Eight minutes into the first on-track running at Formula 1's Las Vegas strip street circuit, Carlos Sainz Jr.'s Ferrari struck a poorly secured drainage cover to bring out a red flag. The session was ended by track safety concerns relating to other unsecured covers shortly afterward, giving cars just eight minutes to run in the session.
The moment Carlos Sainz hit a drain cover on the Las Vegas strip, causing FP1 to be cancelled 👀 pic.twitter.com/KIMbuZoteY
— ESPN F1 (@ESPNF1) November 17, 2023
Replays show Sainz passing over the spot with the poorly-secured cover, then a loud popping noise as it lifted into the car. The hit immediately delivered substantial damage to the Ferrari, which then displayed a message on the dash suggesting that a major component of the car had been destroyed. At least one other driver, Esteban Ocon, also had a run-in with a drain cover; that car's chassis has already been written off.
Drainage cover issues are not uncommon on street circuits, as Formula 1 learned at Baku in 2019. While the covers are secured in advance, the systems securing them are not tested against real F1 cars until practice sessions start. In this case, systems securing the covers failed and created a major safety concern almost immediately.
In a statement after the session, the FIA claims that a concrete frame around the cover failed. Inspection and, potentially, repair of all the other drainage and manhole covers around the track are now underway, meaning that a second practice session scheduled for midnight local time could be delayed. An updated schedule has not yet been provided. If practice 2 cannot be run overnight, the series has all day tomorrow to repair the circuit before practice 3 and qualifying sessions scheduled late tomorrow night.
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