Las Vegas Grand Prix first practice CANCELED after just eight minutes due to a loose drain cover in a nightmare start to the F1 weekend
- Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari stopped after appearing to go over the drain
- Alpine’s Esteban Ocon also ran into a loose manhole cover, causing damage
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Formula One’s venture into America started it as it has often gone before – with a massive blow, caused by a virtual wipe-out of the first practice session due to drain covers causing havoc.
There is no certainty any more action will be held tonight.
The much anticipated beginning to the Las Vegas Grand Prix weekend, the most-hyped event the sport has staged, ended with just eight minutes of running. Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari conked out after apparently hitting a drain.
Sainz suffered a jolt before coming to a stop. His delay caused a red flag to be waved, never to be rescinded.
A loose drain cover saw the first practice of the Vegas Grand Prix called off in eight minutes
The issue was far from an ideal start to a hugely anticipated weekend in Vegas
Track marshals and officials tend to the area of the track that saw first practice ended early
Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari is removed from the track by a crane after going over the cover
The crew for Alpine check Esteban Ocon’s car for possible damage from the cover
Up to 100,000 fans were due to be at the new circuit on the Strip, though there were some empty seats, as F1 tried to take a deeper step into the American market.
An FIA spokesman said: ‘Following inspection, it was the concrete frame around a manhole cover that failed.
‘We now have to check all of the other manhole covers and that will take some time. We will be discussing with the local engineering team how long it will take to resolve and will update any changes to the schedule.’
Second practice is due to start at midnight local time, but there are no guarantees about that.
Some fans have paid $185,000 (£150,000) for the privilege to be here – and this setback leaves the faces of F1 bosses bright red.
Fans booed from the stands as the halt was called.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner discussed the situation with his Ferrari counterpart Fred Vasseur on the pit wall. After Sainz’s 200mph run-in with the drain on Sin City’s famous Strip, the Scuderia confirmed there was extensive damage to the Spaniard’s machinery.
Only five laps were completed in front of the crowds.
An FIA spokesman said that all of the other manhole covers on the track must now be checked
Fans had paid thousands to watch the racing in Vegas over the course of the weekend
The scenes were a nightmare for race organizers at the start of a massive weekend for F1
A few hours earlier the streets of the Las Vegas Boulevard were open to regular traffic.
Question marks lie at the door of the FIA, the governing body, who sign off the track. Race director Niels Wittich is the man responsible.
A few weeks ago, a senior FIA staff member told Mail Sport they were satisfied everything was in good order ‘between the barriers’ – their code for the race track limits rather than anything surrounding it, or commercial.
A similar event occurred in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 2019, another street circuit, and in Monaco, where Jenson Button encountered drain cover problems in 2016.
Horner said: ‘It’s a shame we are not allowed on track. They are going to have to check all the manhole covers and weld them or do something because you can see the damage it’s done. We are all good. No damage for us so far.
‘They have got to be flexible. It’s a great shame for the fans but safety comes first. We have got to get this right and hopefully it won’t take too long.’
Sky pundit Martin Brundle said: ‘That’s it for today from my experience. Fixing that and checking everything else, letting it dry and making sure it won’t come out again is a big job.
Only five laps were completed in front of the crowds in Vegas before things were halted
The roads were scheduled to be reopened to the public in Vegas around the sessions
‘Theoretically, they are going to open the Strip after the F1 sessions. That’s a very, very big issue if there are other areas like that around the track.
‘It’s that moment at top speed where the cars run at the lowest and it compresses the aerodynamics, so that’s going to show up first and they will have to check everything else.
‘We had it in Sportscar racing. I remember in Montreal, it went through the floor and the fuel tank and blew the things to bits.’
Big questions hang over what to do next. Can the roads be open to the public again this weekend? Can they not be, given the Boulevard is a major artery at the heart of Las Vegas life?
Vasseur hit out hard at events: ‘Carlos said he hit something on track. It is just unacceptable for Formula One. We won’t be part of FP2 for sure; we need to change the chassis.’
A spokesman from F1 said: ‘After inspection by Formula One and the FIA, a single water valve cover on the circuit failed. The FIA, F1 and local circuit engineering teams are actively working to review and address the issue.
‘We will provide an update on the race schedule as soon as possible.
‘During this review period, all tickets, food and beverage and entertainment options will continue to be honored, and we remain focused on providing our patrons with a great experience.
‘We appreciate the collaboration of the relevant event operations staff to ensure a safe and orderly egress of patrons if they choose to leave.’
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