PROST scriptum

If you're a regular reader, you'll know by now that I live in Saint-Chamond, near St Etienne in France. So you'll understand why I felt somewhat disorientated when I arrived in Las Vegas to spend the week of the Grand Prix in the town. And having visited the place, I can assure you that I have no wish to settle there.

I found the town itself rather disappointing. Sure, it's a kind of special symbol, sitting out there in the middle of the desert all on its own. But the neon-lit, slot machine world is not for me. As far as I'm concerned, one week in Las Vegas was quite enough. Apart from playing the tables, there's nothing to do. You either put your money on the line, or you get bored.

I suppose I should have expected it. Vegas - it's smarter than saying Las Vegas - lived up to its reputation. It was no better nor worse than people said it would be. You have to look on the place as a monument or a freak town. Spend a couple of hours there, take a few photographs, lose a few dollars, and get back to civilisation again.

Everything is orientated around gambling. I must admit that I tried a little roulette as did most of the other drivers. I'm not a great gambler but to go to Las Vegas without gambling is like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower, or St Chamond and not seeing my flat (whoops, on second thoughts I think I'll retract that statement for fear of traffic jams in the street outside)! Anyway, I put my money down and would you believe I won? Yes, I took some money off them. So the French did win something in Las Vegas!

But I must admit that I wasn't tempted to continue. The Auvergne area has the same reputation as Scotland when it comes to spending money. But seriously, I simply didn't like the atmosphere at the tables. I found it quite amusing to gamble for half an hour at roulette. But everyone else was so serious and sad. They weren't there to have fun, but to win money. Their eyes would light up every time money fell out of the slot machine. They never smiled whether they were welded to a slot machine or counting every penny on the roulette wheel. I found it odious.

As I mentioned, I played roulette, but when there was no one else at the table. A journalist friend and I had a great time, but when some serious gamblers joined us, the atmosphere was such that we changed tables.

The circuit itself, I think, was a success when you think of what the organisers had to start off with. I was quite surprised. You could overtake relatively easily, contrary to what we expected. And although the safety could be criticised on certain points, the circuit wasn't dangerous - we've driven on worse this year. The race itself was strange but interesting. Generally speaking, it was a fair Grand Prix.

I was exhausted at the end of the race, and I wasn't the only one. Monaco used to be the most tiring circuit on the calendar, but I think Las Vegas now holds that title. The track is very bumpy, and there's nowhere that you can relax for a moment. It was good training, but not for the off-season. See you soon!

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