"There's a million countries that would like to have an F1 race," said the sport's commercial director Bernie Ecclestone to The Independent recently, "but they can't afford it." Las Vegas wouldn't fall into the latter category, but while not exactly a country unto itself, it is apparently at the top of the former list.
According to a report in the British newspaper, negotiations to bring Formula One back to Vegas after a 32-year absence are in advanced stages. Track designer Hermann Tilke has reportedly visited the city with an eye towards setting up a street circuit that would incorporate a run down the famous Las Vegas Strip. Just when it might happen, however, remains unclear.
The development comes amidst a resurgence of F1 racing in North America. As recently as 2009, there was not a single grand prix on our fair continent after the Canadian Grand Prix was dropped from the calendar. But that race returned in 2010, joined by a new US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, starting in 2012. And while the proposed race in the New York/New Jersey area seems to have stalled, a new race is set to join next year's calendar in Mexico.
If the Vegas GP shapes up, we'd be looking at four races in North America alone – a vital market for the series, its sponsors and participating automakers where NASCAR (which races at the nearby Las Vegas Motor Speedway) is the far more popular form of motorsport and even Indy Car arguably has a bigger following.
The last time the F1 circus visited Las Vegas was for the lackluster Caesars Palace Grand Prix, which was held on an uninspired track set up in the casino's parking lot in 1981 (when it was joined on the calendar by Long Beach) and 1982 (in parallel with races in both Long Beach and Detroit). The new race would have to offer a more engaging layout, but as far as locations go, Vegas certainly has the infrastructure to deal with the influx of tourists who'd come to town for the spectacle.