A look back at Formula 1's early Las Vegas history

A look back at Formula 1’s early Las Vegas history

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Formula 1 racing has been in the Las Vegas valley before.
40 years ago, the series held a race in the old parking lot at Caesars Palace, where the forum shops now sit.

While organizers have a swell of support, in the early ’80s, the event was resisted from day one.

Bill Weinberger led marketing for Caesars Palace in the early ’80s. He was also President of the Grand Prix. Back then, the event was a tough sell.

“We had many false starts and lots of stop and go going on,” said Weinberger.

At the time, he recalls little support from Clark County, the state, or the other Las Vegas Strip properties.
But he was determined to make the race happen.

“We drew the track on the back of a placemat at Caesars Palace,” he added.

F-1 finally arrived in 1981 and cab drivers drove around the parking lot track to break in the asphalt.

It was a spectacle and still, Weinberger says most of Las Vegas was uninterested.

“As a casino event, it was a bust. We spent a lot of money and did not get the return we were hoping to get,” he said.

Now, the worldwide circus of F-1 is coming back to Las Vegas.

“A race on the strip at night is a fabulous idea,” Weinberger said.

This time, there seems to be support across the board.
But Weinberger is apprehensive the race can happen at all.

“It’ll be very exciting. Whether they can get it on, there are a lot of the same logistical issues from when we tried,” he tells 8 News Now.

There are still many questions as this new chapter nears such as, how do you protect the fans? How do you protect the drivers? How can you get the strip fit for race cars, and not just street cars?

“There are some real safety concerns that can all be solved, typically with money,” Weinberger added. “If you throw enough money at it, somehow you’ll figure it out.”

F-1 left two races into a 4-year contract.
Weinberger says even if the events were a bust, the promotion for Caesars Palace was worth millions.

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