F1 drivers ran only 4 laps before Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr. hit a drain cover on the Las Vegas Blvd that broke his car and caused a Red Flag.
–by Mark Cipolloni–
Less than 10 minutes into the hour session, Sainz stopped out on track at the Las Vegas Strip Circuit. Onboard footage showed a message reading ‘Stop the Car’ had appeared on the Spaniard’s dashboard.
The frame around the manhole cover came loose and Sainz hit it hard. The drain will have to be fixed, and it caused the rest of the session to be cancelled.
We’ve seen these issues before, both at Baku and Monaco. The FIA are already investigating, and have sent some representatives down to look at the damage suffered by Sainz’s Ferrari.
Charles Leclerc turned the fastest lap of 1m40.909s in his #16 Ferrari on the soft Pirelli tires to top two other soft tire runners – Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen, 2.5s and 3.3s behind respectively on the green track.
Max Verstappen was the fastest driver on the Medium Pirelli, 3.4s behind in 4th.
Esteban Ocon rounded out the top-5 for Alpine but he too damaged his chassis on the drain and he will need a new chassis for Practice 2.
The teams will now need to reshuffle their planned programs, having not managed to get nearly as much running in there as they would have hoped.
The FIA will be working with the local Las Vegas GP organizers to fix the suspect drain, as well as check all the others. We’ll have to wait and see what the results are, but hopefully FP2 will be able to take place.
There has been an update from the FIA:
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.
Practice 2 starts at 3:00am ET. It is possible that the FIA could choose to extend either the FP2 or FP3 sessions to make up for the loss of running.
Going into the session, and amid the backdrop of drivers’ complaints about the ‘show’ elements of the race weekend, it was thought the newly-iconic ‘Sphere’ venue might distract the drivers.
As a result, colors the same as the critical warning flags – red, blue and yellow – were banned from the Sphere for the actual track sessions.
Max Verstappen joked that only seeing his face on the Sphere would be a distraction. “I’d probably smash the car straight into the wall,” the world champion laughed.
Mercedes’ George Russell agreed that a bigger concern is the layout itself.
“I understand the thinking for overtaking, but I don’t think it will be a great track for the drivers,” he said.
“But I think it’s only long-time fans who appreciate the importance of historic circuits like Silverstone or Monaco. Times are changing and we need to embrace it.
“But will this be good for the racing? I’m skeptical.”
Ultimately, though, it wasn’t the Sphere or the cold temperatures or the layout that brought opening practice to a halt late on Thursday – but a manhole cover.
“The floor of Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari has been badly damaged,” reported Speed Week. “The suspension is broken and the survival cell may also be damaged.”
Esteban Ocon’s Alpine then suffered a similar fate, bringing out the red flags – permanently.
“The FIA reports that it’s actually torn out of the asphalt,” Auto Motor und Sport declared in its live track commentary.
“Alpine tells us that they need to change the chassis because of the damage.”
The German publication continued: “All the other manhole covers now need to be inspected. They then need to discuss with the local engineers how long it will take to find a solution and what impact this will have on the schedule.”
Formula 1’s governing body then confirmed: “A concrete frame around a manhole cover has failed and all of the other manhole covers need to be checked.”
Alpine boss Bruno Famin said it’s “possible” the second planned practice session at midnight could be “increased to one and a half hours” to compensate.
“I heard that this is being discussed,” he said. “I believe the FIA ??understands what needs to be done in such a situation, and I have no doubt that they are doing it.”
Ferrari boss Frederic Vasseur says Sainz’s car is also a write-off.
“This is totally unacceptable,” he charged. “The monocoque is badly damaged, as is the engine and the battery. That costs a fortune.
“We certainly won’t be able to take part in the second practice session.”
Auto Motor und Sport’s Tobias Gruner commented: “This is a disaster for Formula 1. No race weekend has ever been accompanied by such hype and the organizers at Liberty Media have invested hundreds of millions of dollars.
“The pressure is high to find a quick solution. Otherwise, we are facing a complete farce.”
At the time of writing, the situation appears dire – as it emerges that the problem with the offending manhole cover is actually “not an isolated case”.
Speed Week’s Mathias Brunner reports: “It is unclear whether there can be a second practice session at all.”
Las Vegas GP Practice 1 Results
|1||Charles Leclerc||MON||Scuderia Ferrari||1m40.909s||+0.000s||4|
|2||Nico Hulkenberg||GER||MoneyGram Haas F1 Team||1m43.446s||+2.537s||4|
|3||Kevin Magnussen||DEN||MoneyGram Haas F1 Team||1m44.261s||+3.352s||4|
|4||Max Verstappen||NED||Oracle Red Bull Racing||1m44.397s||+3.488s||4|
|5||Esteban Ocon||FRA||BWT Alpine F1 Team||1m45.365s||+4.456s||5|
|6||George Russell||GBR||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team||1m45.497s||+4.588s||4|
|7||Carlos Sainz||ESP||Scuderia Ferrari||1m45.824s||+4.915s||4|
|8||Yuki Tsunoda||JPN||Scuderia AlphaTauri||1m45.908s||+4.999s||5|
|9||Sergio Perez||MEX||Oracle Red Bull Racing||1m46.793s||+5.884s||4|
|10||Valtteri Bottas||FIN||Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake||1m47.147s||+6.238s||5|
|11||Pierre Gasly||FRA||BWT Alpine F1 Team||1m48.253s||+7.344s||5|
|12||Lewis Hamilton||GBR||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team||1m48.513s||+7.604s||4|
|13||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Scuderia AlphaTauri||1m48.650s||+7.741s||4|
|14||Zhou Guanyu||CHN||Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake||1m48.822s||+7.913s||5|
|15||Lando Norris||GBR||McLaren F1 Team||1m48.947s||+8.038s||3|
|16||Lance Stroll||CAN||Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant||No Time Set||2|
|17||Oscar Piastri||AUS||McLaren F1 Team||No Time Set||2|
|18||Alex Albon||THA||Williams Racing||No Time Set||2|
|19||Fernando Alonso||ESP||Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant||No Time Set||2|
|20||Logan Sargeant||USA||Williams Racing||No Time Set|