most difficult year with all the construction that went on and things will be easier in the future.”

It remains to be seen whether we’ll see a sold-out grandstand come race day; but even with an excess of tickets on secondary markets, indications suggest the Las Vegas Grand Prix could surpass every previous Grand Prix in revenue, which would certainly solidify this race as one of the biggest events in the history of the sport.