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Fans are suing Formula 1 after being forced to leave grandstands in Las Vegas

Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) Aston Martin AMR23 Mercedes on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Las Vegas at Las Vegas Strip Circuit on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Jared C. Tilton
/
Getty Images
Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) Aston Martin AMR23 Mercedes on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Las Vegas at Las Vegas Strip Circuit on Saturday in Las Vegas.

For many Formula 1 fans, the Las Vegas Grand Prix weekend delivered an exciting crescendo Saturday night after the high-speed race through city streets concluded with a dramatic finish.

Sparks flew toward the end of the marquee competition, the first F1 race in the resort town in more than four decades.

F1 superstar Max Verstappen of team Red Bull breezily nabbed first place in the contest, while Ferrari's Charles Leclerc took second after overtaking Verstappen's teammate, Sergio Pérez, in the final lap.

But other fans left the much-heralded weekend events as parties to a class-action lawsuit against the racing organization, after attendees were booted from viewing areas on Thursday during an hours-long delay caused by technical issues with the course.

Such has been the hot-and-cold reception of Formula 1's return to Las Vegas, where supporters cheered the growing popularity of the sport in the U.S. and the anticipated boon to the local economy while some residents jeered the many disruptions to city life.

One of the most surprising turns of the race weekend happened off the track.

It began during the first practice session Thursday evening, when Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr. hit a water valve cover and badly damaged his car after only nine minutes behind the wheel.

Organizers "red flagged" the practice session so workers could repair the track — which was made up of Las Vegas city streets — by removing all of the water valve covers and filling in the holes with sand and asphalt.

Fans waiting around in the stands for the action to resume were ultimately told to leave the viewing areas before the second practice run kicked off 2 and a half hours behind schedule.

"We have all been to events, like concerts, games and even other Formula 1 races, that have been cancelled because of factors like weather or technical issues," F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and Las Vegas Grand Prix CEO Renee Wilm said in a statement.

"It happens, and we hope people will understand," they added.

Not all of them did. A group of fans is now suing the Las Vegas Grand Prix and owner Liberty Media in a lawsuit seeking at least $30,000 in damages, The Associated Press reported.

Neither the Dimopoulos Law Firm nor JK Legal & Consulting, who represent the plaintiffs, immediately responded to NPR's request for comment. Formula 1 also did not immediately respond to NPR's request for comment.

Formula 1 gave attendees who held single-day tickets to Thursday's events a $200 voucher to the Las Vegas Grand Prix gift shop, journalist Chris Medland reported, while those who held three-day passes received nothing.

It wasn't the only ire directed at the organizers of one of the most high-profile F1 events of the year. Fans were also seen tearing down protective screens that blocked views of the race from pedestrian walkways, and residents and business owners had complained about traffic congestion and other annoyances due to race-related construction.

Even some F1 drivers have been critical of grand prix organizers. Ahead of race weekend, Mercedes driver and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton said F1 shouldn't be a "circus that shows up that's all glitz and glamour and people are affected negatively by it," while reigning champion Verstappen suggested that the Las Vegas event placed too much of an emphasis on the spectacle of the race and not enough on the sport itself.

The final F1 race of this season, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, is scheduled to take place next Sunday.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joe Hernandez