Uh oh! F1 has nightmare in Vegas as manhole cover cancels practice
And with FP2 delayed until literally the middle of the night, fans have been sent home having seen… nine minutes of action
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. F1 has been left red in the face after a manhole cover on the Las Vegas GP track failed, wrecking two cars and forcing the cancellation of the entire first practice session.
Meanwhile the second session was delayed until 2.30am local time (seriously) as repairs were carried out, eventually beginning an hour after fans had to be sent home due to “logistical considerations”.
By that point they’d seen (and presumably paid through the nose for) nine minutes of track action. Good grief.
This isn’t the first time this has happened - drain covers came loose in Monaco in 2016 and in Baku in 2019 - but as far as optics go this is a nightmare situation for F1, which has spent hundreds of millions getting the race set up only a year and a half after it was announced.
The fact the Las Vegas Grand Prix has been extensively hyped - and given the razzmatazz of a lavish and star-studded opening ceremony - only makes the circuit problems even more embarrassing.
Max Verstappen caused a stir yesterday when he described the race as “99 per cent show and 1 per cent sporting event”, but in hindsight his pessimism now looks prophetic.
The race in Vegas is massively important to F1, which has finally cracked the US market after decades of trying, largely thanks to the Netflix series Drive to Survive.
Those efforts suffered a huge setback in 2005, when the US GP at Indianapolis descended into farce as safety fears caused by a string of tyre failures meant only six cars took part in front of an enraged crowd.
F1 will be desperate to avoid any more problems for the remainder of the weekend: the reputational damage of not delivering for US fans (again) would be unthinkable.
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Meanwhile the two cars that were damaged - Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari and Esteban Ocon’s Alpine - have both had their chassis changed, leaving the teams with an eye-watering bill for something that wasn’t their fault. To add insult to injury, Sainz also needed a new engine… taking him over his allowance for the season, for which he will get a grid penalty. Ouch!
Please, please, please let that be the end of the organisational chaos…