Formula 1’s increasing footprint in the United States could lead to a third race, potentially in Las Vegas, being added to the calendar in the coming years.
The publication of the 2022 calendar commits the inaugural Miami Grand Prix to the schedule and sets F1 up for its first season with two races in the United States since 1984.
Expanding F1’s reach in America has been a key target in the Liberty Media era.
It was in the past, too, hence Bernie Ecclestone’s failed effort to launch the New Jersey Grand Prix – so Liberty has already enjoyed more success in making a dent in the US than its predecessor.
The advent of the popular Netflix docuseries Drive to Survive has regularly been cited as an important asset in that quest and the gruelling process to get the Miami race on the calendar shows how important F1 thinks it is to have more US races.
Not just more US races, either – the right ones. Hence the reference to ‘destination races’ you might be familiar with.
Miami stands for everything F1 is trying to achieve and a race in Las Vegas would tick the same boxes: another race in America, in a defining location.
F1 and Vegas do not have a happy history and the suggestion of a return to the casino-filled city might concern fans who remember the Caesars Palace Grand Prix less than fondly.
The race was an F1 world championship round twice, in 1981 and 1982, using a miserably repetitive layout in the car park of the famous hotel that gave the race its name.
A modern-day Las Vegas Grand Prix would be highly unlikely to repeat the same mistakes.
It is understood that a Vegas race, with a street track potentially incorporating its famous Strip, is one of F1’s next major priorities along with a second grand prix in China.
Adding another race in China could depend on whether Formula 2 driver Guanyu Zhou gets onto the grid, though, whereas a third US race fits with F1’s goals regardless of the nationality of its participants.
F1 has not had three races in the United States since 1982 – coincidentally, the last time Vegas was on the calendar.
The city has been linked with an F1 race on various occasions in the intervening years but without any notable progress.
Amusingly, a party involved in the last attempt of the Ecclestone era remained a thorn in Liberty Media’s side too.
A lawsuit was filed against this would-be promoter who claimed a conversation with Ecclestone years ago constituted a verbal agreement to promote a future race, so they had been speaking to other parties claiming to be representing a potential Las Vegas Grand Prix.
That matter has now been resolved and it is believed that F1 is, even if only tentatively, officially exploring the possibility of a race with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
This government agency is the power player in Vegas, which as a resort city relies extensively on tourism – something that has suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The LVCVA has worked to bring various major sporting events to the city, including the NBA All-Star game, WWE SummerSlam, Concacaf Gold Cup and even the 2022 NFL Draft, while Vegas itself has been the home of NFL franchise the Raiders since 2020.
F1 is believed to feel confident a grand prix would fit the Vegas portfolio and the right kind of Las Vegas Grand Prix could be a very good addition to the world championship as well.
There are likely to be plenty of hurdles to clear on both sides if such a race was ever to materialise but it is said to be an option that interests both parties.
In the Liberty Media era that tends to be enough for an idea to at least be seriously pursued.