Keep up the pace with everyone Our coverage of the Las Vegas Grand Prix is here.
LAS VEGAS – Refresher: My assignment for the Las Vegas Grand Prix was to cover the show, the show and the things to do – everything except the race.
But when I arrived in Vegas with no media credentials, I wondered if I would be there for six days without catching a glimpse of a car. It turned out to be far from the case, as I was able to get closer to the track than the F1 races I attended with a press pass at the American Circuit in Miami and Austin.
The nature of the street circuit prevents organizers from blocking every viewing angle. Sure, it might not be comfortable or where you can stand too long at a time – but it feels like life to be able to see F1 cars while other people in the city pay tens of thousands of dollars for that privilege. Hacking
After sampling the various options this week through a combination of trial, error and media tours, here are my tips on how to do the Las Vegas Grand Prix if you’re interested in trying again next year.
Price Point: $0(ish)
As I wrote in my F1 diary earlier this week, fans have found plenty of ways to watch the action without spending a dime. It was easy to find unobstructed views in various areas, despite the organizers’ best efforts to close off many angles.
But that’s not even close to the best freeviewing experience I’ve ever had – and at first I couldn’t even wrap my head around it so I ignored it.
F1 partner American Express built an elegant three-tiered structure called the “American Express Fan Experience.” When I first read the news about the hospitality area, it never even occurred to me that it was possible to get a ticket without competition.
Sure enough, it was. As fancy as it sounds – food from Wolfgang Puck, drinks from Moët Hennessy, where guests can sip juices, caffeinate or get a Therabody massage – should be the only requirements for an Amex fan experience. Cardmember and make reservations through the official Las Vegas Grand Prix app.
When I finally got my head around it and visited the place, I couldn’t believe it. The lower level was reserved for Basic Cardmembers, while the upper two floors (with high-end food and beverage) were exclusive to Platinum and Captain cardholders.
Geez, who cares? This was free seating right next to the race track, and the only requirement was enough reading comprehension (unlike myself) to understand what American Express was offering.
To be honest, it looked pretty good. But, aside from the annual fee I was already paying for the card, it wasn’t. Although space was limited (hence the booking requirement), the concept of offering a free view of the most expensive race in F1 history was mind-blowing.
That sure is riding the ramps up and down the pedestrian bridge.
Price point: $500 per day
The T-Mobile Zone at the Sphere was the track’s general entry point. Although there weren’t many of these tickets available, those who did get them could see some of the biggest names hitting the concert stage (in that zone) all week. Plus, every ticket came with free food and drinks.
It was a step below having a proper reserved grandstand seat, but still, considering the price elsewhere, it was a very good value for the price of admission.
Price point: $1,500 per day
This was the cheapest Grandfather ticket price available, which was…well, good. I’m sure this was the most logical option for many people. But personally, I can’t see where this is the best way to go.
Others sit in high-end hospitality areas around the track, while you sit outside in the desert cold and stick to one corner for the entire race. If it was in the budget I would go big and get a one day ticket to the hospitality area.
Price point: $3,000 per day
Yes, that’s double the price of a larger ticket (at least at the original price before the discount). But getting into the amazing Heineken house (listed at $8,720 for a three-day pass) was worth it.
Not only are there trackside views, but the food menu is similar to the top-end Paddock Club experience. Customers at Heineken House had three levels to choose from and traveled to various dining stations, where a chef prepared the food in front of them (decorations and all).
Heineken House was also a trendy and hip place: the third level had a dance floor, and when I stopped by Grammy-winner Anderson, Pac was doing a DJ set while under 30 people danced nearby. It was an incredible sight.
No, the views are not what you get at the Paddock Club. But Heineken’s house is still next to the track, so it’s worth it.
Price point: $3,750 per day
I wrote about the jaw-dropping Bellagio Falls Club in Saturday’s diary. Tickets for this area originally sold for $11,247 for a three-day pass.
I’ll spare you the re-reading of the list – they’re all here – but I’m not sure I’d want anything else in this area other than being in the race.
Like the house of Heineken, the Paddock Club location in the center of everything is arguably even more desirable. But sitting by the fountain and eating food from the Bellagio’s list of celebrity chefs while watching the cars whiz by on the strip below you is hard to beat.
Price point: $5,000 per day
The actual day-to-day costs of a paddock club are difficult to quantify. F1 sells five-day tickets for $15,000 each, which makes you think it’s “only” $3,000 a day.
But honestly, one of those days was the opening ceremony (which was cool but only lasted 30 minutes) and the other was the “Sunday Recovery Brush” at the Sphere.
So, for our purposes, let’s assume a one-day Paddock Club ticket at $5,000. And even that is different because the Paddock Club (the amazing new pit building overlooking the front stretch and 2/3 of the turn) features all kinds of companies that have been able to sell passes to the top experience.
For example, AmEx has an area in the Paddock Club where card members can purchase access. However, that may be a different price than the major casinos on the Strip (as they are part of hotel packages) and areas offered by any F1 corporate partner.
Is it worth it? If you can, then yes. There’s chef-prepared food, fantastic views (of the road and the far side) and the chance to mingle with the rich and famous.
You can see everything from the paddock to the pit stops to the podium ceremony. It’s great – if you can.
Our pick: American Express customer experience
Somehow, the Amex fan experience has freed up the average fan at a time when almost everything about the Las Vegas Grand Prix seems to be focused on keeping them.
By the way, some of you may have read The Athletics’ story on Friday, where we spoke to three race fans who had tickets to Thursday’s disrupted practice sessions (which fans were ultimately barred from watching).
One of those fans, Diego Alvarado, told Athletic that he had no ticket options for the weekend. But guess where it ended up?
That’s the kind of thing we like to see.
More from Athletics Las Vegas Grand Prix coverage:
F1 may have won in Las Vegas – but changes are needed for next year.
Our turn-by-turn breakdown of the Las Vegas Strip circuit
LVGP Takes: Riveting Competition ends Sin City’s strong debut on a high note
(Leader image of fans using escalators to watch Las Vegas GP: ANP via Getty Images)