The Las Vegas F1 Race Isn’t Off to a Great Start

A loose manhole cover destroyed Sainz's Ferrari and Ocon's Alpine, outright cancelling Vegas' first-ever track session.

By now, the entire field of Formula 1 cars should’ve completed the first track session of the inaugural F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix. Instead, some drivers got eight minutes of running time, some got nothing, and in the case of Ferrari and Alpine, they have essentially written off two race cars. Why? A poorly secured manhole cover came loose during Thursday night’s FP1 session, sidelining Carlos Sainz and Esteban Ocon. This brought out a red flag, which quickly escalated into an outright cancellation of FP1. Not ideal.

Video shows Sainz driving over a manhole cover in what appears to be one of the faster sections of the street circuit, causing the Ferrari to briefly lift and immediately lose drive A loud banging noise can also be heard in this footage shared by ESPN.

Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur shared his displeasure with the situation by telling the media that this fiasco “cost them a fortune,” also emphasizing that this is simply “unacceptable for F1.” Vasseur reported that the monocoque, engine, and battery are “completely damaged,” so it’s likely that Ferrari will need to work hard overnight to make whatever repairs or replacements are necessary.

Meanwhile, Alpine confirmed that Ocon’s car will need a brand new chassis after the manhole cover tore through the floor of the car, causing severe damage to the monocoque. It wouldn’t surprise me if Ferrari ended up going the same route and just writing off the chassis entirely.

I’ve witnessed several similar incidents throughout the years, most recently in 2019 in Baku when George Russell ran over a loose manhole cover and sent it flying in the air. Admittedly that was a scarier situation, as the airborne piece of metal could’ve come down on a driver or spectator. The Vegas incident possessed the right ingredients for a Baku repeat, but luckily the loose cover lifted while the car was over it, rather than sending it out flying from behind. It’s also happened in IndyCar, endurance racing, and other series, though it’s somewhat shocking to see it again given how rigorous track inspections are nowadays.

F1, the FIA, and track officials now must inspect every single cover along the 3.85-mile street circuit to make sure this doesn’t happen again. It’s unclear how long this will take and how it will affect the weekend’s schedule, though either way, it’s already caused the inaugural race to have a rather poor start.

“Following an FIA inspection, it was found a concrete frame around a manhole cover had failed during FP1,” said race officials on social media. “The FIA are commencing checks on all other covers across the circuit. Any changes to scheduling will be advised in due course.”

Here’s to hoping the rest of the weekend goes off without a hitch.

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