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FeaturesHot Takes

Here are our favorite F1 drivers as Las Vegas hotels, right on time for the Vegas Grand Prix

Well, that was interesting. In case you missed it, early this morning, we East Coasters witnessed Carlos Sainz’s car spark into oblivion after hitting an unsecured drain cover in the first free practice on a freshly constructed track. The Vegas Grand Prix could very well be a total disaster. With 3-day passes dropping to as low as $1,000 days before the race and frequent backlash and criticism from city locals, this experiment might have been a major miscalculation for Formula 1.

With free practice three later today/tomorrow morning, who knows what this race will have to offer? I certainly hope they figure out all the mishaps to keep drivers and fans safe. It might still be fantastic, but things at the moment do not look good. And people make fun of me for turning down the opportunity to go. Time might be on my side for this one.

With some hotel rates plummeting to 70% off what they were when the race was announced, inspiration was sparked. We decided to have some fun and give our readers a primer for this absolute debacle and spectacle. Here are a few Formula 1 drivers as iconic Vegas hotels.

“But Sheilah, what do they have in common?”

Honestly, a lot more than you’d think. This article practically wrote itself. Almost.

Lewis Hamilton / The Flamingo

Image credit: Twitter, mercedesAMGF1, casino.com

The Flamingo is the oldest operating casino still on the Strip, so this seemed an obvious place to start. As Gabe stated in our group chat, “Lewis is The Flamingo, because he’s old, and I’ve heard of him.” The overall vibe is just pink, and if any driver can pull off pink and pastels, it’s Lewis. While the hotel has been updated and remodeled, the retro and classy feel remains. Lewis, being the second oldest driver on the grid, exudes the same energy. Lots of history, but still very much relevant and cherished. Plus, the gardens with all the exotic birds, wildlife, and pools are so zen. Tell me that’s not Sir Lewis.

Pierre Gasly / The Cromwell

Image credit: Twitter, gracingline, TripAdvisor

The Cromwell is newer but a bit weird. It’s drenched in velvet to give the illusion of something much more sensuous than it is. It’s also vaguely French-themed. This is 100% Pierre Gasly. He’s always mere seconds away from a dick joke or raunchy frat boy comment. But we will give credit where it’s due. Sometimes, they do land. The mirrors in the showers give off major sex party vibes. Of all the drivers, he seems the most likely to visit a strip club or brothel while here, it’s Pierre. Overall, The Cromwell is trying so hard to be sultry and ultimately translating into something a little weird and off-putting.

Lando Norris / The Luxor

Image credit: Cristiano Barni, Getty Images, Allied Esports

To the tune of Avril Lavigne: “He was a gamer boy…”

The Luxor is very recognizable, and we’d agree so is little Lando Norris. His quintessential curls, dashing smile, and papaya gear make him easy to spot. Both debuting in the 90s (early & late, respectively), each is a spectacle to behold. While on opposite ends of the size scale, they do have one very big thing in common: Esports. The Luxor is home to the HyperX Arena, the first permanent Esports venue on the Strip. The state-of-the-art gaming and broadcast center is available to both pros and amateurs who want to check out the 50-foot LED video wall.

And that’s something we love about Lando too. With his Quadrant brand, he’s brought gamers from all walks of life and levels together for exhilarating and wacky competitions. We want more and hope to see him in his bright orange race suit on the podium soon, even if it is virtual.

Logan Sargent / The Tropicana

Image credit: Jared C. Tilton, Getty Images, Instagram, troplv

“Florida man drives car 200 mph on Vegas Strip.”

The lone American and Miami boy himself, Logan Sargent, had to be the Tropicana. Everything in this hotel feels and looks like Miami. A bright and vibrant hotel, it feels more like a South Beach airport than a high-end casino. And that’s ok. It’s not trying to be anything other than a vintage touristy spot that is quite endearing. Just let it be Floridian and tropical.

Valtteri Bottas / The Excalibur

Imagine credit Instagram, valtteribottas, excalibur.mgmresorts.com

Valtteri Bottas is a legend and mythical. If that isn’t The Excalibur, I’m not sure what is. From his knightly mullet to his stately mustache, Valtteri is a man who isn’t afraid to be himself. Affectionally dubbed “Medieval Times on crack,” The Excalibur is a treasure trove of entertainment. Outside of the main attraction of the Tournament of Kings, you also get Thunder From Down Under.

This is fitting in two ways. A) Bottas has always been joked as being the most Aussie non-Aussie on the grid. And B) If there is any driver most likely to get naked at the drop of a hat, it’s him. He literally just made a calendar of his bearing his, well, his BottASS.

Fernando Alonso / The Sahara

Image credit: essentiallysports.com, lasvegas.com

A Vegas mainstay, the Sahara is one of the oldest independently operated hotels on the Strip. With over 20 years in Formula 1, we’d argue Fernando is also a beloved classic. The Sahara is modern, even if its age shows in a few places. It’s also a bit on the small size compared to the other hotels on the famous boulevard. But what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in flash and allure. Spanish Celebrity Chef José Andrés has his Bazaar Meat restaurant here, which is full of wacky experimental meals and cocktails. All of which are very expensive but ultimately well worth the experience.

Lance Stroll / The Four Seasons

Image credit: Twitter, samirsynthesis, fourseasons.com

Nice, clean, and expensive. That’s as Canadian and as Lance Stroll as it gets. A room can set you back $1,000 for a one-night stay. The Four Seasons is giving generic luxury, and sometimes so does Aston Martin. There is nothing very stylized or sensational about it, but it does smell like a refreshing spa.

George Russell / The Waldorf Astoria

Image credit: tommy.com, visitlasvegas.com

Posh. That’s all you need to know. Sleek and chic. George Russell serves swanky if the memes made in his honor are any indication. One of the few hotels without a casino, it’s meant to pull you off of the Strip and take your mind off the Vegas craziness. While the rooms aren’t cheap, you do feel like you’re living your best penthouse life, even in the lobby. The hallways feel upscale as well, with marble and stately fixtures. Tasteful, ritzy, and non-offensive.

Danny Ricciardo / The Venetian

Image credit: Moy, xpb images, Instagram, vegasreels

When I pitched this idea our Editor-in-Chief, Jeric Jaleco, chimed in with this, “Daniel Riccardo as the Venetian because it’s nice, and I like it.” And he’s not wrong to make that connection. Everyone loves the Venetian, and it’s a huge draw on the Strip for good reason. It’s a little silly but pretty and kind of Italian. The last time I was here, I did, in fact, do a gondola ride, which is kind of goofy but overall a charming encounter. Sometimes, you just do things for the plot.

Sidenote: We hear the Bellagio got a “Shoey” Bar in honor of Danny Ricc, so we would like to formally make this our plea to make that a permanent establishment.

Team Haas / The Mirage

Image credit: LAT Photo, tripadvisor.com

Haas is The Mirage for one very obvious reason. Me thinking Nico will ever end up on the podium is an illusion. No matter how many practices or qualifying sessions we are teased by both of these guys, we know it’s all for not. It’s not real. It was all a dream. It was a… Mirage.

If you are interested in catching the Vegas GP, it will be on Sunday at 1 a.m. (EST) on ESPN in North America and, as always, on F1TV.

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FeaturesHot Takes

NASCAR should learn from Liberty Media and F1: why their Ryan Blaney championship roll out was so sad

Say what you want about Liberty Media’s handling of the Formula 1 races in the US, but they kind of get it. I was at the Miami Grand Prix, and it was cringe as hell at times. Overall, though, incredibly fun. Something Liberty does very well is connecting with the right audience, even if there are missteps. Formula 1 is blessed with so many drivers with charismatic personalities that shine for the press.

Watching Danny Ricciardo command the late-night and podcast circuits with ease and charm for the Vegas Grand Prix is a dream for the Red Bull social and marketing teams. So how did NASCAR fumble the bag so spectacularly with the NYC media tour of their newest champion, Ryan Blaney? They literally had a playbook in front of them. They had exactly how F1 captured the hearts of America through a carefree Australian dripping in allure.

NASCAR crowns a new champion!

NASCAR couldn’t have asked for a better champion to emerge as their season winner a week ago in Phoenix. Ryan Blaney is funny, young, personable, and pedigreed. He is a likable nerd who is a fan favorite and beloved in the garage. He is the ideal bridge between all fans. NASCAR is very much suffering from an identity crisis and has been for years. This year, it felt like the tide was changing.

The success of the inaugural Chicago race, having Formula 1 legends like Jenson Button and Kimi Räikkönen make track appearances, and mixing old traditions with new ideas, all had to have interests peaked. Full disclosure: I am a Trackhouse girlie. But watching owners like Pitbull come in and fully support drivers such as Ross Chastain, Daniel Suarez, and, come the next season, Shane van Gisbergen breathes life into this entire series. It gives you hope that this product can’t just be good but great.

Trackhouse Racing
Image credit: Instagram, th_project91

Growing up loving NASCAR, there was only ever a brief moment when it felt so vibrant. The country, as a whole, knew who Jeff Gordan and Dale Earnhardt were. Motorsports was cool and lucrative. Perhaps the untimely and tragic passing of Earnhardt halted the sport’s growth. Perhaps. Then, Dale Earnhardt Jr. seemed poised to be the face of the brand and bring a younger audience in. The addition of an easy-on-the-eyes newcomer named Kasey Kane ticked female viewership up as well. But again, NASCAR just couldn’t fully capitalize long term.

Now, in 2023, after a rather good season (please hold your feelings about the playoff structure), with a very marketable champion, the stars aligned for NASCAR, and they couldn’t get it together. They fumbled on Ryan Blaney’s New York City Championship unveiling.

Here’s how.

1) Sending him to the Empire State Building.

Fine. Totally untestable, it is one of the most recognizable NYC landmarks. But for the love of whatever deity you believe, why was he in a blazer and dress pants? The man was still rocking his full playoff beard. And I get it to some degree. His girlfriend looked lovely as well. But if your sport is trying to target a new demographic, why not lean into what you are? I ask you, why was he not in his fire suit? The photo opportunity of him in his iconic yellow and black hoisting the trophy would be worth it alone. It’s just good business to be displaying your team name and sponsors to a wider audience because we always have to be making money. Also, it just looks dope. Do you know how many 20-something-year-old guys I saw dressed as Ricky Bobby and Cal Naughton, Jr. on Halloween this year? That movie is almost 20 years old. That is your audience. This is who you should be appealing to.

Image credit Instagram, NASCAR

2) Every sports champion pays homage and makes the talk show/podcast rounds now.

Danny Ric goes on Jimmy Kimmel and slays. Hell, even Christian Horner was a fantastic guest for Dax Shepard. He’s effervescent, lively, and dashing. Everyone falls in love or more in love. Ryan Blaney goes on (checks notes) Kelly and Mark. You know who watches Kelly and Mark? My mom, who ironically does know who Ryan Blaney is by way of his father. Why on earth would you put this man in front of an audience you are not aiming to convince to watch your sport? Ryan should’ve been in the Barstool office. He is absolutely the kind of guy who could vibe with Caleb and make a great viral video. Put this man in front of an engaged viewership that is under 50. He’s not a nobody. There was no reason you couldn’t get him in front of the right crowd. He drives for Team Penske, the family who literally owns almost all media news outlets. Do better.

Image credit: Instagram, livekellyandmark

3) No fun fan engagement.

Sure, they sent him to Times Square to stand there with the trophy and look at the Nasdaq building. Spectacular. Riveting. Insert sad face emoji. They so easily could have had the car and trophy downtown at the Seaport for photos and a meet and greet. Small things like this expand who could be interested in your sport. Formula 1 does popups and public events for their teams and drivers each race that are fun, fluffy, and inviting. It’s such a low lift. It’s the end of the season. Where is that car going after? What’s the risk? None.

Image credit: Instagram, NASCAR

It’s so disheartening to watch a sport I’ve loved for so long continually miss every opportunity to improve it and bring in new fans. I hope some of the F1 shine trickles down to NASCAR as it does for IndyCar. But if they continue with tactics like this, I have little to no hope. Regardless, I’ll be there next season in a Melon Man shirt, cheering on Mr. Worldwide’s team. At least he knows how to draw a crowd.

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Fat Bear Week and F1 drivers have more in common than you think

Formula 1 fans, strap in! Fat Bear Week is upon us! Wait, what?

It’s a magical time of year when the brown bears of Katmai National Park in Alaska roam free to finish their final bulk up for winter. Since 2012, a live cam from Explore.org has given the world insight into the beauty and wonder of the national park and these fantastic beasts. It stays up 24 hours a day and is nestled near one of the premier fishing spots for the bears.

Fat Bear Week (yes, that is very much a thing) became a spectacular byproduct of this innocent happening. It’s a celebration of these bears’ resiliency and tenacity against the elements and each other. Much in the way you would fill out your March Madness bracket, eight bears make the final cut and are voted on each day from October 4 to October 10. The victor is announced and crowned on Fat Bear Tuesday. Don’t worry. There is still plenty of time to vote.

Now, you might ask, “Sheilah, what does this have to do with F1?” Thank you for asking. I love Fat Bear Week, and I love F1. Once I read the bears’ descriptions, I couldn’t unsee many of the drivers within them. It’s also extremely likely Max Verstappen will win his third World Championship this weekend. So I say let’s celebrate all winners, be they Ursus arctos or Homo sapiens.

747 “Colbert” / Max Verstappen

Colbert Fat Bear Week Max Verstappen
Image credit: (Colbert) Cory Cravatta / NPS, (Max) Toru Hanai / AP

Colbert is a bear who popped onto the scene with vibrancy and salmon-catching accuracy, which is truly a form of art. Max Verstappen crashed onto the F1 scene with brash ambition as well. After a few altercations with hardened veterans, he honed his skills and turned onto a very successful path. He is also a two-time champion, though Max will be a three-time champ after Sunday. If you think about it, they both have over 20 years of experience in their perspectives fields of bearing and driving. Max basically started carting at three. So, yes. That pans out. The parallels here are scary.

480 “Otis” / Fernando Alonso

480 Otis Fernando Alonso
Image credit: (Otis) Courtesy M. Whalen / NPS / (Fernando) Getty Images

Otis is a grizzled (ha, get it?) old veteran spending his days fattening up and basking in the fruits of his labors from over the years. With four titles under his bulky belt, he’s always a threat to knock a youngin’ off their perch. And just because Otis is now mostly toothless, that doesn’t make him any less fierce. Fernando Alonso, now in his 22nd year of F1 racing, has two World Championships and over 100 podiums. He’s still got that dog, uh, I mean, bear in him. Never one to be counted out, we have seen a kinder, gentler Fernando this year at Aston Martin as he has taken Lance Stroll under his wing. Fernando is the most amazing driver and person ever, please don’t Google anything about him before 2023 and just believe me!

32 “Chunk” / Valtteri Bottas

32 Chunk Fat Bear Week Valtteri Bottas
Image credit: (Chunk) Courtesy F. Jimenez / NPS / (Valtteri) Luca Bruno / AP

Chunk has been a regular fixture and a familiar face for Fat Bear Week. He has yet to be an overall Champion, but he has gotten dang close. Each year, Chunk is an impressive presence known for his big fluffy head. He is also easy to pick out as he has a few battle scars from scraps he’s been in over the years. My beautiful Finnish man, Valtteri Bottas, is the perfect driver to equate with Chunk. A lover of the outdoors and not one to be afraid of bearing it all, Valtteri is, too, an almost-champion. These days, he is known around the paddock for his dazzling helmet designs and the fabulous flowing mullet underneath.

128 “Grazer” / George Russell

128 Grazer Fat Bear Week George Russell
Image credit: (Grazer) Courtesy F. Jimenez / NPS / (George) Stephen Reuss / Mercedea

Grazer is a beloved fan favorite. She’s got a soft, strong, and classy energy. She’s also noted as being quite tall with lush blonde fur. She’s also always in the conversation as a top finisher. I am a recent George Russell convert, and when I read this description of Grazer, I knew immediately. As one of the tallest drivers on the grid, his coif has become very iconic and the topic of many F1 TikToks. George radiates a stern but understanding parental vibe, complete with dad jokes. And if we are discussing posh posture, it’s him.

284 “Electra” / Carlos Sainz

284 Fat Bear week Electra Carlos Sainz Jr.
Image credit: (Electra) Courtesy K. Moore / NPS / (Carlos) Instagram – Carlos Sainz

Electra is known for two things: her silky fur and her very distinct finishing technique. Called the “dash and grab,” catching her in action is said to be a blessing unlike any other. A true beauty in both looks and skill. If you were thinking it would be a man in red, you are correct. Who has a mane that could mesmerize the whole paddock? Well, that has to be Carlos Sainz. Who has suave proficiency? The literal “Smooth Operator” himself. Carlos has had some tremendous overtakes in his career, and I believe he’s the first to do so to Max.

806 “Junior” / Oscar Piastri

806 Junior Fat Bear Week Oscar Piastri
Image: (Junior) F. Jimenez / NPS, (Oscar) Peter Fox / Getty

This bear is named as such because he is a former Junior Champ. Think of that as the F2 system of the Fat Bear world. This year, Junior has shown up braver and thicker than ever. He is definitely ready for the challenge ahead. Not afraid to take on any of the veterans, this young cub has earned his spot. Oscar is far and away the Rookie of the Year. He’s already made it to the podium with an impressive first year. At the time of writing, he’s thrust into the top ten in the Driver Standings and looks to finish this season very strong. If you aren’t rooting for this Gen Z Aussie wunderkind, check to see if you have a heart.

Bear 402 / Lewis Hamilton

402 Fat Bear Week Lewis Hamilton
Image: (402) Courtesy K. Moore / NPS, (Lewis) Burak Akbulut/ Getty

A nurturing mainstay around Brooks River, 402 is as protective as she is valiant. Easily recognizable, you can see her dashing around teaching her cubs and looking out for the next generation. She even had to successfully rescue one of her babies from a roaring river last summer. 402’s got a heart of gold. Knowing how much Lewis Hilton has done to promote diversity for the next generation within Mercedes certainly aligns him with 402. But beyond his Mission 44 foundation promoting STEM programs for youngsters, he has also helped bring a new perspective to a rather stuffy F1 hierarchy. A man who stands out in the paddock for all the right reasons, Lewis has used his resources and platform for good.

If you are interested in catching the Qatar GP on Sunday, it will be on at a very reasonable 1 p.m. (EST) on ESPN in North America and, as always, on F1TV.

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