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Formula One’s inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix last November was one of the biggest events in the history of the sport.

F1’s owner, Liberty Media, invested over half a billion dollars to make the race happen, taking the sport to the very heart of Las Vegas by racing along the famed Strip.

The event was largely deemed a success, recovering from a bumpy start where a track issue forced first practice to be canceled after just eight minutes to end with one of the most exciting, closest races of the 2023 season.

Post-race, drivers talked up the success of the event, particularly the track layout, but noted the need for change in some areas for the second running in 2024.

The race start time of 10 p.m. PT (1 a.m. ET) marked the latest lights out in F1 history. The decision to start the race at 10 p.m. was always driven by seeking a compromise that would suit the local fans in Las Vegas and the bulk of F1’s audience watching in Europe on Sunday morning,

The timings challenged the entire paddock. All the track sessions started after nightfall, forcing the drivers, mechanics and other team personnel to shift their work and sleep patterns accordingly.

It was a big ask, particularly after the delayed second practice did not finish until 4 a.m. on Friday, with qualifying then only starting at midnight on Saturday. RB driver Daniel Ricciardo said people felt “delirious” because of the timings, while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc said it was “a bit on the limit”.

Last month, Las Vegas announced that it had tweaked the practice and qualifying schedules for 2024. FP2 and qualifying will now also start at 10 p.m., two hours earlier than last year, to bring the schedule in line with the race start, which isn’t moving.

Renee Wilm, the CEO of the Las Vegas Grand Prix, said the shift would “help mitigate some of the challenges that the teams had with the timezones” for 2024. But she was confident that 10 p.m. remained the best start time for the race.

“With regard to the actual event itself, on Saturday night, that 10 p.m. start time, we do continue to believe is the right start time,” Wilm told The Athletic.

“It aligns with some of the biggest shows and prize fights that happen in Las Vegas on a weekend by weekend basis.

“It also creates the opportunity for our legacy fans in Europe to be able to watch the race with a cup of coffee, just like we do here in America (for European races), and allow them to really be part of that weekend.”

Wilm said she was “extremely pleased” to see the Las Vegas Grand Prix enjoy such a strong TV viewership even with the late start time, particularly on the East Coast.

ESPN reported an average of 1.3 million viewers, making Las Vegas the sixth most-watched race of the season and the third-highest on cable.

“The viewer levels were terrific,” Wilm said. “It was one of the highest-watched races of the year.

“So when you consider the local nature of the entertainment schedules, our legacy fans around the world, and then you consider what we’re trying to accomplish here in North America, we just continue to triangulate around 10 p.m. being what we think is the appropriate start time.”

(Lead photo of the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix: Bob McCaffrey/Getty Images)



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