Formula 1 canceled the first free practice session for the Las Vegas Grand Prix less than 20 minutes after it started.
The session was halted after Carlos Sainz sucked a sewer plug onto the track surface, which jostled his car so hard that it forced him to stop. The session was red flagged after Sainz stopped on track and the FIA said it would not resume as Sainz’s car was taken back to the garage.
The FIA later issued a statement explaining that it was the concrete frame around the drain cover that had failed and that he would have to check all the other covers on the track:
“After inspection, it was the concrete framework around one manhole that broke. We now need to check all the other manholes, which will take some time.”
It’s an inauspicious start to the race weekend following its high-profile arrival on the F1 calendar. The drain cover lifted as Sainz drove down Las Vegas Boulevard. The Las Vegas Strip serves as the track’s backstretch and was open to traffic Thursday before the start of the race weekend.
The downforce created by F1 cars can lift objects off a track surface if they are not secured. It is not uncommon for an incident like this to occur on a temporary railway line.
The TV feed of the practice showed significant damage to the floor of Sainz’s car and other drivers also reportedly had problems with the pipe covers. Sainz had cut the throttle to trigger a yellow flag just before the impact on his car could be heard.
The FIA confirms that it is a drain cover. It’s likely that they all need to be checked now (but they probably should have been checked before now…)
–Chris Medland (@ChrisMedlandF1) November 17, 2023
The second practice session was delayed from 3 a.m. ET to 5:30 a.m. ET and extended to 90 minutes because the first practice session was canceled. Sainz’s Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc set the fastest lap in just under 1:41 before the first session was stopped.
After testing, Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur was understandably upset by the circumstances that led to Sainz’s damage and said Ferrari was facing a costly repair.
Sainz receives a 10-place grid penalty
Sainz’s unfortunate luck didn’t stop at the drain cover. Since the hood damaged a large part of Sainz’s car, Ferrari must replace several elements of the powertrain. And F1 does not let these changes go without penalty.
Sainz now faces a 10-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race because the team is installing the third Energy Store unit of the season on the car. Teams are limited to two energy stores per season and exceeding the limit results in a loss of 10 places.
Ferrari asked to be exempt from this rule given the unusual nature of the incident. But the FIA didn’t oblige.
“The Stewards determine that even if the damage was caused by highly unusual external circumstances, Article 2.1 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations requires all officials, including Stewards, to apply the regulations as they are. written.”
Ferrari fast in practice 2
The second practice session was extended as the first was cut short and Leclerc and Sainz were the fastest drivers on track. Leclerc completed a lap in 1:35.265 and was just over half a second ahead of Sainz.
Max Verstappen set the sixth fastest time and was behind his Red Bull Racing teammate Sergio Perez. We encourage you not to read too much into practice speeds until Friday evening, given that teams spent most of Thursday night into Friday morning simply acclimating to the track.
Gn En sports