Esteban Ocon looks ahead to this weekend’s Las Vegas Grand Prix held under the bright lights and razzamatazz of the famous city strip.
How do you reflect on an intense last triple-header and what are the goals for the remaining two races?
Esteban Ocon: The triple-header in Austin, Mexico City and Sao Paulo was an intense test for everyone in Formula 1 and I think, as a team, there was much to learn but also many positives to take from those weeks on the road. In the end, it was satisfying to have both cars in the points in Brazil and that will of course be the aim again this weekend. With two races left this season, we will keep our heads down and work hard to find ways to improve both in Qualifying and in the Race. Having spent some time with the team over the last few days, I know we are all hungry and motivated to finish the season on a high and I will give it my maximum effort to do so.
How do you recover and then to prepare for Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi?
EO: After a long trip like that, it is always important to recover physically and mentally, and spend some time with loved ones. However, very quickly, our attention turned to Las Vegas, and doing everything we can to prepare for this much-anticipated race. I spent time in the gym preparing physically and I was also back at base in Enstone for various meetings and sessions in the simulator. We chose to fly a bit earlier to the US this time and I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days in Los Angeles for the first time, which was very nice. I was also fortunate to visit the impressive UFC Performance Centre in Las Vegas ahead of the weekend to learn a bit more about a sport I love and some of the science behind it all. It was a great few days and I feel ready to get back in the car and experience what should be a fantastic new experience for everyone at the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
What are your thoughts on racing in Las Vegas?
EO: It does not get more exciting than this! We’ve been talking about Las Vegas for a long time now and it is great that it is finally here. Vegas is such an iconic city that I think everyone must visit at least once and to have a Formula 1 race here still doesn’t feel real! It will be a very busy weekend for everyone, but our focus will be to perform on track and do our best to achieve a good result. Obviously, no one has properly driven around here yet so it will be a bit of a surprise for most of us once we actually get out there for the first Free Practice session. From what we have seen, it looks like an interesting track with a left-hand hairpin at Turn 1, some medium speed corners and a very long straight on full throttle. We will be pushing hard for a good weekend on track, and we hope to have an entertaining Grand Prix for all the fans who will be watching us race in Vegas and around the world.
After a strong Sunday recovery drive in Brazil, Pierre Gasly heads to Las Vegas determined for another haul of points in the bag.
After scoring strong points in Brazil with an impressive recovery drive, how do you assess that race weekend?
Pierre Gasly: It was a very good result for us at Interlagos and a much-needed recovery drive to go from fifteenth on the grid and into the points. It was not an easy Sunday but we made it work and, in the end, had a satisfying outcome. We had to avoid the chaos at the start and then reset the mind for another standing start after the red flag, which is never easy to do. We then managed the two-stop strategy well, made some good overtakes and, in the end, came away with a deserved result.
What did you do during the week off?
PG: It was certainly good to take some days off to relax at home. That said, it’s only a very short break as we also had to apply some time in preparation for the final two races of the season. I was in Enstone last week for some engineering meetings and simulator work, which was good, and then it was time to fly to Las Vegas early in the week due to the schedule demands. I managed to fit a little bit of golf in, ready for the Netflix Cup, but that is part of my plan for unwinding and taking some time to chill.
How challenging is it to prepare for a completely new circuit and race?
PG: We are all heading into the unknown with this Grand Prix as it’s a completely new venue and a unique circuit. It’s certainly a challenge but we’re all in the same position. We don’t truly know what the circuit will be like to drive until we hit the track in Free Practice 1 on Thursday. I spent some time in the simulator to learn the layout and, I must say, it’s a unique lap. There are some long medium speed corners, hard braking zones, fast kinks and then the very long straight down the Las Vegas strip. I think at night with all the lights that will look pretty spectacular! I’m excited for it and we’ll do our best to adapt as quickly as we can to the new circuit and potentially tricky conditions.
What are your general expectations for the race weekend?
PG: I really have no idea what to expect there. I think it will be such a cool and special event, it will be about enjoying everything that comes and just appreciating the spectacle of it all. It’s quite amazing to have our sport basically taking over one of the world’s most famous cities. There will be bright lights and big off-track activations but, we are there to race and when I enter the Paddock and get in the car, it will just be business as usual. I’m keeping focused, I have some goals in mind to finish the season on a high note and I’m really looking forward to it.
Las Vegas Grand Prix Factfile
The 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix will see both Qualifying (00:00) and the Grand Prix (22:00) run on the same day. The last time this occurred was the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix.
Esteban will make his 132nd race start this weekend, tying the career total of Eddie Cheever, who coincidentally finished on the podium for a French constructor wearing a blue paint scheme (Ligier) in F1’s last visit to Las Vegas in 1982.
Pierre has finished seventh or better in four of the last eight Grands Prix, his best run of the 2023 season. His current run began with his podium finish at Zandvoort.
Pierre finished in the top eight in both the Miami and US Grands Prix this season, with an additional seventh place in the Austin sprint.
The Las Vegas Grand Prix is the first time a Formula 1 Grand Prix has taken place on a Saturday since the 1985 South African Grand Prix at Kyalami. Formula 1 races were not always held on weekends, and as recently as Spain 1972 they would even be held on Mondays.
Renault locked out the front row on F1’s last visit to Las Vegas in 1982, when Alain Prost was over one second clear of everybody else except teammate Rene Arnoux, at the wheel of the turbocharged RE30B.
The Enstone team made their F1 debut in the same season that Las Vegas hosted its inaugural F1 at Caesar’s Palace in 1981. Racing under the Toleman name, team driver Derek Warwick became the only driver to-date to make his Grand Prix debut in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas is the third race in the USA this year, following on from Miami and Austin. It is only the third time one nation has held three championship races in the same season, the most recent being Italy during the pandemic-affected 2020 season. The other occasion was 1982, when Las Vegas was part of a US trifecta with Long Beach and Detroit.