In a move that surprised absolutely no one, Formula 1's resident enfant terrible, Max Verstappen, has taken the opportunity to unleash a blistering indictment against the sport's foray into the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas.
In a scathing critique that could cut through a dealer's deck of cards, Verstappen spared no one, from the questionable choice of venue to Thursday’s manhole pandemonium that left fans feeling like they'd been dealt a losing hand.
Finally, the Dutchman also questioned the general trajectory of the sport, pointing to F1’s preference in promoting a venue’s dazzling glow rather than enhancing the “passion and emotion” generated by the competition itself.
Verstappen warmed up for his caustic review on Wednesday when he took a bite out of F1’s flashy opening ceremony which he said made drivers look like “clowns”, adding that this weekend extravaganza was 99% for the show and 1% for the sport.
He also trashed Las Vegas’ street circuit, which he called “boring” and further elaborated on the topic on Saturday after qualifying which he concluded third behind the Ferrari’s of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.
"This is the Eredivisie, while Monaco is the Champions League," he said, referring to the Dutch football’s first division relative to the sport’s top European competition.
"There's nothing wrong with the Eredivisie, by the way, but everyone wants to win the Champions League, right?
"How [the event is put together] and how it looks, there is nothing wrong with it, but [the Champions League] is top of course."
The Red Bull driver was also unimpressed with how F1 and the Las Vegas GP organization handled its situation with the fans in the grandstands who had sat out Thursday’s ‘water valve cover’ drama only to be ejected from the premises ahead of FP2.
For the three-time world champion, the $200 voucher which was given to single-day ticket holders to spent in F1’s on-site shop only added insult to injury.
"Then they still make money! Great," he replied. "If I was a fan, I would tear down the whole place. This can't be right.
"Listen, if you look at those manhole covers and how that's put together, you just have to know that it would naturally come up when an F1 car drives over it. You really don't have to have a high IQ to know that.”
Verstappen then took aim at Mercedes boss Toto Wolff who went out of his way to defend F1 in the wake of Thursday’s manhole cover issue, suggesting the incident was inconsequential for the sport.
"Well, it shouldn't happen, but of course, it has happened a few times in recent years," Max said. "But if you know that at some point, you have to pay attention to it, and especially at a new event.
"You know, everybody is watching you, then you just naturally have to be on top of that.
"It's the same, if you were to say to us: 'You know, you do everything you can and then you turn into the wall. Oh well, it can happen'.
"No, of course it doesn't [just happen]. It just sucks. It shouldn't happen. But, you have to learn from that and you have to be able to take criticism."
Finally, the Red Bull charger bemoaned the lack of “passion and emotion” produced by Grand Prix racing’s new venues.
"When I was a little kid, it was about the emotion of the sport what I fell in love with and not the show of the sport around it. As a real racer, that shouldn't really matter,” he explained.
"A Formula 1 car on a street circuit doesn't really come alive. It's not that exciting. I think it's more about proper racetracks. When you go to Spa, Monza, these kinds of places, they have a lot of emotion and passion.
"Seeing the fans there, it's incredible. When I jump in the car there, I'm fired up. I love driving around these kinds of places."
Verstappen believes that F1 falls short in promoting the actual sporting competition, and relies instead on "random shows all over the place”.
"I understand that fans, they need maybe something to do as well around the track. But I think it's more important that you actually make them understand what we do, as a sport,” he argued.
"Most of them just come to have a party, drink, see a DJ play or a performance act. I can do that all over the world. I can go to Ibiza and get completely shitfaced and have a good time. But that's what happens [at races].
"People, they come, and they become a fan of what? They want to see maybe their favourite artist and have a few drinks with their mates and go out and have a crazy night out.
“But they don't actually understand what we're doing and what we're putting on the line to perform;” he added.
"If the sport would put more focus into these kind of things and also explain more what the team is doing throughout the season, what they are achieving, what they're working for, these kinds of things…
"I find it way more important to look at that rather than just having all these random shows all over the place. For me, it's not what I'm very passionate about.
"I like passion and emotion with these kinds of places. I love Vegas but not to drive in an F1 car."
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