Fans directed out of grandstands, Las Vegas GP, 2023

F1 explains why spectator areas were closed and offers compensation to some fans

Formula 1

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Formula 1 and the Las Vegas Grand Prix promoter have issued a joint statement explaining why fans were told to leave before second practice and offered compensation to some of those affected.

A loose valve cover caused serious disruption to the first night of running at the Las Vegas Strip Circuit, seriously damaging two cars soon after practice began. The opening session was called off and the second was so badly delayed security staff had to leave before it began, meaning the spectator enclosures had to be emptied.

After ticket-holding fans at the track saw less than 10 minutes of running during F1’s flagship new race, the series’ CEO Stefano Domenicali and Las Vegas Grand Prix CEO Renee Wilm addressed the situation in a statement.

“Our top priority at Formula 1 is the safety and security of our drivers, employees, and fans,” it said. “Responsibility for the oversight of a Formula 1 event falls with Formula 1 as the commercial rights holder of the sport, the FIA as the regulatory body, and the local promoter, in this case the Las Vegas Grand Prix. This is important for those who are new to racing to understand.”

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Las Vegas Strip Circuit, 2023
Sainz’s car was badly damaged early in first practice
“Last night, approximately nine minutes into the first free practice session, a water valve cover broke on the straight on Las Vegas Boulevard. At that time the FIA, which is responsible for the safe running of the activities on the circuit, stopped the session so that we could look at the broken water valve cover and inspect the track. This has happened on occasion at other tracks at other races around the world.”

Loose drainage covers have struck cars at both street and permanent circuits in the past. In recent seasons Romain Grosjean‘s car was damaged by a loose drain cover at the 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix and 300 drains had to be checked at Baku in 2019 after one came free and hit George Russell‘s car.

The statement says some of the subsequent work on the Las Vegas track was done out of caution, rather than necessity. “The precautionary step of removing all of the water valve covers on the entire track and filling them with sand and asphalt was undertaken,” it said. “The entire process, from determination of the issue to remediation, took approximately five hours.

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“The decision to remediate in this way was taken out of an abundance of caution and because the safety of drivers, trackside marshals and officials and our fans is always our highest priority. We thank the contractors who worked expeditiously to resolve the situation so quickly.”

“As a result, the first free practice ended early,” it continued. “We moved ahead with the second free practice session at approximately 2:30am [local time] for 90 minutes.

“The decision to run the second free practice session at 2:30am was supported by all parties to ensure the sporting integrity of the remainder of the event.

“We would like to thank the drivers, mechanics and all the teams for their patience and commitment last night to ensure that we could run the session successfully.

The statement also addresses the circumstances in which fans, who had waited for hours to see on-track action restarted, were asked to leave the track before the delayed second practice. F1 said the decision, which Esteban Ocon called “unacceptable”, arose due to restrictions on transportation, hospitality and security workers’ shift lengths.

“The delay in the start of the second free practice session from midnight to 2:30am PT created risks for our employees and our fans. We made the decision to close the fan areas that are under LVGP’s purview at 1:30am and send fans home.”

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“First, we were concerned about our public safety and security officials who had been in service for a long time and who are being asked to work for the next three nights,” it continued. “We thank Clark County’s Metro Police Department, Department of Public Works and other public safety officials for their incredible support during the event and also as we re- opened the track early this morning.

Spectators, Las Vegas Strip Circuit, 2023
Grandstands were empited before practice resumed
“Second, we were concerned about our transportation employees who are responsible for driving our fans back to hotels. By federal law, they were bumping up against the amount of time they can legally and safely drive buses.

“Finally, our hospitality staff needed the ability to clean and resupply our guest areas to ensure that the fan experience is optimal for everyone over the coming days.”

F1 acknowledged the frustration of fans who had waited hours to watch practice before being told to leave. “We know this was disappointing,” it said. “We hope our fans will understand based on this explanation that we had to balance many interests, including the safety and security of all participants and the fan experience over the whole race weekend.”

The statement asks fans to be understanding of the complications they experienced on the opening night of action. “We have all been to events, like concerts, games and even other Formula 1 races, that have been cancelled because of factors like weather or technical issues. It happens, and we hope people will understand.”

Domenicali and Wilm assured fans the situation will not be repeated on qualifying and race days. “We have worked overnight to adjust our staffing plans across security, transportation and hospitality to ensure that we can function and serve fans with the best possible experience in the event of an extended race schedule.

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“We are excited about the racing today and thank our entire team and our fans for their support. We know this is going to be a great event. With that let’s get back to racing.”

After the statement was issued, F1 said any fans who had bought tickets for the first night of running only have been offered $200 of store credit at the official Las Vegas Grand Prix shop as compensation.

Fans were notified of the offer in a message which read: “There is no higher priority at a Formula 1 race than the safety and security of drivers, fans and staff alike. Following last night’s incident involving a water valve cover, the Las Vegas Grand Prix, F1 and the FIA were faced with the difficult decision to close the fan zones prior to the beginning of free practice two.

“We appreciate your patience while we remedied the situation. This was not a decision we took lightly. As a thank you for your support, we would like to offer you a $200 voucher to the Las Vegas Grand Prix Official Shop.

“With a full round of practice successfully completed, we look forward to providing a safe and entertaining race weekend for all.”

Practice day-only tickets in the grandstands around the circuit were $235 and in the Sphere fanzone, $218. It is understood that only a minority of fans had purchased day, rather than weekend, tickets.

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2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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30 comments on “F1 explains why spectator areas were closed and offers compensation to some fans”

  1. I accept these things happen, but the compensation is a joke.

    1. So, honey, they gave us a $200 store credit. I went to use it at their store. Cheapest item was $250. It cost me more money not to watch, than to watch. I can’t cope with the new F1 economics.

      1. Cheapest item was $250

        are you serious

    2. Have to buy another entry ticket to access store buy $200 b-ball cap?
      What about everyday ticket holders?nothing?

      1. Verification code on hour $200 voucher: “U-P-Y-O-U-R-S„

    3. You accept that they start a practice section near midnight, don’t secure security services in the event the session goes long, and penalize a team who had a hole blown out of their car by shoddy track workmanship, and then kick the people who have paid a lot of money to see the event out of their seats, and run the session with no spectators?! Ha! Good luck to the sport if they expect a significant portion of the audience to be that accepting.

      1. @kerrymaxwell. I feel you miss my point. What had happened at the time of my comment, had actually happened. Like it or not, things like grandstand closures will, more likely than not, happen again. Obviously rarely, and maybe not in my lifetime, but I remain of the view that I accept these things happen. There was no intent to suggest the events that led to the grandstand closures were ‘acceptable’ nor do I think I implied any such thing. In fact, it is primarily due to the poor circumstances surrounding the closures that I commented upon the compensation as I did.

  2. this is not really honest is it. Starting of with all that long rambling statement of the totally obvious, deflecting, then under the fake noble caring about safety it turns out it was just a bit inconvenient for them with staff hours. And that feeble compensation that they still had to make getting them into their shop. Really poor. I mean really really poor

  3. Paying the security staff for overtime stay should’ve been okay.

    1. yet in part illegal for other staff members/contractors!

      the amount of time they can legally and safely drive buses

      But I’m sure they could’ve solved that with a $200 Uber voucher ;)

  4. I had a dream last night that everyone as evicted because due to yet another oversight, they forgot that the podium presentation rehearsal was being held between FP1 & 2.
    The suspense would really been lost if everyone knew the result of the show/race before it was “run”.
    The winner was the one who said the nicest things about F1 and Liberty.

    1. The winner would therefore be toto wolf then???

  5. I am so glad that I don’t have to watch this mess on linear TV or OTT in India.

  6. The irony of being greedy is you stand to lose more than you gain. The thing this weekend has taught me is don’t go to an F1 race in person. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the races I’ve been to, but I can’t see myself attending any in the future without an attitude change from F1/LM.

    1. Coventry Climax
      18th November 2023, 8:56

      Looks like going to F1 live is a big gamble anywhere. Vegas is just the most expensive gamble.
      Problem is, that if you win and do get the full ‘experience’, you also get the lowest return for your bet.

    2. but I can’t see myself attending any in the future without an attitude change from F1/LM

      Liberty only organises one race per year, and you run the same risk anywhere else (read the fine print).

      1. Not really. Most venues don’t kick you out if second practice goes a minute over its scheduled slot (it generally takes more pressure than that, though venues have varying degrees of resilience).

  7. If F1 was a business, they should have had reimbursed the ticket + giving a 250usd coupon valid for 1 year on the official store. Business people say the customer is king, well apparently not in F1. This proves once and for all that F1 is sport and not a business.

    1. It shows me it is neither sport nor business (nor entertainment either), because its top priority is apparently Making A Fool Of Itself.

  8. That’s a lot of words to replace just one.


    1. Agreed….and their statement was just PR

    2. Coventry Climax
      18th November 2023, 8:49


      Be careful what you say here though. Lately, my comments are seemingly denied for no apparent reason. Could be VPN settings, but I’m not too sure about that.

      1. Nope. Me too.
        Others say same later and ok

      2. Addendum.
        My dad’s on here too. He just found his user name ( being used by someone else.)
        Scrolling through I noticed a couple jump out at me ; same name different person
        One blue with profile the other black without. So who knows what’s happening!

  9. I wonder what a Vegas spec cap would be selling for. $200 may just be subsidising the purchase… imagine paying to go to Vegas and coming away with 10 minutes of track action and a cap.

  10. “This is important for those who are new to racing to understand”

    Not sure patronizing fans is the right tact, but I guess we’ll see how the weekend plays out.

    1. Combined with the derisive comments that ‘nobody in Europe watches anyway’ and how great it is to welcome the ‘high net worth’ individuals to the race, F1 is really doing a good job making the normal US fans in the stands appreciate their show. Hopefully the race itself makes it worthwhile, otherwise a lot of people are probably going to think twice about coming back next year.

      1. Is that not the same response from attendees at Miami. Basically stating that they’d never return, due to a number of issues, mainly value for money spent?

    2. Well it was in important condescending statement for me. I had this apparently erroneous idea that Liberty were somehow were involved. Apparently not. What a silly sausage I am.

    3. Those of us who are experienced at racing understand that Liberty should have foreseen everything it described and planned properly – like every other F1 organiser is expected to do.

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