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Las Vegas GP: Max Verstappen and Red Bull face unpredictability of new F1 race as cold conditions descend on Nevada

Max Verstappen and Red Bull will be looking for a jackpot win in Las Vegas but the new track and unusual conditions could change the pecking order; watch the Las Vegas GP live on Sky Sports F1, with the action starting on Friday morning and Sunday’s race at 6am

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Lewis Hamilton says he is expecting a 'wild' weekend at the Las Vegas Grand Prix, and admits it will be hard to stay focused on the race.

Amid all of the glitz and glamour in Las Vegas, there is a Grand Prix to be won and you are probably thinking it's going to be another Max Verstappen and Red Bull walkover.

Well, think again. New tracks in F1 are always a head-scratcher for the teams and engineers because they can't rely on any past data from the track.

Vegas being a street circuit makes the track hard to learn for the drivers too because one mistake and you are in the wall.

Verstappen comes into the weekend looking to equal Sebastian Vettel's 53 career wins, which would put him joint third on the all-time Grand Prix winners' rankings, with Michael Schumacher (91) and Lewis Hamilton (103) only having more.

His confidence will be at as high as Vegas' Stratosphere Tower but even he will have some big obstacles to overcome if he wants to make it three wins from three in the USA this year.

Coldest F1 race ever?

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Naomi Schiff looks ahead to the Las Vegas Grand Prix and asks: could the cold weather throw a spanner in the works?

Us Brits love to talk about the weather, it's a copout when it comes to small talk. As excited as everyone is about the Las Vegas Grand Prix, most people won't be too happy about the single digit temperatures at night.

In the day, temperatures will be around 20 Celsius, but this will drop to 8-10 Celsius at night, when practice, qualifying and the race take place.

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The coldest F1 race was the 1978 Canadian Grand Prix when an air temperature of five Celsius was recorded in Montreal. It's no surprise to see Pirelli have brought the softest tyre compound to Vegas but it's going to be a nightmare for the teams to build tyre temperature.

Motorsport fans will know that one of the challenges of the famous Le Mans 24 Hours race is the tyres cool down on the long straights, something that will also be a problem in Vegas because there are three lengthy straights, including a 1.181mile (1.900km) flat-out section on the Las Vegas strip.

No event this year has seen temperatures anywhere near as what's forecast for Vegas, so the teams that can fire up their tyres quickly, like we sometimes see in the rain, will have a big advantage.

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Sky Sports News' Craig Slater takes a look at Formula 1's Las Vegas track and what we can expect from the 'star-studded' race.

"It'll just depend on exactly how cold it is," said Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin. "If the track is down in single figures, that's often a region where you go winter testing.

"You do a run, it's very difficult for the tyres to either get them switched on, or there may be graining and things. And then sometimes you just wait until it warms up a bit. So actually having to sort of race and qualify in those conditions, it will be interesting.

"You just try and identify the risks with the new circuit, work out what your contingencies will be, whether you need any sort of specific car spec to deal with that and we're going through that at the moment.

"But as I said, if it's at the very cold end of predictions, it's difficult to know how the tyres are going to work."

Image: The Las Vegas Street Circuit is the latest venue to join the F1 calendar

Will a Red Bull weakness be exposed?

Red Bull openly got things wrong for the heat and humidity in Singapore earlier this year, the only event they have failed to win. Vegas is at the other extreme end of the spectrum, cold and not many corners.

One of the strengths of Red Bull this year is the tyre wear, or lack of. In the hands of Verstappen, he is able to set a searing pace without too much tyre degradation and has cruised to victory on multiple occasions.

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However, it might mean in the cold temperatures, which we haven't really seen this year, Red Bull are vulnerable, especially over one lap, because they can't generate enough tyre temperature.

Remember Sergio Perez's Saturday at the Australian Grand Prix? I don't blame you if you don't. He had a nightmare day after going off three times in final practice and crashed out in Q1.

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With Formula 1 heading to Las Vegas for the next race, Max Verstappen gave his thoughts on racing along the iconic strip!

Perez's actual accident was likely down to a problem with the engine, but the way he struggled in practice, and Verstappen's own drivability woes that weekend, suggests the combination of cold weather and the 2023 Red Bull F1 car may not add up.

Temperatures in Melbourne were around the 16-20 Celsius mark and we haven't seen colder conditions in the dry this season, therefore any Red Bull weakness in the cold hasn't been fully exposed.

"We have no experience there. We don't know the track grip, it is all new, so maybe it will give a few surprises," commented Verstappen, who has won a record 17 races this season.

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Relive the action from the last time Formula 1 visited Las Vegas in 1982, as Italian driver Michele Alboreto took the win, with Keke Rosberg sweeping to his first title.

So who could beat Red Bull?

Lando Norris is in the form of his life with four podiums from the last five events. The one time he wasn't in the top three saw him brilliantly fly through the field in Mexico to finish fifth from 17th.

But, the biggest weakness of the McLaren car is slow-speed corners, which is going to be a problem around Las Vegas, where most of the turns are slow.

That said, McLaren didn't think they would be competitive last time out in Brazil, where there are consecutive slow-speed corners, but Norris is playing down his chances.

"I don't think we were expecting to be as competitive in Brazil as we have been. So we're still surprising ourselves. I gave up on guessing where we're going to be nowadays," said Norris.

"I mean, probably after Bahrain I didn't want to think of where we're going to be. But, it comes and goes. I think everyone expected Mercedes to be extremely strong in Brazil and they were nowhere.

Lando Norris
Image: Lando Norris has been Red Bull's closest challenger in recent F1 races

"[Everyone] expected Ferrari to be a bit more competitive and weren't, so I think no one really knows. Everyone just guesses and presumes but no one knows until we just get on track. So just let's wait and see."

Ferrari are the only team to beat Red Bull this year and I'm going to roll the dice and say they will push Verstappen for the win this weekend.

The most similar track to Las Vegas is Monza - long straights and slow-speed corners - where Carlos Sainz took pole position.

It was clear at Monza that the Ferrari has good mechanical grip and the drivers have confidence when flicking the car from left to right in the chicanes over the kerbs.

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Formula 1 heads to the Las Vegas Grand Prix, live on Sky Sports F1.

We saw this at Singapore too when Sainz was able to ride on top of the kerbs without any instability, which helped him on his way to victory as he held off Norris and the two Mercedes.

Charles Leclerc is a demon over one lap, especially on street tracks, just look at some of his laps around Baku and Monaco from the last five years - two of the most challenging venues on the F1 calendar.

He will be eager to bounce back from an engine issue which lost the car's hydraulics last time out in Brazil and the very best drivers can respond from setbacks with a big performance.

What about Mercedes?

Image: Lewis Hamilton says driving under the lights in Las Vegas will be like he's in a "casino movie"

Toto Wolff labelled Brazil as Mercedes' "worst weekend" since they returned to F1 in 2010 as George Russell retired and Lewis Hamilton dropped down the order to eighth.

Worryingly, Mercedes were down in the speed traps at Interlagos, which doesn't bode well for the long straights in Las Vegas. It's likely that Brazil was an outlier as Mercedes set the car up wrongly and the ride height was too high, following their disqualification in USA two weeks earlier.

Traditionally, Mercedes fare well in cold conditions and Hamilton is exceptional on the brakes, another key area to crack in Las Vegas with five big braking zones.

Hamilton has the ability to brake very late and his the brakes hard, without locking up, almost rolling the car into the corner, but still has good exit speed. That feeling is something you can't teach and if we get a repeat of the slippery Turkey 2020 conditions, where Hamilton claimed a seventh world title, Mercedes could come into the game.

The likelihood though is that the actual track surface will have enough grip and it will just be about bedding the tyres in, perhaps doing multiple warm-up laps in qualifying before going for a flying lap.

Las Vegas GP kerbs
Image: Las Vegas GP kerbs

When to watch the Las Vegas GP live on Sky Sports

Thursday November 16

  • 5:30am: Drivers' Press Conference (reshown at 8am and 10:45am)
  • 1:45pm: Las Vegas GP Opening Ceremony

Friday November 17

  • 4am: Las Vegas GP Practice One (session starts at 4.30am)
  • 7:45am: Las Vegas GP Practice Two (session starts at 8am)
  • 9:15am: The F1 Show: Las Vegas

Saturday November 18

  • 4:15am: Las Vegas GP Practice Three (session starts at 4.30am)
  • 7am: Las Vegas Grand Prix Qualifying build-up (also on Sky Showcase)
  • 8am: Las Vegas GP Qualifying (also on Sky Showcase)
  • 10am: Ted's Qualifying Notebook

Sunday November 19

  • 4:30am: Grand Prix Sunday: Las Vegas GP build-up (also on Sky Showcase)
  • 6am: THE LAS VEGAS GRAND PRIX (also on Sky Showcase)
  • 8am: Chequered Flag: Las Vegas GP reaction (also on Sky Showcase)
  • 9am: Ted's Notebook (also on Sky Showcase)

Get ready for the big one: Formula 1 in Las Vegas! See drivers race down the Strip, and past landmarks like Caesars Palace and the Bellagio, on F1's newest street track. Watch the whole Las Vegas GP weekend live on Sky Sports F1, starting this Friday with lights out on Sunday at 6am. Stream F1 on Sky Sports with NOW

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