Embarrassing start for Vegas GP after manhole cover cuts opening practice short

Race Operations officials inspect a loose drain cover on the track during the first practice session. Picture: Jim Watson / AFP.

Race Operations officials inspect a loose drain cover on the track during the first practice session. Picture: Jim Watson / AFP.

Published Nov 17, 2023


The Las Vegas Grand Prix suffered an embarrassing start when the first practice session on the new circuit was abandoned after just nine minutes of racing on Thursday due to a loose drain cover.

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz had his vehicle stop after hitting the cover, resulting in a red flag and damage to the front his vehicle.

After some delay organisers announced that the session would not be resumed.

"Following inspection, it was the concrete frame around a manhole cover that has failed. We now need to check all of the other manhole covers which will take some time," the International Motoring Federation (FIA) said in a statement.

"We will be discussing with the local circuit engineering team about the length of time it will take to resolve and will update with any resultant changes to the schedule."

A second practice session was scheduled for midnight local time in Vegas and organisers faced a race against time to make the checks and any necessary repairs in time.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc had posted the fastest lap with a time of 1:40.909.

The Italian team said they were checking the damage caused to Sainz's car but said that it "seems quite extensive".

Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur, clearly angry and using profanity in a news conference, there was no chance of Sainz taking part in the second session.

"We damaged completely the monocoque, the engine, the battery. I think it's just unacceptable," he said.

"It cost us a fortune. We won't be part of FP2 for sure. I think it's just unacceptable for F1 today," he added.

Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff reacted with fury to a question from a reporter about whether the incident was a "black eye" for the sport's organisers.

"That is not a black eye, this is nothing. We are on Thursday night, we have a FP1 that we are not doing, they are going to seal the rain covers and nobody is going to talk about that anymore tomorrow morning," said the German.

"It's completely ridiculous. How can you even dare trying to talk bad about an event that sets new standards in everything. You are talking about a drain over that has been undone, that has happened before and is nothing," he said.

"Between the FIA and the track everybody needs to analyze how we can make sure this doesn't happen again but talking about a black-eye for the sport on a Thursday evening, nobody watches that in European time anyway," he added.

Esteban Ocon's Alpine also suffered damage and the team were forced to begin changing the chassis on his car.

A similar incident occurred at the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix when George Russell, then racing for Williams, had his car hit by a loose manhole cover and the first practice session was cancelled.

Thursday's opening practice was the first time the new circuit had been raced upon.

Agence France-Presse

Related Topics:

formula 1motor racing