unconventional counter-clockwise layout
and desert heat at least provided the
drivers with a cocktail of discomforts to help
alleviate the boredom. Spectators and TV
viewers, faced with a tedious track set
against a backdrop made spectacular only
by the fact that it completely erased any
sense of Vegas glitter, had no such luck.
Yet in the two years it spent on the F1
calendar, Las Vegas hosted the season
finale. An Alan Jones win in 1981 helped
stymie Williams teammate Carlos
Reutemann’s hopes of beating Nelson
Piquet to the crown. A year later, Michele
Alboreto capitalized on a layout that
mitigated many of the disadvantages for
the non-turbos to win in his Tyrrell, while
Keke Rosberg’s fifth for Williams secured
his title over McLaren’s John Watson.
Neither was enough to energize the
event. Proposals for an F1/CART
double-header in 1982 might have
helped, had FISA not stepped in with a
rule that deep-sixed any support event
featuring open-wheelers of more than
two liters. Instead, F1 took its show
elsewhere, and the casino was left
counting its considerable losses. The
house always wins? Not this time.
F1’s fleeting presence
in Vegas and Phoenix
followed a blueprint set
decades earlier. Sebring
hosted the U.S. GP in
1959, but barely broke
even. Promoter Alex
Ullman bounced it to
Riverside for 1960, but
the title had already
been decided and Ferrari
didn’t bother attending,
Phil Hill finding a ride in
a BRP Cooper. Stirling
Moss (ABOVE) won the
and F1 never returned
to the California venue.
iberty Media has made no secret of its
desire to add another Formula 1 race in
the United States. Nor has it been shy
about its wish list. If international brand
recognition is the goal, are there any
cities in the U.S. that rank higher than
New York and Las Vegas?
Promoters on both sides of the
continent are trying to shepherd big ideas
toward reality. Each offers a potentially
unrivalled showcase for the sport – but
Vegas could also serve to correct one of
the more notorious missteps in the
American chapter of F1 history.
When the world championship first
rolled into Sin City 35 years ago, Las
Vegas was still yet to become what it is
today. So was F1. The latter had been
inspired to look west by snowballing
problems at Watkins Glen, while Vegas
was keen for a prestigious event to help
dilute its reputation as a seedy mob town.
As history now shows, the intersection of
those ideas turned out to be located in
the then-vast (and now completely built
over) parking lot next to Caesars Palace.
A hokey track that relentlessly doubled
back on itself kept average race speeds
down in the 100mph range, although the
F1 made a brief return to the south-west
in 1989, but this time the destination was
Phoenix. The event lasted three years.
CART inherited the Caesar’s Palace race for two
years after F1’s exit, and returned in 2007 with
a one-off street race in the downtown area.
Las Vegas: Bright
lights, high rollers,
good times. Or, a
parking lot with a
in the background.
Formula 1 hoped for
the former and ended
up with the latter
when it arrived in
1981 (LEFT). CART
briefly tried to make
a modified version of
the same track work
when F1 departed
after the 1982 race.
WHAT FORMULA 1 IN LAS VEGAS WHERE THE CAESARS PALACE PARKING LOT... WHEN 1981, 1982