The Las Vegas Grand Prix is a grand disappointment

The Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix happens tonight on the Las Vegas Strip. It’s F1’s glitziest, costliest event of the year — it also looks destined to be its biggest disappointment. 

Driving the news: Like countless Vegas visitors, F1 owner Liberty Group miscalculated a risky bet. The company lowered its profit expectations after ticket sales severely missed expectations, despite being the most expensive of any Grand Prix race this season. 

  • Ticket prices have dropped since going on sale — falling as much as 70% in some cases over the past month. Once-ludicrous hotel fees have also plummeted. 

Zoom out: The event has stirred the ire of the city’s residents for congesting traffic and accessibility. F1 actually had to issue an apology for all the disruption the race has caused. Track issues also forced drivers to delay a practice run until 4 a.m. earlier this week.  

  • Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz had struck a loose manhole cover — an embarrassing incident that forced paying fans to leave and also left Sainz’s car damaged.

Why it matters: The Las Vegas Grand Prix was supposed to be F1’s coronation moment celebrating newfound North American success spurred by Netflix’s F1: Drive to Survive and its cadre of likable stars. Instead, it looks like a harsh lesson about overestimating demand

  • The warning signs were there: F1 TV viewership is down 8% from last year on ESPN, while streaming viewership for Drive to Survive is estimated to be down 7%.
  • It also doesn’t help that F1’s best driver, Max Verstappen — who has openly hated on the event — already won the league, meaning this race is basically meaningless.

What’s next: F1 is signed on for the Las Vegas Grand Prix to take place at this same, every year, for the next decade. It isn’t the first ill-advised marriage to happen in Sin City.—QH