Lewis Hamilton has urged his Formula 1 rival, Max Verstappen, to refrain from complaining about the inaugural race on the iconic Las Vegas strip. Verstappen had expressed his skepticism, labeling the event as ’99 per cent show, and one per cent sport.’

Verstappen’s critique, coming just after a dazzling Superbowl-style opening ceremony featuring performances by John Legend and Kylie Minogue, might not sit well with F1’s American owners, Liberty Media, who invested an estimated £400 million to bring the sport back to Sin City after a 41-year hiatus.

Despite the glamorous kickoff event, Verstappen quickly dismissed the spectacle, stating, “It is 99 per cent show and one per cent sporting event. I was just standing up there, looking like a clown.” He expressed his preference for a focus on the performance side of racing, noting, “I like to be in Vegas, but not so much for racing.”

Responding to Verstappen’s criticism, Hamilton, aged 38, defended F1’s direction under CEO Stefano Domenicali and Liberty Media. “I hear there are a lot of people complaining about the direction that Stefano and Liberty has gone. But they are doing an amazing job,” Hamilton stated. He emphasized the growth of the sport as a business and the necessity to tap into the American market.

“We needed to have at least two races in the US, one wasn’t enough, and this is one of the most iconic and unique cities that they have here,” Hamilton added. While acknowledging the spectacle and uniqueness of the Las Vegas race, he conceded, “It is never going to be like Silverstone, but maybe over time, the people in this community will grow to love the sport.”

Hamilton encouraged an open-minded approach, saying, “Maybe the track will be good, and maybe it will be bad. It was so-so on the simulator. But don’t knock it until you try it.”

The debut race on the Las Vegas strip, scheduled for 10 pm local time, follows three consecutive rounds in Austin, Mexico, and Brazil. The circuit spans 3.8 miles along the famous Las Vegas Boulevard, offering a backdrop of iconic landmarks like Caesars Palace, the Venetian, and the Bellagio. Verstappen expressed reservations about the track, citing a lack of interesting corners and uncertain grip levels.

As the F1 season approaches its conclusion with the Las Vegas race and the subsequent finale in Abu Dhabi, tensions between Hamilton and Verstappen continue to add intrigue to the competition. Verstappen currently holds an impressive record, winning 17 of the 20 rounds, while Hamilton seeks to break a two-year victory drought in his Mercedes.