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Las Vegas Grand Prix: First practice cancelled after manhole cover damages Sainz’s car

The Las Vegas Grand Prix weekend got off to a calamitous start with the opening practice session being cancelled after a loose manhole cover damaged Carlos Sainz’s car.

Thursday’s first practice was halted just nine minutes in when Sainz’s Ferrari suffered significant damage after hitting the manhole cover.

Esteban Ocon’s Alpine was also damaged under the resulting red flag when he collided with debris left by the Sainz incident.

The decision was subsequently taken to cancel the session, with second practice also being pushed back by two hours subject to engineers completing the necessary works to repair the track. The FIA also confirmed that session would be extended to 90 minutes.

The incident is a major embarrassment for Formula One’s owners Liberty Media, who have invested an estimated $500million to make the first race in Las Vegas since 1982 – the last time the Caesars Palace Grand Prix formed part of the schedule – a reality.

An FIA statement said: “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.”

Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur said Sainz’s car had suffered damage to the chassis, engine and battery and would not be ready for the second session, fuming in a press conference: “The show is the show and everything is going well, but it’s just unacceptable for F1 today.

“The show is mega and I am very happy with what Liberty did around the race, but we have to separate the show and the sporting side.

“The opening ceremony was something mega in F1 but it is not because you are doing this that you don’t have to do the job on the sporting side. You can do the show and do a good job on the sporting side.”

Sitting alongside Vasseur, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff defended the event and reacted angrily to suggestions the incident was a “black eye” for F1.

“That is not a black eye, this is nothing. We are on Thursday night, we have a free practice session one that we’re not doing,” he said.

“They’re going to seal the drain covers, and nobody’s going to talk about that tomorrow morning anymore. It’s completely ridiculous, completely ridiculous.

“FP1… how can you even dare trying to talk bad about the event that sets the new standards, new standards for everything?

“Have you ever spoken good about someone and written a good word? You should, about all these people that have been out here. Liberty has done an awesome job and just because a drain cover has become undone, we shouldn’t be moaning.

“The car is broken. That’s really a shame for Carlos. It could have been dangerous. So between the FIA and the track, everybody needs to analyse how we can make sure that this is not happening again.

“But talking here about a black eye for the sport on a Thursday evening… nobody watches that in European time anyway.”

Harry Carr
Harry Carr
Harry is a freelance sports journalist with experience of working for the Racing Post, Stats Perform, Opta Analyst and more, covering major events across all sports but holding a particular love for the beautiful game.
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