Las Vegas Grand Prix: An Inside Look At Formula 1’s Glitziest New Home
Courtesy of Alpine

Formula 1

Las Vegas Grand Prix: An Inside Look At Formula 1’s Glitziest New Home

A deep dive into all the fast and furious festivities at Formula 1’s inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix.

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As Formula 1 took over Sin City for the first-ever Grand Prix on the Las Vegas Strip, NYLON was on the ground to take you inside the exclusive weekend, from the race track and paddocks to the afterparties and beyond.

Wednesday, November 14

My fellow writers and I arrive at the racetrack’s Paddock Club, the premium hospitality for VIPs and Formula 1 fans; imagine the nicest airport lounge you’ve ever seen, tucked away in a building shaped like the Titanic. I’m floored by the Paddock Club’s dinner offerings: there’s generous servings of lobster served with béarnaise, black truffle tagliarini, seared tuna, and more. I learn that tickets to the Paddock Club cost approximately $18,000 for the duration of the Grand Prix, which makes me consider getting a second round of lobster.

Instead, I head to Alpine’s balcony spot for the Opening Ceremony. Drivers come out of the freestanding stages in pairs and wave to the roaring fans in the grandstands and the many television cameras. I overhear someone say how this is just how Hunger Games trotted out their tributes, and I roll my eyes even though she’s mostly right. Kylie Minogue performs a rendition of “Padam Padam” and I am so overcome with excitement that for the rest of the week, people bring her up to me in conversation (I wear my Minogue Stan badge with pride!). The ceremony is an outrageous spectacle overall; Journey performs “Don’t Stop Believin’” and then stands watching in awe as Steve Aoki jumps around on the adjacent stage immediately after. I overhear someone else say how the Miami Grand Prix was painful and corny; they had nothing like this.

Kylie Minogue performing her hit single “Padam Padam.”Icon Sportswire/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images
Steve Aoki doing what he does best.ANP/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
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I receive my media pass — perhaps an even more crucial badge than my Paddock Club pass — and my photo has been cut off right below my collar bone and above my shirt so that I look completely nude. There’s nothing to be done except laugh out loud as I listen to an EDM remix of “When Doves Cry” and eat a decadent chocolate mousse.

At Alpine’s hospitality, where drivers and staff have downtime, I have a round table discussion with drivers Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly. They speak with other journalists about the more technical elements of the race — the simulators that mimic the race conditions they’ll experience on the track, how they think the Grand Prix will shake out, etc. — while I want to know how they sleep while constantly traveling through different time zones. Ocon’s personal physio, who monitors and tracks his sleep, is with him in Las Vegas, while Gasly shares what I consider to be an iconic pre-race ritual: He pounds an espresso, naps for 20 minutes, then wakes up laser-focused as the caffeine hits.

Eteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly, Segrio Pérez, and Max Verstappen grin in a selfie during the opening ceremony of the F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix.Alpine F1 Team

I’m especially curious about said subject because even though the sunset in Vegas is around 4:30 p.m., the practices, qualifiers, and actual Grand Prix go well into the night. As we head home for the evening, the Alpine team explains that they just wrapped their “lunch” at 10 p.m. Ocon’s physio, who I refer to as Dr. Tom, is pursuing a Ph.D. in jetlag, and shares tips on regulating our circadian rhythm. I desperately need it — it’s going to be a long week.

Thursday, November 15

Even though it’s only a three-hour time difference between New York and Las Vegas, I’m still feeling like a huge baby. I follow Dr. Tom’s advice on slowly adjusting to the sunlight and try to convince myself that I’m not tired. After getting some work done, I take an Uber down the Strip to The Cosmopolitan hotel, home to Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, arguably Nashville’s best chicken sandwich. But I’m also here on critical business: The Cosmopolitan is Vegas’ last bastion of Sex and the City slot machines. The game, to quote Samantha Jones, is fabulous; I play $60, lose it all, and then win it right back. When I’m triumphant, videos of a dancing Charlotte York light up the screen. I’m in heaven.

Fast forward to 8:30 p.m. at the racetrack, where the excitement for the first practice session is quickly deflated; Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr. drives over a loose drain cover, which damages his car and causes the stewards to cancel the session entirely. Thankfully, there is a fake casino on the premises where no real money is exchanged, a chapel, and an open bar with Blue Bottle espresso martinis, so I go where I can be of service. During the pit lane walk, I peek into every team’s garage and have a photo shoot with an Alpine car’s steering wheel. At a little past midnight, nothing more has happened and I decide to head back to the hotel, walking past a DJ in a booth shaped like a helmet playing Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” to no one.

Loose drain cover - 1. Ferrari's Carlos Sainz Jr. - 0.ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images
Alpine’s Pierre Gasly enjoying Las Vegas culture.ANP/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
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Friday, November 16

The next morning, I find out that the second practice race officially kicked off at 2:30 a.m. and that Paddock Club passholders who waited it out were escorted out by armed police officers and not given refunds. Vegas, baby!

I’m reminded of how fame is a prison when I find out that Gasly’s fangirls have been known to throw themselves on his car. Tonight, there’s an influx of influencers and everyone has an opinion on Red Bull driver and the season’s dominating force Max Verstappen. On one hand, I get it; he has an attitude and acts like he hates having fun, especially in a Heineken commercial for non-alcoholic beer that’s playing everywhere I turn. On the other hand, an old adage rings true: You know you’re that girl when you start all this conversation!

Everyone looks like a Selling Sunset extra, I tell a fellow writer. I’m half-right, as one of these extras was in fact Mary Fitzgerald herself. At the chapel, I watch an Elvis impersonator wed two mildly inebriated people and then renew the vows for an elderly lesbian couple. A magician who has been working the room makes his way over to me and the other writers, where he proceeds to do a level of magic which includes guessing my birthday, address, and the location of my dream vacation spot. I feel like I had my identity stolen. I brush it off and return to the Paddock Club, where I almost physically collide with The Oppenheim Group’s most camera-ready twin, Jason Oppenheim, and his latest AI-generated date.

The qualifying race at midnight is exciting to watch from the Alpine balcony; the cars zoom by, as fast and loud as airstrikes. While Ocon ends up 16th on the grid, Gasly is toward the front at fourth. Race night can’t come soon enough.

Icon Sportswire/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

Saturday, November 16

Saturday night’s energy is electric. Paparazzi are staked outside the Paddock Club entrance, and when I ask if they’re waiting for someone in particular, the answer is no; they want anyone they can get. I’m concerned for the people who have dressed for the Las Vegas portion of the night without considering the racing aspect. Has a Grand Prix ever seen this concentration of stiletto heels before?

At Alpine’s hospitality, Gasly’s model girlfriend inquires about his whereabouts and is informed that he’s napping. The area is a speedrun of celebrities; I see Lewis Hamilton and Patrick Dempsey within moments of each other, while my phone lights up to a video showing Kelsea Ballerini somewhere in the vicinity. There are whispers that Rihanna is in the building and everyone gets giddy. Alpine investors like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia actor Rob McElhenney and Oscar winner Renée Zellweger are also hiding around somewhere, but it’s time to head back to the Paddock Club and catch the main event.

F1 fans talked a lot of smack about the Las Vegas circuit, quick to dismiss it as style over substance; Verstappen even likened it to clownery. To the former, I say: How are you hating from outside the track? You can’t even get in! The race is exhilarating in person; my adrenaline is pumping even though I’m standing still. We watch the drivers bolt by in flashes of color and turn to the screens to understand what’s actually happening. McLaren’s Lando Norris has a dramatic crash that quickly raises the stakes. From inside the Alpine garage, I’m amazed at the speed at which the engineers and mechanics work during pit stops that barely clock in at five seconds. Everyone is matching in bubblegum pink and electric blue gear, courtesy of brilliant and hype collaboration with Palace and Kappa. Regardless of how the race plays out, no one else can claim the title for best-dressed team in my eyes.

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As the race reaches its final 10 laps, I sneak out to the bathroom and thank God for being at the right place at the right time: Rihanna is standing 10 feet away from me in the Paddock Club hallway. She’s immediately mobbed, though half of the people surrounding her don’t recognize her in blackout shades and caramel hair. She’s gone before the rest of the Paddock Club catches wind of her movement. Now I really feel on top of the world. In the final lap of the race, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc overtakes Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez, and the crowd goes nuts. Mercedes-Benz driver George Russel gets a five-second penalty for knocking into Verstappen’s car, which bumps up Olcon into fourth place for the ultimate dark horse arc.

With the race over, there’s only one thing left to do: party. I’m told the roving Amber Lounge is F1’s official and most exclusive afterparty, so we’re off to The Venetian club Voltaire Belle de Nuit, where it’s taking place. The writers and I arrive at 2 a.m.; they’ve spent the last few days patiently teaching me everything I need to know about F1, and now it’s for me to return the favor by sharing the gospel of Kylie Minogue. A half-hour later, the stage darkens and Australia’s most important global export takes us on an out-of-body disco voyage. Cara Delevingne is front row and knows all the words and by the time a contortionist comes out to wow us with his shocking level of core strength during an interlude set to “Magic,” I feel like I’m levitating. At 55, Minogue could wipe the floors with most of today’s pop girls, and they’d be on their knees thanking her for it. By the time the first pulses of “Padam'' reverberate through the club, it’s physically impossible to feel tired. Minogue closes out the set with her 2001 smash hit “Love At First Sight'' and we’re all left deliriously happy. It’s almost 4 a.m. when we exit the club to the jingling cacophony of slot machines. Time feels more malleable than ever; the only concrete thing I know is that it’s viva, Las Vegas, now more than ever.

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