McLaren team boss Andrea Stella says Formula 1’s safety needs to be “absolutely failsafe” after Carlos Sainz took a blow to his back when he hit a manhole cover in the opening practice in Las Vegas.
Formula 1’s return to Las Vegas was marred in drama when a manhole cover wrecked not one but two cars seven minutes into first practice.
Alpine had to change the chassis of Esteban Ocon’s A523 but it was Sainz who was fortunate not to be seriously hurt as he took a “big blow” to his back and neck with Ferrari having to change his chassis, floor, and power unit parts.
Carlos Sainz was fortunate to walk away unhurt
“I felt a big blow to my back and neck in the accident,” said the Spaniard. “Unfortunately it hit the chassis, the power unit and above all the battery, but also the seat.”
Although fuming at the repair bill that awaited Ferrari, team boss Fred Vasseur was more concerned about his driver’s health.
“We were really shocked because Carlos could hardly breathe after the impact. It would have been much more serious,” the Frenchman told Canal+.
The manhole cover issue meant FP1 was aborted after nine minutes with second practice then delayed by two-and-a-half hours until 2:30am as some 30 manhole covers needed repairs.
Stella says Formula 1’s safety standards have to be “absolutely failsafe”.
“Anytime you have an issue with manhole covers, it’s very disruptive,” he told Motorsport.com. “Like you saw with Williams in Baku.
“I think Jenson [Button] hit a manhole cover in Monaco, it just destroyed the front wing immediately. And in that case, it was a low speed, because it was out of corner one in Monaco.
“So I think after this episode, there will be a raised level of awareness as to the fact that the standards associated with this potential risk need to be just higher.
“And essentially, it needs to be absolutely failsafe.”
Stella was happy that the FIA did eventually resolve the problem and get the cars onto the track for second practice, which was extended to 90 minutes.
“I think on new tracks and street circuits we have seen before that these kinds of issues can happen,” he said. “In fairness, when I saw that type of issue, I was a little worried that a solution could have been difficult.
“So I would like to praise the fact that actually there was a good response from all the technicians, engineers, and the FIA as well.
“We got a session, and it was good that all the parties understood that we needed to be flexible with the tyre return, for instance, with the duration of the session.
“It’s just a shame that the spectators haven’t seen cars on track yet, because they needed to go.”