Home » Formula One’s Las Vegas Experiment Already Off To A Terrible Start

Formula One’s Las Vegas Experiment Already Off To A Terrible Start

Aston Martin F1
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If you were betting on the F1 race in Las Vegas being a disaster then I’d consider now a good opportunity to double down on that wager. Last night’s first practice bled into chaos this morning as an errant manhole cover absolutely whacked a Ferrari and disrupted the whole event.

Oh, hello, your trusty Morning Dumper reporting here from the bottom bunk yet again (Jason is above, wearily attempting to squeeze out a Cold Start). We’ve got in-person trivia coming this weekend at the LA Auto Show, and most of the staff is passed out in other rooms, but expect a flurry of posts here in a couple of hours.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Besides F1 I suppose we should talk about unions and Tesla, a big Honda recall, and BrightDrop becoming part of GM.

Let’s do this thing.

What Happens In Vegas Does Not Stay In Vegas

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There are a lot of people seemingly rooting against the F1 race in Las Vegas this weekend. The locals are unhappy about traffic and overall displacement. Some fans see this as yet another expensive event they’ll never be able to attend. And some fans just don’t like new things.

This almost shoves me into the pro camp. We had a drought of F1 racing in the United States and now we get to enjoy three races on our home turf. That’s great. Also, as we learned from the Chicago Street Race, new events (especially on street circuits) always seem to be heading for disaster before eventually turning out great. It’s like in the theater, where a bad dress rehearsal always means a great show.

Well, F1 got its bad dress rehearsal last night/this morning. After staving off a looming strike and a massive drop in ticket prices, all things seemed calmer and cooler as Free Practice 1 began. Then this happened:

That’s right. Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz found a manhole cover that seems to have been sucked up by all the force of the F1 cars and absolutely destroyed his Ferrari. This led to a pissed-off Ferrari complaining that the mistake is going to cost them a fortune (and a penalty).

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Here’s ESPN on why this is bad:

It is a nightmare start to F1’s controversial race. The sport has spent $500 million on it in a rare deal that sees it be the promoter of the event.

Having annoyed locals through the construction of the circuit, it is one of the worst outcomes F1 could have had.

Even worse, the first track action of the race ended after a few minutes and sent the fans wondering what the hell was going to happen. F1 officials had to go to every cover on the 1.3-mile circuit and fasten the covers with quick-setting concrete. By the time that was done, it was so late that the track then had to boot all the fans for “logistical reasons” and eventually finish around 4 am so some of the roads could be reopened to commuters.

This seems bad and it is bad, but I appreciate long-time AP reporter Jenna Fryer’s take on it above. Things can always be worse.

Tesla’s Union Battles Continue

2024 Tesla Model 3 Front
Photo: Tesla

The simmering conflict between Tesla and organized labor is heating up on both sides of the Atlantic as Union Summer bleeds into Union Winter.

In the United States, Tesla scored a victory with an appeals court this week, overturning a National Labor Relations Board ruling over the banning of t-shirts with pro-union messaging.

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Specifically, Tesla required workers to don “team wear” shirts instead, which the company said better protected the paint of new vehicles.

From the AP:

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out a 3-2 decision issued last year by the National Labor Relations Board, which had said Tesla couldn’t prohibit union attire. The court opinion noted that Tesla allowed workers to affix “any number or size” of pro-union stickers to company-issued clothing.

“We may have concluded differently had Tesla prohibited union insignia,” read the opinion issued Tuesday by a unanimous panel of three 5th Circuit judges.

Seems reasonable. And how are things going in Europe? Well, Swedish dockworkers are refusing to unload cars. There’s a whole Reuters report on the showdown between Sweden’s industrial union and the company, but this seems ominous:

In addition to dockworkers, unionised cleaners are refusing to clean Tesla buildings and postal workers have stopped delivering mail.

On Friday, electricians stopped service and repair work for Tesla, including at its charging stations across Sweden.

Swedish workers are also supported by Norway’s Fellesforbundet, the biggest union in the country’s LO confederation.

Action against Tesla in Sweden is due to escalate further – if no agreement is reached – on Nov. 24 when about 50 unionised workers at Hydro Extrusions, a subsidiary of Norwegian aluminium and energy company Hydro (NHY.OL), will stop work on Tesla car products.

This is one to watch.

Honda Recalls Around 250,000 Vehicles Over Seizing Engines

2016 Honda Pilot

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Honda (and Acura) is recalling around a quarter-million vehicles over a potentially serious production flaw that can cause engines in some of its most popular products to seize.

From the NHTSA safety report:

During production of the crankshaft, due to improper settings of equipment used to manufacture the engine crankshaft, the crank pin was improperly ground, resulting in crank pins with a crown or convex shape that are out of specification.

If the connecting rod bearing seizes, the engine can be damaged and run improperly, stall, stop while driving, and/or not start, increasing the risk of a fire, crash or injury.

Not great, Bob. To date, Honda has had to service at least 1,400 cars with this issue, so it’s not rare.

From Automotive News:

The recall covers certain 2016 and 2018-19 Honda Pilot, 2017 and 2019 Ridgeline and 2018-19 Odyssey vehicles. It also covers two models from the Japanese automaker’s luxury brand, Acura: the 2015-20 TLX and 2016-20 MDX.

Only models with V-6 engines produced in the U.S. are affected, Honda spokesperson Chris Martin told Automotive News. About 30,000 vehicles are affected in Canada and Mexico, he said.

If you have one of these vehicles you should be notified soon so you can have your engine repaired and, possibly, replaced if there’s a sign of a serious issue.

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BrightDrop Becomes Part Of GM

Ryder Brightdrop Zevo 600
Photo: Brightdrop

One of the brightest parts of GM’s electrification experiment has been its fleet of BrightDrop delivery vans. Since it’s a wholly GM-created and owned company I just assumed it was part of GM. I guess that’s not the case?

I’ll let The Detroit News explain:

BrightDrop was born from GM’s Innovation Lab and was a wholly owned subsidiary for the last three years. In that time, BrightDrop produced a product portfolio of electric vans for customers like FedEx and Ryder using the “agility and innovation of a tech startup” with access to “GM’s deep manufacturing expertise,” the company said.

“As BrightDrop has matured, we are now bringing that ethos back to GM so our work is more efficient and so BrightDrop’s startup spirit can help fuel further success with GM’s commercial customers,” GM said in a statement.

I’m not sure I 100% understand this, but it basically sounds like BrightDrop is going to become more integrated into GM and everyone there is going to become a GM employee.

The Big Question

Are you hoping the F1 race in Vegas is a success or are you Team Chaos?

Lead Image: Aston Martin

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Arthur Flax
Arthur Flax
7 months ago

Vegas F1 was a great event, but it was missing one thing that would have made it the most awesomist sporting event ever.

A flyover of military aircraft.

My choice would be a squadron of B1 bombers, likely the loudest and most sinister planes on earth flying through the night, each plane festooned with LED American flags lighting the skies beneath their wings.

It would have been glorious!

‘Murica !

Strangek
Strangek
7 months ago

UPDATE: That race was awesome!!!!!

Bork Bork
Bork Bork
7 months ago

Toys’R’Us tried the same thing in Sweden as Tesla and lost. You can’t hire scabs to shield you from every union.

Bork Bork
Bork Bork
7 months ago
Reply to  Bork Bork

They also increased strike pay to 130% and said their funds will last for decades. Musk will not win this one.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
7 months ago

“If you were betting on the F1 race in Las Vegas being a disaster then I’d consider now a good opportunity to double down on that wager.”

GOSHDARNIT! I should’ve put that bet in months ago. Maybe I could get a GT3 Cup car, that cool house around the corner with the wooded lot, and no need to continue my hopeless job search. This thing had big Failtima energy from the start, from the not-for-Americans start times to the horrifically overpriced tickets and lack of support races.

Flush: I do want F1 (as a whole) to do well, but they need to contend with reality if they want to do that—especially in America. Las Vegas did not.

Last edited 7 months ago by Stef Schrader
...getstoneyII
...getstoneyII
7 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

On the surface it would seem that it wasn’t a great event, but there is another angle… check out this video on the money behind the LV race:

https://twitter.com/JoePompliano/status/1725921764046487737

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
7 months ago
Reply to  ...getstoneyII

To be fair, the actual race was fantastic. My local-to-Vegas friend who went had a blast regardless of the mess.

It’s a 10-year contract, so I think we’re stuck with it regardless. Dude makes a couple decent points about F1 having its HQ there and being invested on their own end as the promoter of this race (unlike most of its race calendar), but that does also shift the liability of “is this actually successful?” onto the series itself. It’ll be interesting to see if they want to keep that going—and how they do so—for the entire 10-year run.

The post-first-year curiosity drop is real. Miami was already down this year after fans felt like that weekend was overpriced and meant more for the #brands, and the vibe I got from Vegas was that the regular in-person fans were even less of a priority. (Hell, just look at its absurd not-meant-for-America schedule.) Even COTA, with better sight lines from fan areas, more space to put on a “festival” atmosphere with activities running the whole day, and a purpose-built track really, really struggled to keep its race going in its first few years. As in, it was a constant uphill battle to make THAT race sustainable.

I just don’t know if fans are going to keep going to Vegas unless they drastically drop ticket prices, run sessions at times when Americans are typically awake and maybe sweeten the deal with support series running around F1’s sessions. As it sits, it’s a garbage value on the fan side.

“Drive to Survive” seems is waning from its peak popularity now that we’re out of the peak pandemic era and can do other stuff besides watch TV. The midfield battles are great, but as Elizabeth Werth noted back at Jalopnik, it’s tougher to market a sport where one driver is so dominant all season long. Fans don’t like the feeling that we’re being price-gouged for everything at race weekends, either.

The U.S. fanbase may be way up now, but the series can’t forget that it’s been a fickle one in the past, and the risk of losing those new fans is a very real one. I really think F1 is really gonna have to strike a happy medium pricing- and amenities-wise to keep long-term attention. They’ve been doing better in recent years, but the challenge will be to keep that going. It’s a big expense to go to a race weekend, and it’s the bread-and-butter regular fans—not the celebs—who keep the lights on.

COTA already dropped GA tickets back down for ’24, for one, which I think is a good move. If you price people out for too many years, they stop even considering going to your event.

...getstoneyII
...getstoneyII
7 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Excellent points! I agree with everything you wrote except for the thought that it is the fans in the stands that keep the lights on. In the past, this would have been accurate but with how tech (i.e. internet exposure and corporate branding all the way down the integration chain) and the perceived value the manufacturers “receive” from having a team, it would seem that the in-person Local Joe fan is more of a nuisance/necessary evil. It’s the logos that are the ones cutting the checks. The fans just put a little in the metaphorical tip jar.

For me, it comes to mind how the NY Yankees treat their fans. Look at every home game they play and almost all of the fancy/good seats are empty. This is because they are corporately bought tax write-offs as entertainment expenses. The money, as everyone knows, is in the synergy of media and branding. Whether that translates to actual added revenue from the fans/viewers is up for debate, but that’s how F1 is making the doughnuts either way.

Hope you have a nice Monday 🙂

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
7 months ago
Reply to  ...getstoneyII

Yeah—it’s probably a different situation with the series putting on LV. For an individual promoter making its money on one weekend, fewer tickets sold = huge trouble. (COTA infamously propped up its numbers to stay afloat by booking Taylor Swift as a post-race concert, haha.) For a series mainly kept afloat by sponsorships and other revenue streams putting on its own event, that equation is likely a tad different.

...getstoneyII
...getstoneyII
7 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

For sure. When I was in college I had a little grass roots production company that put on concerts at local venues. I am well aware of the panic when a band is playing to a room full of crickets and wondering how the hell I was gonna pay them in anything other than lasagna. lol.

I’m glad your friend had a good time at the race 🙂 To put a pin on it, here is the post the same guy from above put up a bit ago about his experience there and a few facts on the final financials and how it DID kinda stink for the locals…

https://twitter.com/JoePompliano/status/1726632596006695263

Last edited 7 months ago by ...getstoneyII
Brian Ash
Brian Ash
7 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

They are only committed to a 3yr contract with possible extension to 10yrs.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
7 months ago
Reply to  Brian Ash

Ah! Missed that 3-year part. (I’m clearly enjoying my time away from the motorsports beat by *checks notes* trying to fix my race car. Welp.)

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