The Las Vegas Grand Prix isn't really a race where understatement serves any purpose. This, without question, is a big one. It represents F1's chosen direction of travel: Grand Prix as a global spectacle.
On a different level, it's just another race, albeit one with some very specific peculiarities. A night race, a new circuit, and temperatures unfamiliar to F1's usual sun-worshipping schedule. That creates new challenges but also new opportunities.
Team Principal Mike Krack has got plenty to say on these subjects – but also on a terrific weekend in Brazil that rounded off our triple-header in spectacular style.
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This is Mike on…
"The three weeks of the triple-header were tough. We're on the road, we have two Sprints, a new package and finding performance was a struggle – so to finish with a double-points finish and a podium in Brazil was a great result for everybody. We couldn't have been much lower than a double DNF in Mexico, so to bounce back a week later felt very good.
"A couple of weeks ago, you may recall I was talking about this: saying it matters less where we finish up than it does that we turned around the trend. You can't do that much better than getting on the podium. I'm not writing off these final two races, but for me, that's ticked a box. It would be nice to add another, but overall, it's not a season where we can complain. I'm happy for everyone involved who has pushed really hard.
"We've worked well together as a team. Everyone focused on the same goal. This podium is one the whole team can be proud of. You learn a lot when you're going through the sort of pain we've been going through. We haven't been too proud to question our decisions, rigorous in the desire to properly understand if the steps we are taking are correct.
"I think we handled that process well: the car in Brazil was competitive from the first time we left the garage, Qualifying was well-executed on a difficult afternoon and, from those good grid positions, a certain dynamic appears: drivers become more positive, the team is more confident, and you build on that session by session.
"The Sprint was a setback but it didn't really hurt our confidence: we knew we were better than the results suggested but it's difficult to make your way through those DRS trains. When the car was in clear air, however, it was closing down the gaps rapidly. I felt confident for the race – though I didn't dream we'd finish on the podium.
"I do feel like we've been through something over the last couple of months. As a team, you have to experience phases like this. You struggle on the performance side of things, you have to adjust the way you work, the way you communicate with each other. It's been, perhaps, a learning exercise for all of us. And quite an interesting exercise: you learn a lot when you see how the team reacts when it is under real pressure."
Jumping into the unknown
"Before arriving in Vegas, I really didn't know what to expect. I've been here before – but not for about 20 years, and it's changed quite a bit. The teams aren't arriving here completely blind: everyone does their due diligence. On the performance side, that's lots of offline simulation and work in the driver simulator. At an organisational level, we've had people coming out to the city for months: we look at the facilities; understand where the freight will go, how the garages are set up. We're not expecting any surprises as a logistic exercise. The track, however…"
"Experience of a circuit accumulates over years so right now, our experience of the Las Vegas Strip Circuit is… zero. F1 teams are quick learners, though. It isn't going to be warm, but it isn't going to be too cold either: we're not expecting temperatures to drop below 10°C. The tyres will struggle for warm-up, but we'll find ways to make them work. The layout is a cross between Monza and Baku. It's going to be quick."
The hard yards
"Circuit, downforce level, grip, tyres… this is a lot of work but I think the biggest challenge will be the time zone and the scheduling. First, we go onto Pacific time, which, coming out from the UK is an eight-hour change, and that's tough. Tuesday, everyone works the normal day, and then moves onto night shifts – and that's really tough."
The bigger picture
"It's more than 40 years since F1 was last in Las Vegas. Those early '80s races, won by Alan Jones and Michele Alboreto are getting a lot of airplay this week. The instinct that says this is a place that will respond to F1 is the same – but this new race is a magnitude bigger in terms of commitment. This race is important for Formula One. They've taken on huge responsibility by promoting it themselves and invested a lot in a race that will be here for at least 10 years.
"The commitment is obvious: they want to grow the sport in the US, but there are some quarters of the paddock that often disparage this ambition. In Miami, we had the driver presentation which ruffled a few feathers and came in for criticism. I think we need to be more receptive and positive to new ideas.
"We need to be more open and think about what we can do to ensure the sport continues to develop. We're here to put on a great show, so let's put on a great show.
"I think perhaps Americans are well ahead of us in this regard. NFL started to understand these things a while ago, and we're just starting to catch up now. The AMR23 has starred on the Sphere this week, spectacularly lighting up the Las Vegas skyline – but what we really need to do as a sport is get out of our own little bubble."
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