Formula 1 makes a long-awaited return to Las Vegas, marking the first time since 1982, but not everyone is thrilled about it. Despite Max Verstappen securing the driver’s world championship several races ago, the final showdown in Abu Dhabi awaits. As the drivers gear up to race around the iconic Las Vegas strip, Verstappen, however, is far from impressed with the event’s emphasis on spectacle.

In a candid statement, Verstappen criticized the Las Vegas Grand Prix, stating, “99 percent show and 1 percent sport,” a sentiment expressed after the grand opening ceremony where he felt like a ‘clown.’ Voicing his concerns about the overall direction of the event, Verstappen urged for a greater focus on the essence of the sport.

“I think if you would actually put more time into the actual sport and what we are actually trying to achieve here,” Verstappen remarked during a press interaction. “As a little kid, we [drivers] grew up to be a world champion. If the sport would put more focus onto these kinds of things and also what a team is doing, what they are achieving, and what they are working for, then these kinds of things are way more important to look at than having all these random shows all over the place.”

Verstappen’s criticism extended beyond the event itself, as he took a swipe at some Formula 1 fans and the Las Vegas track following the qualifying session on Friday. Expressing frustration, he emphasized the importance of helping fans understand the intricacies of the sport rather than turning it into a party atmosphere.

“I understand that fans maybe need something to do as well around a track, but I think it’s more important that you make them understand what we do as a sport,” Verstappen remarked. “Most of them just come to have a party, drink, see a DJ play, or a performance act – I mean I can do that all over the world; I can go to Ibiza and get completely s***faced, you know?”

The weekend faced an embarrassing setback when the first practice session for the Las Vegas Grand Prix was canceled. The cancellation occurred after Esteban Ocon of Alpine collided with a drain cover, rendering the track unsafe for further driving. Formula 1 officials were quick to address the situation, with an FIA spokesperson stating, “Following inspection, it was the concrete frame around a manhole cover that has failed. We now need to check all of the other manhole covers, which will take some time.”

The spokesperson continued, “We will be discussing with the local circuit engineering team about the length of time it will take to resolve and will update with any resultant changes to the schedule.” As Formula 1 navigates challenges in its return to Las Vegas, Verstappen’s outspoken critique adds another layer to the ongoing conversation about the balance between spectacle and the true spirit of the sport.