F1 snubs East Coast fans with Las Vegas Grand Prix race decision

Formula 1 has confirmed that this year’s inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix will be a late-night race. The main event starts at 10 p.m. PST and 1 a.m. EST, much to the annoyance of fans wanting to watch over on the East Coast.

Anyone planning to tune in for qualifying Friday faces an even later night. That does not get going until midnight local time (3 a.m. EST) before finishing an hour later.

Practice 2 on Thursday is also taking place in the same hour-long slot. Practices 1 and 3 are at the earlier time of 8:30 p.m. PST (11:30 p.m. EST).

The earliest of the events is the opening ceremony on Wednesday. That starts at 7:30 p.m. PST (10:30 p.m. EST).

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Those timings come on top of the race’s scheduling on a Saturday rather than the standard Sunday for the first time since the 1985 South African Grand Prix. And it has already been confirmed that the 2024 race in Las Vegas will again be a day earlier than is traditional for F1 fans.

That decision and those around the timings are to accommodate a European audience. Las Vegas Grand Prix CEO Renee Wilm admitted as much last September when explaining the decision.

“That was actually a compromise to make sure we are broadcasting at a time when our European fans can get up with a cup of coffee and watch the race six, seven in the morning, very similar to how we [in the US] watch the European races,” she said. “So that was actually a very important component of planning out our sequencing for the race weekend.”

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F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali defended the decision back in March 2022. “Formula 1 cannot be static,” he said after being asked about the decision by Autosport.

“To have a race on Saturday at 3 p.m., that would be a total mistake. That is the reason why we are flexible; we are showing that’s the right moment to have the best show in this context.

“I don’t see any problem on that. And if you think actually in terms of timing in Europe, the race time we have on Saturday is 10 p.m., Saturday night is perfect because, also, that audience will be connected. By the way, we could have done even earlier or later; everyone would have been connected that night with Las Vegas, no doubt.”

Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei shared the same stance at the time. He claimed the race would “find real happiness with all those teenagers that now have to get up on Saturday morning and Sunday morning and complain the races are on too early in Europe”.

“Now they’ll be able to stay up late on Saturday night and enjoy it,” Maffei said. However, confirmation of the race schedule has only led to fresh backlash from fans all over the East Coast.

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