After working through the night with Ferrari engineers and mechanics in a furious, last-minute attempt to repair the damaged car in time for Saturday night’s race—and navigating a frustrating penalty imposed by the sport’s governing body, essentially for having to use a replacement part to fix something that was either an act of God or a fault of the track infrastructure—Vasseur spoke his unvarnished truth about the impossible situation at a press conference, whereupon the host then attempted to pivot to a cheerier subject.
“I was in this mood,” Vasseur says. “And then the guy said, ‘Ah—could you do a summary of the season?’ I said, ‘No—fuck that.’”
Around the same time, Max Verstappen—the sport’s intermittently humorless world champion three years running, who’s already been declared the champion a fourth time after a dominating 2023 season—called the Vegas race “99% show, 1% sporting event.”
“I understand fans need something to do around a track, but it is more important to make them understand what we do as a sport,” he continues, a day later. “Most come to just have a party, drink, see a performance. I can do that all over the world—I can do Ibiza and get completely shit-faced and have a good time.”
Leclerc seems to understand this take, but from the other side of the coin, as it were. “I came here three years ago with all of my best friends,” he tells me, “mostly to party—and we had an incredible time. I love Vegas. Obviously we’re here now for a different reason—but the hype around the race is what makes it so special. It make it more fun.”
After the Wednesday night opening ceremony festivities, which featured everyone from Kylie Minogue and Andra Day to John Legend and Keith Urban, along with all the drivers gathered together, Verstappen had already said: “For me, you can skip this… We are just standing up there, looking like a clown.” Twenty-four hours later, he’d step into his car in a racing suit designed in homage to Vegas-era Elvis.
If I learned anything from my three days spent at the rococo heart of the Las Vegas Grand Prix, it’s this: If you’ve got a problem with clowns, best stay away from the circus. The city of Las Vegas—along with its armada of hotels, resorts, and casinos, along with the owners of Formula 1—has spent billions of dollars and many years building to this moment, and they were ready. My accommodations at the Wynn included three days of Paddock Club passes—which came packed in a large box with two tiers of pull-out drawers, each of which contained various laminates, individually arrayed in presentation boxes, delivered to me by an attendant wearing white gloves. When I checked into my room, a large chocolate sculpture of the Wynn was waiting on the desk, and individual treats—from more chocolates to Ladurée macarons, to race merch and a Chinese pineapple cake from the Wynn’s Wing Lei restaurant—were presented at regular intervals. Lewis Hamilton was pouring his new nonalcoholic tequila at one of the bars downstairs and opening a pop-up shop of his +44 Murakami apparel collaboration around the corner; The Chainsmokers were DJing one space, Calvin Harris and Diplomat another. As for the paddock itself: It included a wedding chapel replete with an Elvis impersonator to marry you, if you so wished. (Several couples did, including 1997 F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, who was taken by surprise by his girlfriend, Giulia Marra, as “Elvis” sang “Here Comes the Bride.”)
The race also featured Formula 1’s first-ever red carpet, which was kicked off by Vegas stalwarts Donny Osmond and Wayne Newton, who were followed by everyone from Patrick Dempsey—who stars in Michael Mann’s wondrous Ferrari movie, for which the Wynn hosted a special screening the day before the race—to Cara Delevingne (who, while a fan, tells me she was seeing her first F1 race in person), will.i.am, Casey Affleck, Lindsey Vonn, Paris Hilton, and soccer legend (and Ferrari fan) Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Also here: Brad Pitt (currently playing an F1 driver in a feature, slated for 2025, that’s been being filmed at stops along the F1 circuit, including here), Justin Bieber, Lupita Nyong’o, Usain Bolt, Kylie Minogue, Axl Rose, David Beckham—who, when I press him for his rooting interest, played the diplomat and simply says, “Everyone”—and Star Wars auteur George Lucas.