F1 stops short of an apology after Las Vegas practice chaos

Michelle Foster
Ferrari repairing Spanish driver Carlos Sainz's SF-23

Carlos Sainz's SF-23 was damaged by a manhole cover in Las Vegas' FP1.

Formula 1 has offered fans who were kicked out of the Las Vegas circuit ahead of Thursday’s delayed second practice a $200 voucher to spend on race merchandise, telling them: “It happens, and we hope people will understand.”

Las Vegas’ return to the Formula 1 calendar was anything but smooth with Thursday’s opening practice abandoned after just nine minutes when Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari was wrecked on a loose manhole cover.

Heading down the Strip at speed, Esteban Ocon hit the cover, loosening it, which damaged his Alpine’s chassis. That meant when Sainz took the same line, he hit it.

‘It happens, and we hope people will understand’

The Spaniard’s Ferrari suffered extensive damage to the floor, chassis, and battery, even his seat broke in the impact. He’s now facing a 10-place grid penalty as Ferrari had to put in new hybrid components.

The session was aborted while the FIA and marshals went around inspecting and fixing every manhole cover on the 6.2km circuit.

That meant a two-and-a-half hour delay to the start of second practice, which was converted into a 90-minute session that only began at 2:30am.

Formula 1 has issued an unapologetic statement, telling fans: “It happens, and we hope people will understand.”

They have, however, offered those with single-day tickets a $200 voucher to spend on race merchandise.

The statement read: “Our top priority at Formula 1 is the safety and security of our drivers, employees, and fans. 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.

“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.

“The precautionary step of removing all of the water valve covers on the entire track and filling them with sand and asphalt was undertaken. The entire process, from determination of the issue to remediation, took approximately five hours.

“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. We moved ahead with the second Free Practice session at approximately 2:30 AM PT for 90 minutes.

“The decision to run the second Free Practice session at 2:30 AM PT 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 then turned to the “fan experience” with around 50 fans booted out of the circuit prior to the start of second practice, despite having hung around for hours waiting for it to start.

“The delay in the start of the second Free Practice session from midnight to 2:30 AM PT created risks for our employees and our fans,” continued the statement.

“We made the decision to close the fan areas that are under LVGP’s purview at 1:30 AM PT and send fans home. Let us explain why.

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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. 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 reopened the track early this morning.

“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.

“We know this was disappointing. 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.

“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.

“So how will we address this tonight?

“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.

“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.”

As for the refund, the message sent to single-day ticket holders read: “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.”

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