It was a loose drain cover that caused a farcical end to the first practice session of the Las Vegas GP.
FP1 was just eight minutes old when Carlos Sainz drove over the loose cover on the Strip straight, causing a nasty thud to his car and significant damage that left him stranded by the side of the road.
With barely a sixth of the time completed, the FIA cancelled the session as they believed the loose cover was a significant enough safety issue and could not be fixed within the remaining time.
Two cars were damaged by the manhole cover in FP1
It was an embarrassing start to life at Formula 1’s dream project and one that only served to vindicate Max Verstappen’s comments that the event was “99% show, 1% racing.”
As for how the issue occurred, Sky Sports F1’s Ted Kravitz reported that the frame of the drain cover and may have come up from the pressure caused by cars going over it.
“You would say ‘well, wouldn’t this show up in any kind of inspections earlier on when the track was inspected?’” Kravitz posed.
“Our understanding of the manhole cover was that it’s actually the frame around it that has come up naturally.
“It has been dislodged, whether it’s been sucked up from the pressure, the downforce of the cars, the ground effect effectively, whether it’s been damaged in some other way, the frame around it has been damaged and come loose, and that’s enabled that to happen.”
Shortly after the session, the FIA confirmed that there could be a possible delay to FP2 as every other manhole cover needed to be checked in order for it to be deemed safe.
“Following inspection, it was the concrete frame around a manhole cover that has failed,” an FIA spokesperson said.
“We now need to check all of the other manhole covers which will take some time – we will be discussing with the local circuit engineering team about the length of time it will take to resolve and will update with any resultant changes to the schedule.”
After Sainz’s broken Ferrari was driven back to the pit on the back of a truck, FIA stewards Gary Connelly and Derek Warwick were seen inspecting it, clearly taking a keen interest as to what caused the damage.