The first practice session for the Las Vegas Grand Prix was abruptly canceled after just eight minutes on Thursday night due to a loose manhole cover on the track, which caused significant damage to Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari. The incident occurred at 11:30 p.m., forcing a red flag to be issued while Sainz’s damaged car was removed from the track. The FIA determined that the concrete frame around the manhole cover had failed, resulting in the need for extensive repairs.
As a result of the damage, Sainz was handed a 10-place grid penalty and had to install new power unit components. Additionally, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon reported hitting a manhole cover, which required a chassis change. Despite the repairs, the first practice session was ultimately canceled, and fans were ejected at 1:30 a.m. when it became clear that they would not be able to watch the second practice without holding tickets.
The necessary repairs to the track were completed in time for the second practice session at 3 a.m. on Friday, with Sainz able to participate, although most of the grandstands were empty. In the second practice session, Sainz was beaten by his Ferrari teammate, Charles Leclerc, by 0.517 seconds. Max Verstappen, who is favored to win Saturday’s main event, came in sixth.
While some downplayed the incident, with Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff referring to it as something that has “happened before” and McLaren CEO Zak Brown stating that he did not believe “corners were cut,” Ferrari team principal Frédéric Vasseur called the situation “unacceptable.”
The cancellation of the first practice session and the subsequent events have created a level of uncertainty and frustration among fans and teams as they prepare for the upcoming Grand Prix race in Las Vegas.