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At Formula One’s inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix, music takes a front seat

At the inaugural Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix, music and entertainment have taken a dominant role. As the elite motorsport experiments with the new race, A-list events are ubiquitous in Sin City, an unignorable part of the celebration.
Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll, left, of Canada, walks in the rain to a media interview ahead of the Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix auto race, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Nick Didlick)

At the inaugural Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix, music and entertainment have taken a dominant role. As the elite motorsport experiments with the new race, A-list events are ubiquitous in Sin City, an unignorable part of the celebration.

Here are some of the highlights.


Streets flood with fans in their race kits. Some are unhappy with the week’s prohibitively expensive events — including the exclusive live music opportunities. Others are simply excited to be a part of history at this new Las Vegas race. Elizabeth Blackstock, a motorsports report at Jalopnik, explains that in some ways, the entertainment branding opportunities took precedent over the race fans in Las Vegas.

“It’s way more expensive than Monaco,” Blackstock says of the infamously exclusive and prestigious street race. “It feels like Formula One just misunderstood entirely what the audience was going to be here and thought it was going to be this multi-million-dollar playground for ultra rich people. And the sport just isn’t big enough for people to want to do that.”

On Saturday night, for the first time all week, grandstands appeared to be completely full and fans eager to witness the spectacle they waited to see, after a playful DJ set from Anderson .Paak and an animated performance by J Balvin. When the red lights extinguished, it seemed like finally entertainment gave way for racing — but music was still in the air.

In the evening and on the strip, Shaquille O’Neal appeared at Club SI, an exclusive event space hosted by Sports Illustrated on the Strip. In a few hours, his son, Myles O’Neal, will take over DJ duties.

“I call it the adrenaline factor,” Shaq says of why an athlete would want to involve themselves in music. “So, 2011, when I retired, I didn’t have the adrenaline factor — the full adrenaline factor,” he says.

Of performing: “Get that hour, hour and half, kids jumping up and down, mosh pitting, it makes me feel similar to a playoff game.”


Much has been made about Formula One’s foray into fashion — so it should come as no surprise that Puma has named rapper A$AP Rocky the Creative Director of their partnership with F1.

At a panel in the Venetian Hotel, Rocky said car culture has always been inextricably linked, but when it comes to F1, “I don’t see the urban side or the hip-hop side really glorified or displayed,” he said. “I want to kind of introduce that more, make it more prevalent.” Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, celebrated for his experimental fashion in addition to his incredible racing talent, has worn the designs.

As much as hip-hop and streetwear informs Rocky’s design language, he says he also pulled directly from F1 history for the collection, like in a beige distressed balaclava. “It derived from the image of a racer whose balaclava caught on fire, but he survived. And we kind of wanted to use the mummy look,” he said. The look was inspired by Austrian F1 driver Niki Lauda, a representative for Puma confirmed. At the 1976 German Grand Prix, Lauda crashed, causing him severe burns after his Ferrari burst into flames. The incident nearly killed him and left him scarred.

At a cafe in the early afternoon, singer/songwriter Chloe Stroll, sister of Aston Martin Formula One driver Lance Stroll, celebrated the release of her new single, “Homesick” — and the opportunities an evolving F1 has allowed her.

“I love that F1 has become a really cool platform for music as well,” she said, “And it’s given me a massive opportunity.”

Nowadays, F1 fans will stop her at races and talk to her about her original songs. Online, F1 fans are her most vocal supporters. She’s grateful — particularly for those who make the distinction between her family and her art. “Formula One is undoubtedly something that has impacted my life and my family, but it is not who I am,” she says. “I think people are able to see, through my social channels and my music, exactly who I am.”

Elsewhere, the connection between F1 and music is felt through brand partnerships.

In the evening, Major Lazer and A-Trak performed at the T-Mobile Zone at the Sphere between the final practice and qualifying sessions. For the first time this week, there was a particular kind of synergy between both the musical performances and the racing.


On Thursday, at a Sinatra-themed restaurant in the lobby of the Encore casino, Colombian reggaetonero J Balvin emerged in all black leather.

He’d performed the day before at the Las Vegas Grand Prix opening ceremony — the only artist to perform a song not in English, his Usher-sampling “Dientes.” On Saturday, he’ll close the race weekend with a longer performance, making him the only musician to take the stage at this inaugural Formula One race twice. In many ways, it is fitting: F1 is a global sport, Balvin is a global artist, and music has become increasingly integrated with the sport.

“No matter where you’re from, your language, people just love it, you know?” he told The Associated Press about his connection to the motorsport. “It’s really cohesive — my vision and Formula One.”

“On the business side, it’s good exposure,” he says of why artists are motivated to perform at F1 events. “Other things relate to it, but personally, I love fast cars.”

The sentiment echos something told AP in advance of the opening ceremony: “Every producer, every DJ wants to play F1. Why? Because it’s a (expletive) of money they make,” he said. “Every band that’s any band wants to play the mainstage at F1.”

Las Vegas is the most expensive F1 race of the 2023 season — and the money is felt.

At night, countless concerts overlapped with what was supposed to be the first two Formula One practice sessions — a loose water valve cover canceled the first, and the second was delayed two-and-a-half hours for track repairs. Dedicated spectators were removed from viewing areas ahead of the 90-minute session that ended at 4 a.m. local time — the deadline for F1 to return the roads to Las Vegas commuters.

But for a large population of Vegas tourists, it was as if nothing was amiss. Jack Harlow played an abridged and charming set at a private SiriusXM + Pandora Concert at The Cosmopolitan. (Liberty Media, which owns Formula One, is also the majority owner of SiriusXM.) The Chainsmokers hit the stage at the Wynn. (The luxury club and casino is a founding partner in the Las Vegas Grand Prix.) Tardy Travis Scott performed at Zouk Nightclub located in Resorts World Las Vegas, another partner of this particular race.

For the music fan lucky enough to score an exclusive invite or privileged enough to afford one, it was a remarkable night of all-star performances. For the racing fan — not so much.


It was raining in the Las Vegas desert on Wednesday night when Thirty Seconds to Mars emerged atop a giant, custom-built LED platform on the Formula One racetrack that, in just over 24 hours, will host the first ever F1 practice session.

For the inaugural Vegas race weekend, the Grand Prix hosted an Opening Ceremony — not too dissimilar from the star-studded event that launch the Miami race in 2022. Jared Leto and his brother Shannon Leto wore matching race suits, launching into a medley of 2005’s “The Kill,” their biggest hit,” and 2023’s “Stuck,” their most recent one.

Then, in less than half an hour, there were abridged performances from Keith Urban, Andra Day (with a rich cover of the Beatles’ “Come Together”), Kylie Minogue’s summertime smash “Padam Padam,” Bishop Briggs, Journey, Steve Aoki, J Balvin, and, each musician appearing atop their own LED platform.

Tiësto and John Legend performed together from the roof of the exclusive Paddock Club, where top-tier tickets could set attendees back $40,000. For the audience in the grandstands, tickets ranged from $100-$200.

The event reflects Formula One’s accelerating influence on the music world — and vice versa.

“Anyone who hasn’t been to an event like this can’t conceive of the level everything is at,” Keith Urban told AP the morning of the performance.

“It’s much closer to an Olympics opening ceremony than anything I’ve ever seen,” he added.

For his set, the country star performed “Somewhere in My Car,” a clever gesture to the automotive theme — and promotion for his continued Las Vegas residency.

The eclectic lineup reflects a shift in the F1 audience, which has grown in popularity among young Americans over the last half decade. The inclusion of Grammy- and Oscar-winning actor Day, for example, is a welcomed surprise in a bill stacked with dedicated artists who frequently perform at these events: Tiësto, Steve Aoki, and F1 Global Artist in Residence among them.

“The Formula One world is new to me,” Day said, adding that the global reach of the sport was the “biggest draw” for her to join the event. “There’s such a variety of people from all over.”

“At the same time, it is nostalgic for me. It reminds me of being a young girl, and how cars can bring people together. Just like music.”

For the EDM DJ and Las Vegas resident Steve Aoki, the F1 Opening Ceremony is indicative of Vegas’ growing appeal. “I think of Las Vegas as the entertainment capital of the world,” he says. “And to be the entertainment capital of the world, you have to have it all.”

He also believes that there is a shared energy to F1 and live music.

“People love F1 because of the sound and the energy. People want that adrenaline and excitement — there is that synergy. And I think a lot of drivers are really big music fans as well,” he says. “I connected with (Mercedes Driver) Lewis Hamilton almost ten years back. We went to Michael Jackson’s studio in Bahrain and hung out there. There’s a lot of synergies between the drivers and music.”

Just don’t except a musical collaboration between the two anytime soon. It was more of a hang.

And later this week? Between the musical performances from elite talent, there will be a race.