Formula 1

Viva Las Vegas

Viva Las Vegas

From dread to dazzling, the new 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix is a dream come true.

After more than 40 years of wishful dreaming, Formula 1 returns to Las Vegas, the sports and entertainment capital of the world, on November 16-18, 2023, for a dazzling spectacle of speed that slices through the neon heart of the city on Sunset Strip. It will mark the first time since 1982 that the United States hosts three Grand Prix in a Formula One season.

The new Las Vegas Grand Prix’s 14-turn 3.8-mile street circuit will weave past world-famous landmarks, casinos and hotels as drivers push their luck at speeds up to 212 mph, matching Monza, F1’s long-time ‘Temple of Speed’.

It’s an incredible leap for those who witnessed the 1981-1982 Caesars Palace Grand Prix, when the grandeur of Caesars Palace, and its frothing fountain and polished Roman colonnades, were swapped for the sun-scorched tarmac of the hotel’s parking lot to continue the traditional last race of the F1 season in the US.

© Motorsport Images

Back then, the classic season-ending Watkins Glen circuit in upstate New York, which had traditionally hosted the US Grand Prix so often in the past, couldn’t meet its financial obligations. Caesar’s Palace Hotel/Casino complex stepped up, offering to convert its parking lot into a temporary circuit for two years.

With 2.26 miles of flat race track, the Caesar’s Palace course switched back like a coiled snake squeezed between concrete barriers and high, wire catch fences in the burning desert sun. With no available shade, the Las Vegas spectators watched the action inside on closed-circuit TV while trying to make their fortunes on the roulette wheels and craps tables. The 1982 crowd count was less than 30,000, the smallest F1 attendance all year.

The circuit was raced anti-clockwise, and the preponderance of left-hand corners also caused plenty of discomfort among the drivers. Nelson Piquet, battling Carlos Reutemann for the World Championship in the final GP, wasted no time finding assistance from a boxing masseur to relieve the ever-present cramp in his neck after each session.

Piquet’s neck pain was bad enough to stop him from practising on Friday morning, but he forced himself into a fourth fastest 1:18.161 sec. lap on Friday afternoon.

© Motorsport Images

From their first practice laps both Williams FW07Cs of Alan Jones and Carlos Reutemann proved that Piquet had his hands full.

Reutemann, anxious to clinch the World Drivers' Championship, took immediate advantage of the comparatively cool weather conditions. He stunned his rivals with a scorching 1:17.821, at an average speed of 104.917 m.p.h. Jones couldn't find the speed to match, failing to break through the 1:18 barrier.

But the Australian was quickest on Friday when the weather was much hotter, lapping in 1:17.995 to ensure himself second place on the grid. When race day dawned as an absolute scorcher, the two William’s aces held a tremendous advantage at the head of the pack.

As usual, Gilles Villeneuve favored a different opinion but lined up his Ferrari slightly too far to the left, hoping to jump past the Williams duo. The stewards had other ideas and decided to disqualify him. When their decision finally reached the Ferrari pits, the Canadian driver was already attacking the track in the thick of the battle.

© Motorsport Images

The closing laps saw Piquet dropping to fifth place behind Mansell, with Laffite taking the final point from Watson. Title contender Reutemann couldn’t find the pace from the start and dropped to eighth ahead of the last finishers, Pironi, Rosberg, Patrese and de Cesaris.

Up front, it was all Alan Jones. He had been untouchable from the start and won his final career Grand Prix by a whopping 20s to stand on the podium's top step alongside Alain Prost and Bruno Giacomelli.

Nelson Piquet’s 2 points were enough to become the World Champion by a single point, but by the end of the race, he was so exhausted he had to be lifted from his car and accompanied to the podium. He could only sit in the press conference, dazed and with his feet in a bucket of cold water. Meanwhile, a dejected Carlos Reutemann offered a short remark about handling problems and left for the solace of his hotel room.

© Motorsport Images

Once again, the 1982 World Championship title came down to the final race, with John Watson arriving at the Caesars Palace GP battling Keke Rosberg for the World Championship. Lady Luck abandoned the Irishman as well.

Watson’s task was straightforward - he needed to win the Grand Prix, and Rosberg had to score fifth or lower. With that finish, both drivers would finish with equal points, but Watson would take the Drivers Championship, having won three GPs to the Finn’s single victory.

At the flag, Watson finished second while Rosberg scrambled under the blazing sun to take fifth and claim the 1982 World Championship by one point.

© Motorsport Images

The 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix promises to deliver a glittering spectacle and level of fan participation that the 80's Caesar's Palace could never imagine as it winds its way past iconic locations like Caesars Palace, the Bellagio, the Venetian while sharing one of the world's most famous pieces of road, the Sunset Strip. 

Viva Las Vegas, indeed.

© Las Vegas Grand Prix

Follow the link below to discover our 'Road to Las Vegas' page dedicated to the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix and featuring our latest poster collection created in cooperation with Formula 1® and other partners from the F1® grid.

Visit 'Road to Las Vegas' now!

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