My (bootleg) night at the Las Vegas Grand Prix

The Sporting Tribune's Will Despart writes about his adventure of trying to catch a glimpse of the Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix.

LAS VEGAS — Just like that, it’s all over. Years of planning, combined with months of construction and frustration for Vegas residents culminated with a week of some of the most extreme upscale debauchery imaginable. As one would expect.

The race itself was a formality. Max Verstappen of course took home his 18th Grand Prix victory of the season, extending his own record despite an early five-second time penalty and other issues throughout the drive.

I was among the majority of Las Vegans priced out of getting into the race, and one of the many media members lost in the sea of credential requests.

Still, I was determined to get as close to the action as possible. My logic was that we went through months of traffic delays for this billionaire fantasy spectacle, why not at least celebrate the night at a bar nearby?

I had low hopes of actually seeing any of the cars, given the absurd safeguards put in place by F1 brass to prevent passersby from catching a glimpse of the race. Which goes to say, I was genuinely shocked at how well last night went from a viewing perspective. Albeit a bootleg one. 

My friends Ryan, Kevin and I started our night at Bahama Breeze, an island-themed chain bar within eyeshot of the strip. The plan at that point was to consume a fair amount of adult beverages and take in the night from the party perspective. 

After a few Bahamaritas, we loaded ourselves into the Uber. We thought we were headed for Re:Match, a hotel bar inside The Linq with the barrier-covered track directly in front of it. I was told you could hear the cars and smell the tires from that spot, but you couldn’t really see.

Our Uber driver instead dropped us off in a designated drop off lot exactly 200 feet from that Bahama Breeze. He said that was as far as he could go and sent us on our way. 

We started walking up E. Flamingo Road with no real inkling of the scene that was up the road. About 30 minutes and some huffing and puffing later, we landed at Re:Match. The view was as advertised.

However, on our venture down the strip we noticed that every escalator we went up had a prime view of the track with no protective film or barrier covering it. After a few hands of virtual blackjack, we decided we should test our hand at scoping out some of those escalators and other lightly-covered corners to see which ones could get us the best view of the track. 

The Sporting Tribune's Will Despart writes about his adventure at the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
A pre-race escalator view by The Linq.

For about two hours before lights-out, we walked back and forth between The Flamingo and Treasure Island. We found a few sets of prime escalators and theorized that we would be able to see a good chunk of the race if we just kept walking a loop between them, going up and down as the cars hit our end of the track. 

Once the race started, security started bogging down the escalators. I’m not exactly sure if there was a safety reason behind this, but it didn’t seem so. Luckily, there was a quieter loop of escalators at the next footbridge over that actually allowed for a better view of the track as well.

For the first 20 laps or so, we traversed up and down the escalators, capturing truly insane footage of the cars on top of seeing it with our own eyes. 

On our way back to watch the remainder of the race at Re:Match, we noticed a crowd watching from the second level entrance of the shops at the Venetian.

Not expecting much, we made our way through the crowd. We hit pay dirt when a few people directly in front of us bailed on their spot. We moved right up to the railing on the balcony and got some great views and footage of the cars. It was probably the best view of the night.

At that point, we had clocked over 18,000 steps each and the Bahamaritas were weighing us down. We agreed to go back to Re:Match to catch the final 10 laps. 

Once Verstappen crossed the finish line, the three of us unanimously decided we were too spent to go out to the club afterward. I even got a pretty gnarly blister on my foot from all the walking. 

We made our walk back to our ride at Bahama Breeze as the grand fireworks show closed the race weekend.

On the car ride home, I found myself remarking at multiple points how pissed I would have been if I bought a $1,500 ticket for this race. Especially considering the amount we were able to see for the price of a lot of walking and a few drinks.