‘I don’t like it at all’: Max Verstappen calls F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix ‘99% show, 1% sport’
(CNN) — As Las Vegas gears up to stage its first Formula One Grand Prix in more than 40 years, three-time world champion Max Verstappen appears unenthused by the prospect of racing in the glitzy host city.
Kylie Minogue, Journey and John Legend were among those who performed at the event’s opening ceremony on Wednesday, surrounded by bright lights, fireworks and an enormous F1 logo.
Step into the race paddock and you might also encounter several people dressed as Elvis, a “no money” casino, and even a wedding chapel, as well as the team’s names illuminated in neon lights.
But Red Bull driver Verstappen, who wrapped up his most recent world title last month, isn’t particularly enamored by the theater atmosphere on display in Las Vegas.
“I think it is 99% show, 1% sport,” Verstappen told reporters on Wednesday, according to Reuters. “They [Formula One] still make money if I like it or not, so it is not up to me.
“But I’m not going to fake it. I always voice my opinion in positive things, in negative things, that’s just how I am. It’s not really my thing. Some people like a show, I don’t like it at all.”
CNN has contacted F1 regarding Verstappen’s comments.
This is the first time since 1982 that Las Vegas has hosted a stop on the F1 calendar, and Saturday’s race will be held on a temporary street circuit taking place in the famous Las Vegas Strip.
Not all the drivers, who were introduced to the crowd via ascending and descending platforms during the opening ceremony, necessarily shared Verstappen’s view.
“I think there is room to do both [show and racing] and I hope we can do that this weekend,” Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc told Sky Sports.
“Of course, there has been a lot of show already with the opening ceremony. It’s a beautiful sport, but you also need to attract new people to this beautiful sport.”
Meanwhile, fellow Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz said that he has had a “fun week” having had the opportunity to play – and win – a golf event alongside PGA Tour star Justin Thomas earlier in the week, even though he later broke the winners’ trophy while celebrating.
The race will get underway on Saturday at 10 p.m. local time (1 a.m. Eastern Time), taking in 50 laps of the 3.8-mile street circuit, ahead of which there will be practice sessions on Thursday and Friday.
“I guess it feels a little bit different, a night race and a lot of glamor and all of this stuff,” said McLaren’s Lando Norris, “but inside, it’s just another race weekend.”
Verstappen has dominated this season, winning 17 of the 20 races so far and sealing the world title weeks before the end of the season.
Behind him in the standings are Red Bull teammate Sergio Pérez and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who is still looking for his first win this year.
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