May 29, 2024

F1 saturates Las Vegas: Renee Wilm, the event chief executive, discusses closing The Strip and GP’s $1 billion impact.

Watch the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix on November 17–19, with every session broadcast live on Sky Sports F1! Chief executive officer Renee Wilm of the Las Vegas Grand Prix walks Sky Sports F1 through the steps that brought the well-known city back onto the Formula 1 calendar.

Renee Wilm, the race’s chief executive, provides Sky Sports F1 with an inside look at how the event came to be ahead of this weekend’s Las Vegas Grand Prix.

The narrative of Vegas’ comeback to Formula One (F1) started in 2021, when the success of Netflix’s Drive to Survive and an exciting championship match between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton propelled the sport to unprecedented levels of popularity in the United States.

The American company Liberty Media, which owns the worldwide commercial rights to Formula One, was thinking about the best ways to make sure that the momentum that had been created across the pond wasn’t lost.

According to Wilm: “So about two and half years ago, I started coming out to Las Vegas to meet with the regulators and the property owners in order to get their buy-in on basically shutting down the strip for what we knew would be an epic event.”

One of the biggest challenges Wilm and her team faced was getting that buy-in, which obviously required compromise from the city’s residents as well as the owners of Vegas’ many illustrious institutions.

“Once we were able to gain traction and support for our project, we announced that we would be holding the first-ever Las Vegas Grand Prix in March of 2022 and from that point forward, it has been full speed ahead,” Wilm explains.

For the first time, Liberty Media was self-promoting an F1 event, so Wilm left her job as chief legal and administrative officer to lead the new initiative.

A gazillion justifications for holding the event

In the end, more than just good intentions persuaded the influential people—perhaps most importantly, some of the iconic venues extending along The Strip—to consent to an unparalleled interruption of their regular business operations.

Even though there are plenty of tourists in Las Vegas on a typical weekend, the arrival of F1’s all-star audience and clientele should theoretically offset any inconvenience experienced by businesses.

Wilm clarified, saying, “With the assistance of our consultants, we have calculated that we will generate $1.2 billion in economic value for the valley that weekend.

That also includes all of the staff that we have hired, all of the money that our neighbourhood partners will bring in, and of course the taxes that are being paid for the benefit of Clark County and the state of Nevada.

“There will be a significant economic impact from all of this.

“I think our partners, including our founding partners, MGM, Wynn, Caesars, are very excited about bringing their level of Ultra VIP Entertainment and hospitality to the F1 fan base.”

Furthermore, some of the city’s busiest roads have received renovations because of F1.

“We have re-asphalted the entirety of the 3.8-mile track,” Wilm stated. “That includes much of the public right of way as well as the private land that we Liberty Media acquired on the corner of Harmon and Coval, which is the home of Formula One in North America and houses our brand new pit building.”

Drivers will be relieved to avoid heat-related racing.
How the cars’ performance might be affected by the comparatively chilly evening temperatures has been one of the main topics of discussion leading up to the event.

While the other night races on the calendar are held in nations where the heat persists long after the sun sets, Formula One travels primarily in tandem with the sun.

The predicted temperature for the cars’ arrival at the racecourse on Friday night (local time) and Saturday night (local time), respectively, is around 10 degrees Celsius.

Since the 1978 Canadian Grand Prix, when the temperature dropped as low as five degrees Celsius during the race, it looks likely to be the coldest race in the history of the sport.

Wilm isn’t too worried about the conditions, even though they will undoubtedly present some difficulties for drivers and teams, primarily in maintaining their tyres within the ideal operating window.

“I think the drivers will be quite happy to not be racing in the tremendous heat that they have experienced of late,” she stated. “You can always put layers on, it’s hard to take layers off.”

“And we have been working closely with the teams, the sporting department at Formula 1 and having conversations with Pirelli to ensure that we will have a high-quality degree of racing and that the tyres that will be brought to town for this event have been carefully chosen, given the variety of temperatures that could be experienced at night here in November.”

For the spectators, Wilm states: “The electricity and the excitement that will be coming off the track and just the throngs of people that are going to be enjoying the race weekend together, I think will definitely raise temperatures enough so everyone will be comfortable.”

And it’s for you, if you’re wondering why the race is starting so late! The race and qualifying were televised live over breakfast for European ‘legacy’ audiences, who would otherwise have to stay up late to watch in the middle of the night.

Thus, Wilm explains, “We Americans wake up early, have a cup of coffee, and watch the European races.” “And now that is essentially being reversed and we would invite everyone in Europe to enjoy watching what will be a historic event with their morning coffee.”

An entirely new degree of interest and amusement
The organisers hope to give attendees an unparalleled experience in addition to a show that will undoubtedly look amazing on television.

“I think we are bringing a Formula 1 race weekend to a whole new level of fan engagement and fan entertainment,” Wilm stated.

“We’ve done things very differently than any other race on the schedule. For instance, Wolfgang Puck, the renowned chef, provides all-you-can-eat, non-alcoholic food and beverages for our general admission and grandstand guests.

Because they bought a ticket, fans have the chance to interact with the event and enjoy themselves without having to wait in large lines or shell out a lot of money for food. In essence, we are welcoming them and giving them a fantastic experience on schedule.

“Our Paddock Club is the biggest event scheduled for the year, and we have spared no effort to provide an ultra-VIP hospitality experience paired with the distinctive entertainment of Las Vegas.

“So think about the roaming Cirque du Soleil’s and Blue Man Group and just really creating this new level of entertainment that we’re hoping will set a new standard across our calendar.”

For the time being at least, Wilm and Liberty media are hoping that the event will be the last piece in their American jigsaw.

“You look at the three American races, each with its own unique identity,” she stated. “The American heartland is Austin. Miami, the glitz and Lati flavourn; and now, Las Vegas, the epicentre of glitz, to be married quickly.

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