A FAILED drain cover brought Formula One’s first Las Vegas Grand Prix practice session to a halt after just eight minutes.
youTube – Sandro.speedsCarlos Sainz’s Ferrari went up in sparks[/caption]
youtube – sandro.speedsCCTV footage shows the incident that caused the session to be cancelled[/caption]
SplashSainz’s Ferrari had to be removed from the track[/caption]
APThe Spaniard had been driving at 200mph when the issue arose[/caption]
GettyA failed drain cover prompted the session to be KO’d after just eight minutes[/caption]
This glitzy Grand Prix was supposed to entice the punters to put their chips on F1 being a hit, clearly targeting the high-rollers, some of whom had paid $150,000 a ticket.
F1’s owners, Liberty Media’s spending is racing towards the $1billion mark on their pet project, which has been frequently referred to as the “biggest show on Earth”.
But it lasted a few laps before a chunk of concrete and metal manhole cover was ripped from the tarmac and slammed into the floor of Sainz’s Ferrari.
Race Director Niels Wittich stopped the race immediately saying the circuit – the second longest on the calendar – posed a safety risk due to potentially unsafe drain covers being sucked up from the downforce of the cars.
Fans in the grandstands booed – it was some introduction to the sometimes shambolic world of F1 that is nothing like the heavily edited adaptation seen on Netflix’s Drive to Survive.
An F1 statement read: “Following an FIA inspection, it was found a concrete frame around a manhole cover had failed during FP1.
“The FIA are commencing checks on all other covers across the circuit. Any changes to scheduling will be advised in due course.”
Blame culture means F1 and the governing body, the FIA, will now point accusing fingers at each other.
ReutersDisappointed Sainz heads back to the pits[/caption]
GettyDebris from Sainz’s car was collected after the incident[/caption]
The loose manhole cover provided a significant safety rickRex
But it was a clear example of both sides not learning their lesson from earlier in the season.
The sport dodged a massive bullet at the Qatar Grand Prix where newly installed kerbs ripped apart the Pirelli tyres.
The Italian manufacturer explained the track compromised the safety of their tyres – the upshot was that the drivers were forced to make a pitstop every 18 laps, culminating in a perfect storm that eventually saw drivers close to collapsing soon after the chequered flag.
What was learned from that? After all, there was no support series, no test event.
Fast forward a few weeks and we are faced with the same situation. No support series, no test event, another safety risk.
Could it have been prevented? Difficult to know now until a report is published but the upshot is it leaves F1’s owners in a difficult position.
Even before the red flag, the previous day reigning world champion Max Verstappen openly criticised the race as “99 percent show and one percent sporting event”.
The local residents too have slammed the race, saying the building work has caused traffic issues with taxi drivers left furious at the loss of business.
Local landmarks have been boarded up, much to the frustration of tourists. Restaurateurs too are upset that the restrictions have led to cancellations.
F1 hoped that this race was the new showpiece to rival the likes of Monaco but it has so far been a classic case of F1 continuing to shoot itself in the foot.
The last time F1 raced in Vegas it was a stinker around the Caesars Palace car park in 1982.
And then there was the farce in 2005 United States Grand Prix held in Indianapolis where only six cars competed due to fears over the safety of the Michelin tyres.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was asked if this latest set-back was a “black eye” for F1 in the US – prompting an extraordinary blast.
He said: “It is not a black eye, it is only P1. Nobody is going to talk about it any more.
“How can you even talk about a black eye about an event that sets new standards to everyone. You are speaking about a f****** drain cover, give credit to the people who make this event possible and who made this sport bigger than ever.”
Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur meanwhile fumed: “Carlos hit something and it hit the engine and battery. I think it is unsatisfactory.
“I do not want to look at the bigger picture. It has costs us a lot of money. It was unacceptable.”
The latest set-back will no doubt hammer F1’s share price which has dropped all week.
But it could have been a lot worse, had Sainz, or another other driver been injured, or indeed actor Brad Pitt, who was due to shoot a scene for his new F1 movie, which has incidentally been delayed 12 months.
The drain covers will be welded shut for the rest of the weekend, but for many the damage has already been done.
And as any punter in Vegas will tell you, when luck is against you, it is perhaps time to call it quits.
AFPFerrari chief Fred Vasseur blasted the ‘unacceptable’ incident[/caption]