Lewis Hamilton has told Max Verstappen to stop complaining after his rival criticized Formula 1’s first race on the Las Vegas strip as ’99 percent show and one percent sport’.
Verstappen’s controversial comments – which will irritate US F1 owners Liberty Media following their estimated £400 million gamble to bring the sport back to Sin City for the first time in 41 years – came just moments after a glittering opening ceremony Superbowl style on Wednesday night.
John Legend and Kylie Minogue were among a number of high-profile artists to perform in a dazzling 30-minute show designed to kick-start the penultimate round of the season, billed as the biggest show in the world.
The 20 drivers on the grid were also presented to the public ahead of Saturday night’s 50-lap race, which F1 managers are using to build on the sport’s growing popularity in the United States.
The Nevada race joins Austin and Miami for third in America.
Lewis Hamilton (left) responded to Max Verstappen’s (right, left in photo) criticism of the Las Vegas Grand Prix, with the world champion moaning that he felt like a ‘clown’ during the opening ceremony
Las Vegas provides an iconic backdrop for the first Sin City Formula 1 race since 1982
But moments after a fireworks display brought down the curtain on the glittering welcome party, Verstappen, crowned three-time world champion in Qatar last month, was quick to pour scorn on the event.
“It’s 99 percent show and one percent sporting event,” said the 26-year-old. ‘I just stood there and looked like a clown.
‘I think they (F1) are still making money whether I like it or not. So it’s not my fault. But I’m not going to fake it.
‘I give my opinion on positive and negative things. That’s just how I am. And you know, some people like the show a little more. I don’t like it at all.
“I grew up looking at the performance side of things. And that’s how I see it too. I like being in Vegas, but not so much for racing.”
However, Hamilton, 38, responded to criticism: ‘I hear there are a lot of people complaining about the direction that (F1 CEO) Stefano (Domenicali) and Liberty have gone. But they do a great job.
‘The sport continues to grow. It’s a business and you’ll still see good racing here. It is a country to tap into and really captivate the audience.
Kylie Minogue was one of the high-profile music artists who performed on Wednesday night
F1 stars should embrace the spectacle that comes with a racing return to Las Vegas
“We needed at least two races in the US, one wasn’t enough, and this is one of the most iconic and unique cities they have here.
“It’s certainly a big show, and it will never be like Silverstone, but maybe over time people in this community will come to love the sport.
“Maybe the job will be good, and maybe it will be bad. It was so-so on the simulator. But don’t knock it ’til you try it.”
The debut race on the strip, which starts at 10pm local time, comes after three consecutive rounds in Austin, Mexico and Brazil and comes ahead of next weekend’s final race in Abu Dhabi – an exhausting 12-hour time change.
The circuit itself features 17 corners over a length of 6.1 kilometers along the famous Las Vegas Boulevard, against the backdrop of Caesars Palace, the Venetian and the Bellagio.
The expectation is that the drivers will reach speeds above 330 km/h, but Verstappen said: ‘The circuit is not very interesting with not many corners.
‘It will depend a bit on how grippy it is. It doesn’t seem like there’s much traction.”
Verstappen has won seventeen of the twenty laps so far, while it has been almost two years since Hamilton tasted victory in his Mercedes.
Hamilton arrived looking sharp in a stylish black overcoat, gold jewelry, black boots and soft black and orange tones
McClaren star Lando Norris was seen at one point trying his luck at the roulette table
Hamilton, who will get his first taste of the street circuit in opening practice at 8.30pm local time on Thursday (04.30 GMT on Friday), continued: ‘From a racer’s perspective you want to have the best show here.
“If the circuit offers a race like Baku – one of the best races with a lot of overtaking – then that would be great, instead of just one car disappearing into the distance.
“Everyone I know in Hollywood is coming and there’s going to be a lot of stuff going on this weekend.
“It will be a great show to watch, even for those at home who have never been to Vegas. They will learn what it’s all about.’