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LAS VEGAS: Seven-times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has defended the organization of the Las Vegas Grand Prix after criticism from current world champion Max Verstappen.

Red Bull’s Verstappen had said the event was “99 percent show and one percent sporting event” and said the street track was “not every interesting.”

Other drivers including McLaren’s Lando Norris and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz had questioned the amount of commercial commitments that drivers have had to undertake around the race.

The comments, after a glitzy opening ceremony with a drone show and performance from Australian singer Kylie Minogue, are unlikely to have pleased F1’s American owners Liberty Media, who are also promotors of the Vegas race.

But Hamilton said that the growth of the sport in the US was a welcome development and praised the American investor and Formula One CEO Stefano Domenicali.

“I hear there are a lot of people complaining about the direction that Stefano and Liberty has gone. But they are doing an amazing job,” said the Mercedes driver.

“The sport continues to grow. It is a business and you will still see good racing here. It is a country to tap into and really captivate the audience,” he said.

Hamilton said there was clearly a buzz around the event.

“Everybody I know in Hollywood is coming and there will be a lot of business going on this weekend,” he said.

“It will be a good spectacle to watch, even for those back home who have never been to Vegas. They will get to learn what it is all about,” he said.

The race will go along the famous ‘strip’, home to the city’s top hotels and casinos.

The return of F1 to Vegas after a 41 year absence follows the addition of Miami to the circuit while the US Grand Prix is held in Austin, Texas.

“We needed to have at least two races in the US, one wasn’t enough, and this is one of the most iconic and unique cities that they have here,” said British driver Hamilton, who conceded that the atmosphere around the Vegas race was very different to some of the established classic venues on the circuit.

“It is a big show for sure, and it is never going to be like Silverstone, but maybe over time, the people in this community will grow to love the sport,” he said.

Verstappen had criticized the track saying he wasn’t a fan of street courses in general.

“Of course it will be great driving through the Strip, but then the layout itself is not the most exciting. An F1 car is a lot more fun with a lot of high-speed corners,” said the Dutchman.

But Hamilton said he would wait until the drivers had competed on it, starting with Thursday night’s practice sessions, before making any judgment.

“Maybe the track will be good, and maybe it will be bad. It was so-so on the simulator. But don’t knock it until you try it,” he said.

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