Red Bull’s Max Verstappen says this weekend’s Las Vegas Grand Prix is “99% show and 1% sporting event”.
The triple world champion said he is “not looking forward” to the razzmatazz around the race, the first time Formula 1 cars have raced down the city’s famous Strip.
Other leading drivers were more equivocal about the hype.
Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso said: “With the investment that has been made and the place we are racing, it deserves a little bit [of] different treatment and extra show.”
The weekend was kick-started on Wednesday evening with a lavish opening ceremony.
It featured performances from several music stars, including Kylie Minogue and Journey, and culminated in the drivers being introduced to a sparsely populated crowd in light rain by being lifted into view on hydraulic platforms under a sound-and-light show.
Lewis Hamilton said: “It’s amazing to be here. It is exciting – such an incredible place, so many lights, a great energy, a great buzz.
“This is one of the most iconic cities there is. It is a big show, for sure. It is never going to be like Silverstone [in terms of history and purity]. But maybe over time the people in the community here will grow to love the sport.”
Hamilton added: “It is a business, ultimately. You’ll still see good racing here.
“Maybe the track will be good, maybe it will be bad. It was so-so on the [simulator]. Don’t knock it ’til you try it. I hear there are a lot of people complaining about the direction [F1 president] Stefano [Domenicali] and [owners] Liberty have been going [but] I think they have been doing an amazing job.”
Verstappen added: “They are still going to make money whether I like it or not. But I am also not going to fake it. I voice my opinion in positive and negative things. That’s just how I am.
“Some people like show a bit more, I don’t like it at all. I just grew up looking at the performance side of things. I like to be in Vegas but not so much for racing.”
Hamilton was one of a number of drivers unhappy about some of the demands being put on their time in Las Vegas.
This included a firm request made from Domenicali’s office for them to support a party at the Wynn Hotel, one of the founding partners of the race, at 22:30 that evening.
A number of drivers defied Domenicali and did not attend, including Verstappen, while Aston Martin sent neither Alonso nor his team-mate Lance Stroll, with team owner Lawrence Stroll attending instead.