Opening Las Vegas practice cancelled after track issue
By Mat Coch
Friday 17th November, 2023 - 4:09pm
The opening practice session for the Las Vegas Grand Prix has been red flagged and will not be resumed due to concerns with the circuit.
Little more than eight minutes of running took place before the red flags were shown when Carlos Sainz stopped on the back straight.
His Ferrari had suffered damage to its floor, shortly after Esteban Ocon also sustained damage to his Alpine.
“We will change the chassis on Car #31 due to damage from a suspected drain cover on track,” Alpine subsequently confirmed.
Both drivers appeared to strike the same drain cover, forcing the FIA to abandon the session due to safety concerns.
Ocon appeared to hit it first, drawing yellow flags under which Sainz also impacted it.
“We are checking the damage caused to Carlos’ car when he hit the manhole cover, which seems quite extensive,” Ferrari stated once the car had been returned.
A statement from the FIA confirmed: “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 – 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.”
Charles Leclerc had set the pace in what little running there was, though not all drivers had managed to record a time – or even exit the pits.
The stoppage is a concern given the uncertainty it creates for a brand new venue, with uncertainty surrounding Free Practice 2 and the impact of the schedule for the balance of the weekend.
The FIA did amend the schedule for the Canadian Grand Prix earlier this year when a CCTV failure forced the cancellation of opening practice after just 10 minutes.
Track time is critical for teams in Las Vegas as teams work to understand ride heights and tyre wear, especially given the cooler conditions.
A joint statement from F1 and Las Vegas Grand Prix Inc moved to clarify the situation: “After inspection by Formula 1 and the FIA, a single water valve cover on the Las Vegas Grand Prix circuit failed during the first practice session.
“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 honoured, 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.”