Glitz over grit: Verstappen not the only F1 ‘clown’

Bathed in neon lights, the Las Vegas GP has become a focal point of contention among top Formula 1 drivers. The event, conceptualized as a spectacle of entertainment, has drawn sharp criticism from world champion Max Verstappen and his peers, who question the balance between the sport’s integrity and its commercialization.

Verstappen, known for his candidness, did not mince words in expressing his views: “99 percent show, 1 percent sporting event,” he described the Las Vegas GP. His critique extends to the layout of the track, which he finds “not very interesting or exciting.” The Dutchman’s discontent was further amplified by the event’s opening ceremony, making him feel like a “clown” due to the orchestrated fanfare – with more mandatory attendances at similar events now to follow.

Echoing Verstappen’s sentiments, Lance Stroll of Aston Martin expressed his discomfort with the extravaganza, stating, “I didn’t sign up for this part of it at all. I just like racing cars, not trying to be a Hollywood star.” Stroll’s words reflect a growing concern among drivers about the evolving nature of Formula 1 under the stewardship of Liberty Media.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz added his voice to the chorus, noting the increasing demands on drivers: “We are adding races to the calendar and it’s getting to a point where I think, sometimes, everything feels a bit repetitive and everything feels a bit over-packed and we’re trying maybe to overdo it a bit.” Sainz also raised concerns about the health of drivers and staff, often overlooked in the face of a grueling schedule.

Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri shared his apprehension about the rapid timezone transitions, revealing, “In my life it’s going to be the first time I’m moving from one side of the globe to the complete opposite side within a few days. So I don’t really know how I’m going to be feeling.” Oscar Piastri, a rookie, agreed, suggesting that the organizers should consider these aspects more carefully.

Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg highlighted the lack of driver influence in decision-making: “Obviously right now we have no seat at the table, no power and it would be a nice thing to be part of it and a stakeholder,” he admitted.

The issue extends to the fans as well. Lewis Hamilton empathized with the Las Vegas locals affected by the event, and Daniel Ricciardo expressed concern for fans facing high ticket prices. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc concurred, warning against alienating fans due to exorbitant costs.

This collective stance from Formula 1’s top drivers signals a crucial moment for the sport. It underscores the need for a recalibration, where the essence of racing takes precedence over spectacle, ensuring the well-being of drivers, staff, and the loyal fan base that has supported the sport through its evolution.

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