Verstappen vs Vegas: A battle for F1’s soul

In Las Vegas, the showbiz razzle-dazzle normally overshadows the traditional. This weekend, it wasn’t on the casino floor or inside the incredible Sphere, but on the new Formula 1 street layout. And Max Verstappen has not shied away from expressing his views that F1 blurred the lines between a sport and a show – to put it mildly. Asked about his thoughts on the future of this event, Verstappen’s response was as sharp as his driving. “Give me an A4 piece of paper and I’ll write it all down for you,” he retorted, cynically. Verstappen is not just another participant in the F1 circus; he’s an advocate for its core values.

Jan Lammers, fellow Dutchman and the boss of the Dutch GP, echoes Verstappen’s sentiments. “For the purest like Max who comes purely for the sport, this is a heavy burden,” he shared with NOS. At 26, Verstappen still represents the new generation of drivers, but his concerns are deeply rooted in the tradition of the sport. He fears for the future, questioning the path Formula 1 is taking under the stewardship of its American owners, Liberty Media, especially in this new era of Netflix-driven popularity. “The sport is very popular now,” Verstappen observed, “so they can do whatever they want because people will keep coming anyway.” But the critical question he raises is, “What will it be like in ten or fifteen years?”

Verstappen’s outspoken stance finds an echo in the words of Formula 1 legend Alain Prost. “Formula 1 cannot turn into a pure show,” Prost warned, speaking to L’Equipe. The concern is clear: the sport’s integrity is at stake.

However, not everyone sees eye to eye with Verstappen. Some argue that Liberty Media’s approach is merely a means to increase F1’s appeal. But Verstappen counters, stressing that the strategy risks alienating the true fans of the sport. He draws a vivid analogy: “I can go to Ibiza and get completely sh*tfaced and have a good time. But then people come here for that and they become a fan of what? They don’t actually understand what we’re doing.”

His criticism doesn’t end there. Verstappen slammed the organizers for their handling of the manhole cover incident, accusing them of disrespecting fans by offering a $200 merchandise voucher instead of a refund – or even a sincere apology. “Fabulous. Then they still make money,” he scoffed. In a bold statement, he added, “If I was a fan, I’d tear the whole place down. That can’t be right.”

Verstappen’s comparison of the Las Vegas track to the Dutch Eredivisie, while acknowledging Monaco as the “Champions League,” further highlights his discontent. “Nothing against the Eredivisie,” he smiled, “But of course every footballer wants to win the Champions League.”

The Las Vegas visitors authority CEO, Steve Hill, offered a different take, suggesting Verstappen’s criticisms add “spice to the weekend.” Unimpressed, Verstappen hit back, “These people live in their own world.”

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