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Loose drain cover ends first F1 practice in Las Vegas; fans sent home

The drain cover damaged driver Carlos Sainz's Ferrari, which had a visible hole on the bottom of the vehicle.
Loose drain cover ends first F1 practice in Las Vegas; fans sent home
Posted at 7:21 AM, Nov 17, 2023

The first Formula 1 practice session of the Las Vegas Grand Prix was canceled and the second practice was delayed due to a loose drain cover on the track, officials said.

"Following an FIA inspection, it was found a concrete frame around a manhole cover had failed during FP1," F1 said on X.

"The FIA are commencing checks on all other covers across the circuit. Any changes to scheduling will be advised in due course," it said.

F1 delayed the start of its second practice to 2 a.m., but extended it 30 minutes. Originally, the practice was scheduled for midnight.

According to ESPN, because of "logistical concerns," the second practice had no fans at the track.

Less than 10 minutes into the first session, Scuderia Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz had a message pop up on the dashboard that read "Stop The Car" and his vehicle slowed to a stop.

Formula 1 officials said the vehicle was damaged due to the loose drain cover.

As the vehicle was taken back to the Ferrari garage, a hole could be seen in the bottom of the vehicle.

Sainz was walking around the pit and garage building. However, it's unclear if he was injured during the incident.

Crews checked all other covers across the circuit.

"We're not going to resume as it's going to take time to understand the issue and take any necessary actions to remedy," F1's governing body said. "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."

Sainz wasn't the only driver whose car was damaged. The Alpine team said Esteban Ocon will also have to undergo a chassis change "due to damage from a suspected drain cover on the track."

"It's a shame that we're not on-track running at the moment," Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner told Sky Sports. "Obviously, there's been a problem. I think the frame around the manhole or the post that's there, that seems to be what's given way, so they'll need to check all of the others and probably weld them or do something just to ensure from a safety point of view because you can see the damage that's been done to the Ferrari."

Ferrari Team Principal Fred Vasseur said the whole team is upset by the situation.

"We damaged completely the monocoque, the engine, the battery," Vasseur said. "It cost us a fortune. We won't be part of the second practice session for sure. I think it's just unacceptable."

It's something echoed by McLaren Team Principal Zak Brown, who said Las Vegas is a huge event and it's unfortunate how it has kicked off. Williams Team Principal James Vowles said they definitely know how it feels.

"We've been on the receiving end of it," Vowles said. A few years ago, whenever George Russell was driving for Williams, he hit a manhole cover in Baku. That happened during the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, about 12 minutes into the first free practice session of the day. The manhole cover dislodged after Ferrari's Charles Leclerc drove over it earlier that session.

Vasseur said the Las Vegas Grand Prix was a big step for Formula 1 and that they shouldn't rush to judge who is to blame. Brown and Vowles agreed, adding that people shouldn't jump to conclusions that corners were cut. However, they said it does need to be looked at to make sure it doesn't happen again. Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff added that these things can happen, but it is a shame.

"This is nothing. It's FP1. Give credit to the people that have set up this Grand Prix, that have made this sport much bigger than it ever was," Wolff said. "Liberty has done an awesome job. Just because in FP1, a drain cover has become undone, we shouldn't be moaning. The car is broken. That's really a shame. For Carlos, it could have been dangerous. [Everybody] needs to analyze how we can make sure that this is not happening again. But talking about a black eye for the sport, on a Thursday evening, nobody watches that in European time anyway."

Vasseur said he is just "shocked" and "doesn't want to say too much."

"Our track time is cut short and we have to find a solution," Vasseur said. "It could have been much worse."

When looking at the fastest times before the session was stopped, Ferrari's Charles Leclerc was in first at 1:40.909. Haas drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen were in second and third at +2.537 seconds and +3.352 seconds.

This story was originally published by Scripps News Las Vegas.

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