Las Vegas Grand Prix weather forecast, start times, calendar scheduling, and track layout
The Las Vegas Grand Prix promises to become one of Formula 1’s hottest events. It’s unfortunate that the race itself is expected to be quite cold.
The race will be one of six grands prix on the calendar to be run at night, but Vegas will set new ground as the latest race start in Formula 1 history, with the lights out scheduled for 10:00pm on Saturday local time.
The playoffs begin at the most unusual midnight on Friday.
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But this would not only make it the hottest race in history, it would also make it one of the coldest.
Las Vegas is located in southern Nevada, which lies within the Mojave Desert. So you might think that Vegas has sweltering hot days and cool nights, and you’d be right – for some time of the year.
Unfortunately November is not that time of year.
Coinciding with the onset of Las Vegas’ relatively short winter, temperatures in November reach an average maximum of around 19 degrees during the day – which isn’t bad – but drop to around 8 degrees at night.
The race forecast for this weekend is pretty much average.
Formula 1 is nominally a summer sport. That’s why every season begins and ends with trips to the Middle East and Southern Hemisphere, with Europe reserved for the central summer months – and even then, a nice weekend for a British Grand Prix can’t always be found.
The cars and tires are designed for much warmer weather than Vegas. But like it or not, temperatures below 10 degrees are what they’ll get.
It is not at all unprecedented for Formula One teams to deal with this type of weather. When pre-season testing is held in Europe, it is usually in similarly cold conditions. The 2020 Eifel Grand Prix in Germany also overcame a cold spell that meant race-day temperatures were on a Vegas scale – although at least that was during the day, when even diffuse sunshine can bring a slight rise in temperatures. Track temperature.
No such luck at night in Vegas, where extreme cold will be the prevailing setup issue.
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It can cause chaos around what could be a fairly clear circuit.
“The first major factor in Vegas will be the cold temperatures and tire runs,” said Riccardo Mosconi, Head of Trackside Performance. “We expect temperatures to be in the single digits at this time of year because we will be racing at night.”
Then there’s also the matter of the brand-new, super-smooth track surface to contend with.
“We don’t know exactly at this point what the combined type is,” Mosconi noted. “No one will know until we get to Vegas and start touring. I think this will be a staple of the weekend.”
Keeping Pirelli rubber within its preferred temperature window is what defines performance when it comes to tires. Usually it’s about keeping them calm. This weekend it will be about keeping them warm.
The low-power circuit design does not help the task.
There are at best three sets of moderately demanding turns here that can build up heat in the tyres: Turns 2-3 at Koval Lane, Turn 6 around the Sphere, Turns 10-11 at the far end of the circuit. There is also a grille straight up front that was picked up at high speed.
But any good work done there will be immediately undone by the three long straights, where the rubber cools quickly as the cars approach the big, key braking zones.
These large braking areas – specifically at Turn 1, Turn 5 and Turn 14 – are expected to be the main overtaking opportunities during the race. DRS will be enabled on the straights up to Turn 5 and Turn 14. Top speed on the straight is estimated at 340km/h but could reach 360km/h with DRS open and a strong slipstream.
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Think about what that means for race conditions. Cold tires, cold brakes, low grip tread. It’s a recipe for potential chaos that would only take one opportunistic dash to the inside to completely disintegrate – and since this is a traditional street circuit, the barriers are always dangerously close.
“The one thing we didn’t think about at first… was that it gets very, very cold at night,” former Formula 1 chief executive Ross Brawn told Talksport Radio in the UK, referring to early considerations of Las Vegas as a Formula 1 destination. Operating cars at these temperatures can be a challenge.
“We’re definitely facing some new challenges that we haven’t faced before.”
What that looks like in practice could throw you a real curveball over the weekend.
It may not be good reading for Red Bull Racing fans.
For all the strengths of the RB19, its biggest weakness is running the tires for the qualifying lap. It’s a feature, not a bug, the same quality usually pays off in race conditions with better tire life.
But this deficit will be greater in a path like this. Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez may need to try some new qualifying laps to ensure they are ready – more than other drivers anyway.
Although the RB19’s race pace is usually much stronger, there are no guarantees that it will be able to run the tires with anything resembling the same efficiency as other cars in time to deliver strong performance. This will make the car particularly vulnerable around pit stops, where warming up the tires will be strategically crucial.
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Companies like Ferrari and McLaren have struggled with tire wear throughout the season. This path and these conditions can be built for them.
“It’s just going to depend on how cold it gets,” Brown said.
“It’s very hard on the tires to get them going, or there might be grit and stuff. And sometimes you just have to wait for it to warm up a little bit. So, actually, having to race and qualify in those conditions will be interesting.”
“You just try to identify the risks at the new track, work out what the contingencies are going to be, and whether you need any kind of specific car specification to deal with that. We’re going through that at the moment.
“If it’s very cold in the forecast, it’s hard to know how the tires will perform.”
The Las Vegas circuit may not inspire you, but the weather can be its savior. And with the race scheduled for later in November next year, the cold could be the secret sauce to his longevity.
Why was the race delayed for first place?
Las Vegas has always been a night-only race, but on the face of it, the race’s midnight qualifying hour and 10:00 PM lights-out time are odd.
It’s great news for fans on the east coast of Australia, with qualifying starting at 7:00pm (AEST) and racing at 5:00pm.
That’s not good for fans on the US East Coast, who will have to brave the 3:00am and 1:00am times respectively to watch a race in their country.
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But there are several understandable reasons. The department says one of them is cultural.
“It’s no different (if you) think about boxing matches that start here in Las Vegas and are broadcast in New York,” Las Vegas Grand Prix CEO Rene Willem said earlier this year. “People stay up late to watch Saturday Night Live (11:30 p.m. New York time) and all kinds of events.
“While it’s not ideal for the East Coast, it’s certainly been successful for the West Coast; It worked for us.
The second reason is to take a comprehensive look at the time of the event. By running the race so late, the sport’s core European audience will face 7am on Sunday to watch the first Grand Prix in Las Vegas.
“If we go early, at 20:00, you are just closing the European market,” Willem said.
“We didn’t think this would be the right thing to do for these longtime fans.”
It’s also surprisingly good news the further east you move, including for the billions of underserved Formula 1 fans in Asia.
There was a time when Formula 1 featured the Pacific Grand Prix. Two non-championship events were held at Laguna Seca in California in the 1960s, and the concept was revived for points in the 1990s with a race in Okayama in Japan.
Start times at both places were at an acceptable hour for states with Pacific coastlines.
In an era where only one race is held in Asia and Oceania for every 1.46 billion people, it’s not a bad thing to see this side of the word get a scheduled win from Formula 1.
(tags for translation)South America