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F1’s Las Vegas Race Is Already Tangled in a Lawsuit

Last week, Formula 1 announced it’s going back to Las Vegas in November 2023, to a flurry of excitement from normal people and outcry from a hardcore few who believe F1 should only race at Spa or Monza. You might think the main controversy would be Vegas becoming the 74th place to hold a grand prix race on a day that isn’t Sunday, but it’s actually a Vegas businessman and former politician saying he has a rightful contract to be the race promoter, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.

An F1 race promoter is basically the business that runs the actual race and can be a really lucrative enterprise, especially if you’re looking at selling crazy-priced hotel rooms and VIP suites in places like, say, Vegas. There’s a fair amount of liability to it (you can find yourself strung up to contracts if there’s some kinda force majeure like a global pandemic or whatever), which F1’s typically happy to leave you in the lurch for them. It’s also a way plenty of people have made a bunch of money out of races in the past.

So getting to be the promoter for the new Vegas race would be a big deal, and it turns out there are conflicting parties involved. The Las Vegas Review Journal reports that F1’s owners, Liberty Media, is suing a couple of guys in Vegas who claim they have the contract for the Las Vegas race already.

It dates back to 2013 when F1 was under its previous, monomaniacal ownership. Famously, Bernie Ecclestone negotiated every contract from broadcast to races himself, and there’ve been previous blurred understandings of exactly what had been agreed between a promoter and Ecclestone. A good example is back in 2012, when an argument between Ecclestone and the U.S. Grand Prix promoters threatened to halt the construction of COTA. 

The argument now pits Farid Shidfar, a Las Vegas businessman, and his partner in the firm P2M Motorsports, Chad Christensen, against Liberty Media—the owners of Formula 1 since 2017. Shidfar says that he received a letter in 2013 from Bernie Ecclestone that appointed him to put together an operation to be a promoter for a Las Vegas Grand Prix. Liberty Media says that that’s not a contract and that there’s no need to honor it. Of course, they’re coming to blows in court over it, according to the report.

Liberty Media has filed against Shidfar and Christensen, saying that “as a direct result of P2M’s intentional interference, Formula 1’s prospective contractual relationships with LVCVA, R & R, and other third parties have been thwarted, causing at a minimum delay, and potentially cancellation, of plans for a Las Vegas Formula 1 race, and causing Formula 1 to incur substantial damages in an amount to be proven at trial.”

Shidfar and Christensen, meanwhile, say that in fact, they
paved the way for a Las Vegas race by assembling the political and economic goodwill and working for years to plan toward it, so they believe they should be the promoters.

Christensen told the publication that Liberty Media never attempted to negotiate with P2M, saying, “Their way of speaking to us was to slap us with a lawsuit and push us out of the way. They want to crush us with their wallet.”

The Vegas race, which doesn’t have a specific date for 2023 but was announced as being on a Saturday night in November, was announced despite the litigations. But it’s an ongoing case, so it will be interesting to see who wins out here.

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