Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton (file pic). Alamy Stock Photo

Max Verstappen slams Las Vegas GP, Lewis Hamilton takes different view

The British driver has told critics to appreciate what happens at the event.

LEWIS HAMILTON has told Max Verstappen to stop complaining after his rival criticised Formula One’s maiden race on the Las Vegas strip as “99% show, and 1% cent sport”.

Verstappen’s controversial remarks — which will irk F1’s American owners’ Liberty Media following their estimated £400million (€457 million) gamble to bring the sport back to Sin City for the first time in 41 years — arrived just moments after a glittering Superbowl-style opening ceremony on Wednesday night.

John Legend and Kylie Minogue were among a number of high-profile artists to perform in a dazzling 30-minute show designed to kick-start the penultimate round of the season, billed as the greatest show on earth.

The grid’s 20 drivers were also presented to the crowd ahead of Saturday night’s 50-lap race which F1 executives are using to build on the sport’s growing popularity in the United States. The race in Nevada joins Austin and Miami as the third in America.

But moments after a fireworks display brought the curtain down on the glittering welcome party, Verstappen, crowned triple world champion in Qatar last month, was quick to pour scorn on the event.

“It is 99% show and 1% sporting event,” said the 26-year-old. “I was just standing up there, looking like a clown.

“I guess they (F1) still make money whether I like it or not. So it’s not up to me. But I’m not going to fake it.

“I voice my opinion on positive things and negative things. That’s just how I am. And you know, some people like the show a bit more. I don’t like it at all.

“I grew up just looking at the performance side of things. And that’s how I see it as well. I like to be in Vegas, but not so much for racing.”

However, responding to criticism, Hamilton, 38, said: “I hear there are a lot of people complaining about the direction that (F1 CEO) Stefano (Domenicali) and Liberty has gone. But they are doing an amazing job.

“The sport continues to grow. It is a business and you will still see good racing here. It is a country to tap into and really captivate the audience.

“We needed to have at least two races in the US, one wasn’t enough, and this is one of the most iconic and unique cities that they have here.

“It is a big show for sure, and it is never going to be like Silverstone, but maybe over time, the people in this community will grow to love the sport.

“Maybe the track will be good, and maybe it will be bad. It was so-so on the simulator. But don’t knock it until you try it.”

The debut race on the strip, which starts at 10pm local time, comes after three consecutive rounds in Austin, Mexico and Brazil and ahead of next weekend’s concluding race in Abu Dhabi – a weary time swing of 12 hours.

The circuit itself features 17 corners over 3.8 miles along the famous Las Vegas Boulevard, and against the backdrop of Caesars Palace, the Venetian and the Bellagio.

It is expected that the drivers will hit speeds in excess of 210mph, but Verstappen said: “The track is not very interesting with not many corners.

“It will depend a little bit on how grippy it is. It doesn’t look like there’s much grip.”

Verstappen has won 17 of the 20 rounds so far, while it is approaching two years since Hamilton, in his Mercedes, has tasted victory.

Hamilton, who will get his first taste of the street track in opening practice at 8:30pm local time on Thursday (4:30am GMT on Friday) continued: “From a racer’s perspective, you want to have the best show here.

“If the track provides a race like Baku — which is one of the best races with lots of overtaking — than that would be amazing, rather than just one car disappearing into the distance.

“Everybody I know in Hollywood is coming and there will be a lot of business going on this weekend.

“It will be a good spectacle to watch, even for those back home who have never been to Vegas. They will get to learn what it is all about.”

Press Association
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