Track repairs, Las Vegas Strip Circuit, 2023

First Vegas practice abandoned after 10 minutes as loose drain damages cars

Formula 1

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The first practice session for the Las Vegas Grand Prix was abandoned after less than 10 minutes of running as multiple cars were damaged by a loose drain cover.

Carlos Sainz Jnr’s Ferrari ran over a loose drain cover along the long Strip straight, causing damage to his car and prompting a red flag. At least one other car is believed to have sustained damage for the same reason, leading to the session being abandoned.

The session had begun only minutes earlier after months of build-up. The entire field headed out onto the Las Vegas Strip Circuit on a variety of tyre compounds, with Valtteri Bottas having the privilege of becoming the first driver to even complete a full lap of the Vegas circuit with a 1’50.227.

As to be expected, many drivers reported very low grip from the brand new street circuit, including George Russell and Esteban Ocon. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc went quickest of all with a 1’40.909 on the soft compound with the two Haas drivers of Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen going into second and third, respectively.

However, just seven minutes into the session, Sainz pulled his Ferrari off the track at the end of the long Strip straight, bringing out the yellow flags. The session was soon red flagged, but Esteban Ocon reported that he stuck “something” as he drove down the Strip under the red flag. He was later informed that his floor had been “pretty badly damaged”.

Lewis Hamilton also reported debris on the circuit, while Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo was reported to have been damaged. After ten minutes of red flag, during which time Sainz’s Ferrari was cleared, the FIA announced that the session would not be resumed despite well over 40 minutes of running time remaining.

Race control confirmed that all drain and manhole covers along the six kilometre circuit will be checked ahead of the second practice session scheduled for midnight on Friday morning. Only 15 drivers completed a timed lap in the opening eight minutes of running, with Leclerc ending the session as the fastest driver.

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The FIA said a failure occurred on “the concrete frame around a manhole cover” on the track.

“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.”

2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix first practice result

116Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’40.9094
227Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’43.4462.5374
320Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-231’44.2613.3524
41Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’44.3973.4884
531Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’45.3654.4565
663George RussellMercedesW141’45.4974.5884
755Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’45.8244.9154
822Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’45.9084.9995
911Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’46.7935.8844
1077Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’47.1476.2385
1110Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’48.2537.3445
1244Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’48.5137.6044
133Daniel RicciardoAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’48.6507.7414
1424Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’48.8227.9135
154Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’48.9478.0383
1618Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR23No time2
1781Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL60No time2
1823Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW45No time2
1914Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR23No time2
202Logan SargeantWilliams-MercedesFW45No time

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2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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57 comments on “First Vegas practice abandoned after 10 minutes as loose drain damages cars”

  1. ‘99% show, 1% sport’

  2. Underfloor downforce and manhole covers/inspection points have never and will never mix.
    Just change the cars and automatically solve most, if not all, of the adverse effects coming from F1’s constant unhealthy fascination with aero.

  3. That could have been a LOT worse than it was. Yikes. Not exactly a small lightweight loose object. Glad nobody got hurt.

  4. Who could have imagined such a happenstance?!

    1. That’s sarcasm, right?
      Just checking…

    2. Nobody that has watched F1 for years, including the first Baku Race or quite a few Monaco ones,surely.

      1. Was it in China? That a loose drain cover damaged Montoya’s McLaren?

  5. Does Ferrari and other damaged teams get to sue Vegas?

  6. Martin Brundle is jumping through hoops to desperately defend this track insisting that teams just need to raise the cars.

    The coverage has been frankly embarrassing.

    1. Also been taking shots at Verstappen fir criticising the event and track.

      Also this from Horner on Sky.
      “It’s not the most interesting or challenging track for drivers but then neither is Montreal”.

      Is he serious? Drivers as well as fans love Montreal because it’s a fun track thats a challenge for drivers. This Vegas abomination is in no way comparible.

    2. He’s not at all. Brundle’s just describing what’s happened and why.
      You, on the other hand, haven’t said anything positive or even so much as neutral about it – and in this one comment say so much about your lack of understanding of it.

      The TV commentary isn’t nearly as embarrassing as the stuff that appears in these comments sections.

    3. I have no respect for any journalist that depends on Liberty.

    4. I’ve always liked Brundle and his commentary. It was limited by what he was allowed to say of course, but unlike with that Croft guy, he’d at least actually voice a genuine opinion here and there. Plus he knows what he’s talking about, usually.
      Today I lost my respect for him. He was actually attacking a driver for giving an honest answer to a direct question, and a polite answer at that (it’s not like used bad language like Wolff did today or something). They started the broadcast by attacking the F1 champion for not liking the event, like that’s a crime, and brainwashing us how everything is so great and lovely (almost like I should feel ashamed if I don’t like it).
      I couldn’t believe seeing how Brundle is blatantly suggesting that Verstappen should have lied (like many drivers probably did), if he didn’t have only positive things to say (which would be “proper”, I guess). A grown man in his age, with his experience, playing this role… That’s sad.
      And Button as well, saying how Verstappen is paid to do other stuff than racing. But Verstappen DID show up and he did what he was supposed to do, didn’t he? What was that guy talking about!? He’s not paid to like it too. Maybe Button is, I don’t know…

      1. You are forgetting how everyone from the broadcasters to the drivers had to fall in line in Jeddah after a missile hit the title sponsors refinery a few miles down the road.

  7. how many manholes are there? Anyone heard?

    1. Will re-watch Ocean’s 11 and get back to you…

    2. CART race several years ago, had the similar problem, they had failed to weld one of them closed.

  8. The ghost of Baku 2019 has struck again…

  9. Carlos Sainz didn’t bring out the yellow – don’t know why brought them out but Sainz was not yet at the point where yellows were, he advised of them prior to him hitting the drain cover.

  10. Spend half a billion and don’t fix drains lol. They have had this before, obviously didn’t learn a lesson.

    1. Apparently this is a different issue to what has been seen before as it didn’t simply lift the cover.

      It was a failure of the concrete that had been laid around the cover which caused not just the cover but the thing it’s bolted into to come up.

      In the instances where something like this has happened in the past it’s just been a bolt that has been loose that has caused only the cover or drain grating to lift enough for it to do damage.

      So usually they just need to bolt it back down and ensure it and all others around the track are screwed down tight.

      This will seemingly need new concrete laid down around thie one that failed as well as perhaps every other one of these covers so it’s seemingly a much bigger problem.

      1. It wasn’t a manhole though, but a much smaller cover (with the whole – I assume metal – surrounding structure).
        Fixing that seems easier as they can bolt that metal structure horizontally below the track surface, and bolt the cover back on.
        Not sure how many of these smaller covers they have around the circuit.

  11. Seems like the concrete frame around the manhole failed, not the cover itself.

    I’m no expert, but that seems potentially worse than the cover, or the welding to secure it, failing.

    Not like they can start ripping them out and putting new concrete in at this point. And how are they going to check them? Rip them open, inspect, strengthen if needs be then re-weld? That’s probably several days worth of work, not a few hours.

    1. I would expect they’ll have to drill bore holes in the surrounding pavement and put crossmembers in and weld the manhole covers to that.

      Will be interesting to see if they can have it ready by FP2. Hopefully this isn’t a problem common to all the drains on the Strip.

  12. Wow. How much were they selling tickets for again…? This is starting to feel very Indy 2005 to me… What an awkward few days it has been for F1 following that weird opening ceremony!

  13. What an embarrassing error by organizers.

    1. Liberty should be ashamed

  14. And Andretti wonders why nobody respects Americans in F1. Absolute embarrassment.

    I was rooting for this event to succeed but now, I’m hoping for maximum embarrassment. I just hope nobody gets injured.

    1. What do you expect from a country founded after a revolt over taxes?

      1. Nah. It was about freedom. (For some of us).

  15. They may be able to get away with some 🚧Roadworks in Progress signs,🚧single lane , 40kph speed limit , and merge carefully and courteously signs (if they have enough) 🚧🚧🚧🚧

    1. Just toss a yellow flag like F1 purists want.

    2. Indeed, they can install all kinds of silly chicances just like they did in 1994 after Imola.

  16. Here’s a bit of a story for you.

    They weren’t able to do a proper track inspection because it was still been built on Tuesday with some parts of it still open for traffic when Niels Wittich was trying to do the track inspection.

    They ended up having to rush it during the opening ceremony yesterday and didn’t declare the circuit as safe and ready until after that ceremony.

    It doesn’t seem like any of the usual procedures or checks were skipped but due to not having as much time as usual things were done at a faster pace.

    Also talk FP2 w

    1. Also talk FP2 will be extended to 90 minutes if it is able to take place.

      If FP2 has to be cancelled as well then FP3 will be extended to at least 90 minutes.

      1. Damage to Carlos Sainz car is that the chassis is unrepairable, floor is wrecked and both the engine and battery are destroyed.

        Fred Vasseur says that Liberty are responsible and should pay for the damage which is millions of dollars.

        He’s furious.

        1. Can’t imagine why he’s upset– that’s enough penalties that Sainz will be starting from the pitlane– in AUSTIN. And the team’s now going to have to build up an entirely new car, with a new engine and energy store.

        2. Issues have been found with multiple drain covers around the circuit.

        3. Wow,that’s a lot of damage indeed.guess if mannhole with attached Bits of concrete strikes from below most Road Cars would suffer Engine and transmission damage to so no wonder really,whole bottom probably ripped up

        4. What a disaster, thank you for your insights.

    2. This practice of not homologating the circuit until the F1 weekend itself needs to stop, immediately. It happened in Jeddah too and that inaugural event was a dangerous farce, across the support categories as well as F1. It happened in Miami too, although that event was just boring rather than unsafe fortunately.

      I’ve said this before, but new circuits should be required to host at least one non-F1 category before being considered for the F1 calendar. Might be tricky with temporary street circuits, but if Liberty really want an F1 race in a particular city, they’ll make it happen.

      1. @red-andy I couldn’t agree more about leaving homologation until the last minute, & while you already acknowledged the difficulty of hosting something before F1 with temporary circuits, any such racing could realistically only take place earlier on the same weekend rather than any sooner because of inconvenience for local traffic & business.

      2. @red-andy Circuits used to have to host another event before been homologated for F1.

        That rule was ended in 2010 i believe it was in order to get the Korean GP the go ahead.

        I don’t even think it needed to be an actual race event. Some form of track day, test session or parade featuring historic cars was enough from memory. Just needed to be something to have cars running around it.

        1. Thanks as always for the insight. A track day around the Las Vegas GP circuit in advance of the event might have been almost as big a money-spinner as the F1 weekend itself! Although doubtless very disruptive for the local area.

  17. It’s obviously very draining for the drivers.

  18. Its time to pack things for Abu Dhabi, i guess.

    1. It’s different this time, the concrete failed not the manhole cover itself. Much more difficult to inspect and fix.

    2. Shanghai 2005 is the one that sticks in my mind – might even have cost McLaren the constructors’ championship that year.

  19. The Formula One farce continues!

  20. Absolutely pathetic.

    Formula 1 cars are meant to race on Formula 1 circuits, not cobbled together tracks at venues that the promoters think ‘look cool’.

    It’s the equivalent of holding the football World Cup final in the middle of Red Square.

    We want competitive racing, not scenery!!!

    1. Oh stop, street tracks have forever been part of motorsport! They just need to be prepared better, that’s all. Vegas is a fantastic racing track, only the organization is bad.

      1. Vegas is a fantastic racing track, only the organization is bad.

        It’s a new track. How do you know it’s a “..fantastic racing track”?

    2. “We want competitive racing, not scenery!!!”
      If you want competitive racing, F1 should be your last choice to watch. Also, poorly prepared drainage system has nothing to do with racing competitiveness. You seem to be hysterical like a woman with no sensible remarks. Calm down, mate.

      1. In this case “poorly prepared drainage system” can kill. You’re too calm. Like it was a minor issue… No, it was not. As for the scenery, all I could see are huuuuge flashing ads, on that sphere and many billboards. But if that’s a matter of taste, I’ll leave it at that; some people like watching the giant flashing shampoo add next to the track at night.

  21. We want competitive racing, not scenery!!!

    Have you seen the video of the drive round of the circuit.
    Central Milton Keynes would be a major upgrade

  22. I’m afraid that their greed (F1 organization and the promoters too) will eventually kill someone. This is what 99% show and 1% racing means for me. You invest everything in a show, and force all the other issues and also force people not to talk about them. Like those guys from Sky attacked Verstappen for speaking his mind, in their intro before the FP session (I was surprised by M. Brundle to be honest). What was their message, that he should have lied and smiled? Shame on them for that. And he didn’t even talk about safety issues, I can only imagine what he’d say with hindsight. There’s no way that they didn’t know about structural integrity of that road, they knew exactly how they have prepared that track. But they were willing to take risks and speed things up, instead of investing the money where it matters. If the track was properly tested, this issue would show itself before an F1 driver almost got killed (imagine he was at full speed…).
    But no, they let the actual F1 cars in an actual F1 official event test the track, at full speed, after rainy conditions the previous day I think. Maybe I’m just too biased about this event and what it represents, but don’t tell me this is normal.

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