The first taste of F1 at the Las Vegas Grand Prix was a disaster after the first practice session ended just eight minutes after Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari hit a manhole cover.
The drivers were already struggling with cool conditions which made grip weak.
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While Sainz’s teammate Charles Leclerc topped the timesheet, the teams had not learned much and it would be a frustrating day as the drivers attempted to learn the new track on the F1 calendar.
So after FP1 was canceled after seven minutes, FP2 was delayed because the local engineering team needs to check all the valve covers.
F1 tweeted that FP2 is scheduled to start at 2.30am local time in Las Vegas (9.30pm AEDT) “subject to the local circuit engineering team having completed the necessary track work”.
The time was pushed back by 2 a.m. when there was already plenty of time
The local engineering team must check 40 manhole covers. The session will be extended to 90 minutes.
Sky Sports’ Martin Brundle called it “embarrassing”.
Vision on board with Sainz saw the Spaniard hit a bump very hard and let out a groan before immediately being told “Stop the car, engine off”.
The FIA confirmed it was a concrete frame around a manhole that broke Sainz’s ground.
Sainz did not appear injured but did not seem very happy with the problem.
Sainz wasn’t the only one to suffer the frustrating blow as Esteban Ocon’s Alpine garage confirmed he had also damaged his floor with the same manhole cover.
Alpine confirmed that they would have to “change the chassis of the #31 car due to damage caused by a suspected drain cover on the track.”
Sky Sports’ Ted Kravitz said it was unlikely either driver would be able to return for the second practice session with just three hours between sessions.
“Now we know the manhole cost Alpine a chassis and we think it also cost Sainz one,” he said.
“This means neither will take part in FP2 as it takes more than three hours to prepare a new chassis.
“The mechanics are dismantling the gearbox and if all goes well, they will be able to bolt it onto the new chassis once it comes into the garage. But it’s a lot of work to do.
Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur was furious at the incident and said it was “f**ked”.
“What he said was I think I hit something on the track and he didn’t know exactly what it was,” he said.
“The situation is that we are completely damaging the monocoque, the engine, the battery. I think this is simply unacceptable.
“We had a very difficult FP1 which will cost us a fortune. We ruined the session for Carlos.
“We will definitely not be part of FP2 because we are changing the chassis of the car. Okay, the show is the show and everything is going well, but I think this is just unacceptable for F1 today. »
Alpine team boss Bruno Famin said there was still hope Ocon would take part in the night session, although he had no certainty.
“It’s not totally impossible, we might not be ready if the problem takes a little longer. It could be possible, maybe a possibility,” he said.
“It’s pretty bad, we have to change the chassis and the floor. We have to dismantle the car. Quite difficult.”
Fans, as well as Sky Sports’ Martin Brundle, fear this could mean a premature end to the weekend.
“That’s it for today,” Brundle said.
“Fixing that, checking everything that’s there, fixing that, letting it dry and making sure it doesn’t come out again, is a big job.
“It’s a very, very big problem if there are other areas like that around the track.”
This continues what has been a tumultuous star turn for the Las Vegas Grand Prix, which saw street closures across the entire Vegas Strip.
But while it was expected to be a flagship event for the sport which has gained popularity in the United States and around the world thanks to the broadcast of Netflix Drive to survivethe event is still not sold out with expensive tickets, while reports indicate hotels have slashed prices to encourage last-minute attendees.
As the F1 website reports three-day grandstand ticket prices start at more than $3,000, Australian Daniel Ricciardo has called on the sport to remember it needs fans.
“I guess like anything, there has to be a balance,” Ricciardo said.
“I’ve heard entry-level prices; I am well aware that not everyone can afford it. I wish everyone could have the opportunity to attend.
“Obviously I’m not the company behind this sport, but maybe I am, I don’t want to say it’s my ignorance, but I would still like general admission to be affordable for anyone, whatever their job.
“Of course, if there are crazy packages and people want to spend the money, great, so be it, but I guess I don’t like to hear that ‘we would have loved to come but we could I simply cannot afford it.”
Even the glitzy events leading up to the Grand Prix were criticized, with world champion Max Verstappen saying the event was “99 percent spectacle and one percent sporting event” and that the street track was ” not very interesting.”
“To me, you can all skip these things,” the Red Bull driver said when asked about an introduction ceremony in which drivers emerged from giant pits on the pit straight to be introduced to the crowd . “It’s not about the singer, it’s just being up there, you look like a clown.”
Other drivers, including McLaren’s Lando Norris and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, have questioned the number of commercial commitments drivers have had to make around the race.
Those comments, after a glitzy opening ceremony featuring a drone show and a performance by Australian singer Kylie Minogue, are unlikely to have pleased F1’s American owners, Liberty Media, who are also the race’s promoters from Vegas.
But Hamilton said the sport’s growth in the United States was a welcome development and praised American investor and Formula One CEO Stefano Domenicali.
“I’ve heard a lot of people are complaining about the direction Stefano and Liberty are taking. But they are doing an incredible job,” said the Mercedes driver.
“The sport continues to grow. It’s a business and you will always see great racing here. This is a country to exploit and really captivate the public,” he said.
Hamilton said there was clearly a buzz around the event.
“Everyone I know in Hollywood is coming and there will be a lot of business this weekend,” he said.
“It will be a good show to watch, even for those back home who have never been to Vegas. They will learn what it is.