Formula 1’s return to the dazzling lights of Las Vegas has come with a unique set of challenges and controversies. As Lewis Hamilton admits, not everything is shining brightly in the desert oasis.
Liberty Media, the owner of Formula 1, is facing down a barrage of criticism for the significant changes made to the city’s iconic landscape to accommodate the race. Greg Maffei, the CEO of Liberty Media, took an unusual step in publicly apologizing for the array of pre-event problems that have emerged. The preparation for the race has led to some drastic alterations to the Las Vegas Strip, including the removal of trees and the draining of the famous fountains at the Bellagio. Additionally, the Venetian resort’s gondoliers are out of action, as the canals have been drained, leaving parts of the Strip “unrecognisable,” as reported by CNN.
This transformation of the Strip and the ensuing disruption has sparked significant local discontent, as noted by Michael Green, a professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. He observed that the situation is “clearly causing a lot of uproar” among residents. This local dissatisfaction appears to have impacted ticket sales for the F1 event, which were initially priced at astonishingly high levels. Forbes reports that the cheapest tickets, originally set at $1,645, have been slashed to just over $800. Fox 5 Vegas also notes a decrease in local interest, possibly due to the late-night session times and colder weather conditions.
Amid this backdrop of discontent and controversy, Lewis Hamilton, the seven-time world champion and one of the sport’s most influential figures in history, voiced his concerns at a sponsor event in Las Vegas for Mercedes team sponsor IWC. Hamilton emphasized the importance of being considerate towards the local community. “I’ve heard there’s been a lot of complaints about the event being here from the locals,” he said. Acknowledging the hard work and wealth in the city, Hamilton stressed the need for respect and care towards the residents. “We’ve got to make sure people are taken care of,” he added, cautioning against the sport being perceived as a disruptive and glitzy circus that negatively impacts the local populace.