The Las Vegas GP would nonetheless have disappointed some folk, being those who were desperate for the glitzy show to fail. Mind you, Thursday's FP1 efforts with the water valve covers making a bid for freedom, allowing just a few minutes of track running, generated the worst possible start.
Hours later, with fan and hospitality areas unceremoniously cleared out apparently due to safety and transportation issues, and with repairs hurriedly made, F1 placed all its money on black fast-drying materials and sent the cars out for 90 minutes at 2.30am.
With exhaust notes echoing through the empty grandstands it felt surreal to be trackside, but the gamble paid off and 'Vegas, baby' was finally underway. F1 dodged a bullet there.Impressions of F1's newest 'super-fast' street track
Despite being lined by walls, the second-longest circuit on the calendar would impressively have a pole position average speed of 150mph.
The track is super-fast, and the new surface remained shiny and slick. I drove a few laps in an Aston Martin DBX which made me realise that the layout wasn't just a supporting act to a lot of lights and noise, but actually rather technical and challenging in parts.Stream every F1 race and more with NOWGet Sky Sports | Listen to the Sky Sports F1 Podcast
It certainly isn't simply a series of ninety-degree block-change corners as we've seen in the distant past. Some of the straights feel rather too long but they would play out nicely in the race.
Every one of the 20 drivers impressed me with how they powered through the challenges, strange timetable, and jet lag, to attack the track with a vengeance.
The scheduling at this time of the year with cold nights and commencing qualifying at midnight and the race at 10pm, did feel like trying to force a square peg through a round hole. I'm not sure who that really works for other than allowing the public roads to close later, and hopefully that can be finessed for next year, although the event is a week later still.
I stood in the pit lane for a while just looking around and taking in the facilities, the cityscape, the amazing Sphere, the lights and screens, and reflecting on just how far F1 has come in the past few decades.
The call sheet for my first Tyrrell race in Rio '84 had 12 people in the team, including Ken and Norah Tyrrell and both drivers. There was no hospitality, we had no motorhome, Stefan Bellof and I would sit at the back of the garage all weekend, or in the truck getting in the way at European races.
There was no sponsor activation, and any media interaction was with our journo mates who we tripped over in the paddock.
We even had a saloon car race with all the drivers participating with a journalist sitting alongside us. Bernie Ecclestone was out at the gate making sure they were selling programmes and checking tickets.
The venue was still being smartened up with fresh paint on practice day. The main grandstand on the back straight had no roof to protect against the blistering Brazilian sunshine, and every so often a fire engine would spray water over the fans patiently awaiting the race.
And now we have these spectacular events at incredible facilities, watched globally by tens of millions, and sponsored by some of the biggest organisations on the planet.
But none of that matters whatsoever if the racing is not entertaining, and thankfully it was.Sainz's drain-triggered penalty shows some regulation change is needed
The Ferraris looked on the pace throughout, and, just as in Monza, their low-downforce high top-speed aero package was working well.
Carlos Sainz's car had been wrecked by the errant access cover in first practice in a pretty scary way, and he needed many new parts including a battery pack which would hand him a 10-place grid penalty.
He was controlled but clearly beyond angry, as were his team who thought the penalty unfair in the circumstances. They also wanted to know who was going to pay for the damage.
There are hundreds of pages of rules in the International Sporting Code and the specific F1 Sporting and Technical regulations, but nothing which can allow the Stewards to legally turn a blind eye if something just doesn't seem fair.
It's perilous to write a clause and create a precedent where the Stewards can unilaterally ignore regulations in the name of common sense and fairness in force majeure situations, even if every team and others key bodies agree. But we really must add some wording, with due checks and balances, which can be applied without fear of ensuing legal actions, or teams using it to advantage in other scenarios.
Charles Leclerc would start on pole yet again with team-mate Sainz relegated to 12th, and crucially Max Verstappen promoted to the front row. Red Bull had recognised that they couldn't beat Ferrari in qualifying and so had trimmed some downforce and drag off Verstappen's car, which came in handy for the race.
The low-grip surface and cool night-time air created a very unpredictable grid.
Up in the top 10, for example, were two flying Williams of Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant, along with the Haas of Kevin Magnussen and the Alpine of Pierre Gasly. Valtteri Bottas had his Alfa Romeo up there too.
Struggling to switch the tyres on for a fast lap were the likes of Lewis Hamilton for Mercedes and both McLarens of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, down in 15th and 18th. Sergio Perez was also caught out in 11th place when the team ran him slightly early in Q2.
Thereafter with Sainz's penalty it seemed certain that many cars were going to be moving forward in the race while others would be slipping back. Or did it? We really had no idea about race pace on the hard tyres, but we did know the soft tyres would grain up quickly and be little used.The overtakes, the collisions, the action: How the race lived up to the Vegas lights
The brand-new surface was slippery throughout and with no support races to help burn a racing line and lay down some rubber the track didn't evolve in the normal way.
Added to that the surface temperature was roughly the same as the low ambient temperature under night skies, which is unusual for F1 racing tyres to manage.
It didn't help when one of the pristine old cars used for the driver parade leaked a vast amount of oil on the left-hand side of the start line, which was already more slippery than the racing line right-hand side, and had to be cleared away using granules and then sweepers and blowers.
Quite how Verstappen from that dusty side of the grid out-dragged Leclerc's Ferrari in the very short run to turn one I don't know, but they arrived wheel to wheel with Max on the inside.
The rules state that if your front axle is level or ahead of your rival's front axle at the apex - not always an easy point to define in a long corner - then you have earned the right to space and a legitimate overtake. But you have to keep control of your car and stay on track, which Max didn't, taking the Ferrari with him.
Like Leclerc and Ferrari most of us assumed Max would have to give the place back, but in fact he received a five-second penalty. In normal circumstances, and already with a two-second lead, you'd have to say that was lenient.
But in fact, the way it played out, with Leclerc catching and repassing him anyway, and a safety car for Lando Norris's worryingly heavy shunt, his first retirement since Brazil last year, adding five seconds to Max's pit stop put him quite a long way back in the pack.
There'd already been carnage in the first corner of the race with many drivers finding no grip and spinning or sliding wide into others. Or both. Those who had to stop early to fix damage or simply recover like Perez, Alonso, and Sainz, actually found themselves in a strong position when the safety car backed up the pack meaning they'd had a cheap pitstop time wise.
What we were witnessing was something akin to the same level of grip as intermediate tyres on a drying track, but at terminal velocities matching Monza and Baku on a dry warm day.
The slipping and sliding, and bravery in the braking zones, would remain a feature for the entire 50 laps, as cars passed and re-passed each other. It was one of those races where in the commentary box I suddenly noticed there were only three laps to go, it flew past.
There was contact aplenty even for the eventual winner Verstappen who made such an audacious move on George Russell that the Mercedes driver was only concentrating on controlling his own car and had no idea the Red Bull was on the inside.
Russell would take a not-unreasonable five-second penalty which would spoil his great drive to fourth place and turn it into eighth, such was the proximity of the pack. A season full of promise but even more of frustration for George.
For the second time in the last two races Perez would lose a place on the last lap as the 'never say die' Leclerc, quite rightly voted driver of the day, made a lunge to brilliantly pass him three corners from home. Perez would however cement second place in the standings for Red Bull's first ever one-two in the drivers' championship.
Oscar Piastri scored fastest lap and had a super-aggressive drive from his lowly grid position. He perhaps gets involved in too many skirmishes, this time a racing incident with Hamilton, but when he adds better control and judgement to his speed given more experience, he'll be mighty.
Lance Stroll had a mighty race for Aston Martin to claim fifth from 19th on the grid, and Sainz recovered from his grid penalty and running last on lap one to sixth at the flag.
Verstappen complained about pretty much everything to do with the event and track throughout, but when push came to shove, including a broken front wing, the world champion emerged through all the chaos once more for a brilliant 53rd victory. Like all the drivers he thoroughly enjoyed the frantic racing.
Leclerc has failed to win from his last 12 pole positions, and you could see the penny drop when in the cool-down Rolls Royce he realised that both Red Bulls had stopped for fresh tyres under the second safety car on lap 26 and he hadn't.
Now for another desert venue under the lights as we scramble from North America to the Middle East which will be somewhat warmer, and then yet another F1 season will be over.
After the thrills of Las Vegas, Formula 1 heads to Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina Circuit for the 2023 season finale and another stunning spectacle under the lights. Watch the Abu Dhabi weekend live on Sky Sports F1, with lights out on Sunday at 1pm. Stream F1 on Sky Sports with NOW2023-11-20T11:51:32Z dg43tfdfdgfd