Formula 1’s Las Vegas Grand Prix Off to Rough Start After Practice Mishap


It cost half a billion dollars to put on Formula 1‘s Las Vegas Grand Prix and only nine minutes for the racetrack to present its first issue. On Nov. 16, during the first practice run for the race, Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Jr. ran over a water valve cover and badly damaged his Ferrari, resulting in a shutdown of the course and a delay for the second practice scheduled that night. 

Ferrari manager Frédéric Vasseur wasn’t happy about the “just unacceptable” incident. When asked at a post-practice news conference about something else, Vasseur insisted that his mind was preoccupied with Sainz’s snafu. 

“I’m not sure the topic for me today. We had a very tough [Free Practice 1] that is going to cost us a fortune,” he said. “We [messed] up the session for Carlos… We have to change the chassis for the car.” 

“It is unacceptable for F1,” he added. “You would be upset in this situation.” According to The New York Post, a statement from F1 Las Vegas pointed out that “a single water valve cover…failed.”

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Footage shows sparks and smoke shooting out of his car after the incident.

French driver Esteban Ocon, like Sainz, also damaged his car during the FP1. The second practice of the night was delayed nearly three hours and spectators were asked to leave the viewing areas as the track was investigated. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was just as dissatisfied with what happened during the practice race, though he believed the reaction to have been blown out of proportion. 

“It’s completely ridiculous. Completely ridiculous. FP1, how can you even dare try to talk bad about an event that sets a new standard to everything?” Wolff said. “You’re speaking about a fucking drain cover that’s been undone. That has happened before. That’s nothing. It’s FP1.

“We shouldn’t be moaning. The car’s broken. That’s really a shame for Carlos,” he continued. “It could have been dangerous, so between the FIA and the track and everybody needs to analyze how we can make sure that this is not happening again.”

The Las Vegas Grand Prix marks the first Formula 1 race in Sin City since the ill-fated 1982 Caesars Palace Grand Prix. This iteration hasn’t come without its fair share of problems, including struggling ticket sales and failure to plan for Vegas’ chilly nighttime temperatures that will make it one of the coldest F1 races in history. 

One more practice session is scheduled for Nov. 17. Qualifying races will be held after midnight on Nov. 18, and the official grand prix is slated for 10 p.m. local time that night.  

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