The water valve cover was discovered after Carlos Sainz's Ferrari came to a stop and prompted a red flag
Formula One's Las Vegas Grand Prix didn't start as expected on Thursday night when a loose drain cover prompted the cancellation of the event's first practice session.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was given a red flag for stopping on the strip less than 10 minutes into the practice session after he appeared to have run over the loose drain cover and damaged the bottom of his vehicle.
Shortly after, F1 announced on X (formerly Twitter) that the session "will not be resumed" and that an FIA inspection found "a concrete frame around a manhole cover had failed during FP1." The FIA then began "checks on all other covers across the circuit."
An official statement from F1 Las Vegas specifically noted that an inspection found "a single water valve cover on the Las Vegas Grand Prix circuit failed during the first practice session."
"The FIA, F1 and local circuit engineering teams are actively working to review and address the issue," the statement continued, before adding in a later statement that there's "no higher priority at a Formula 1 race than the safety and security of drivers, fans and staff alike."
As the statement added, F1 and the FIA took "extra precautions to ensure the integrity of the track prior to the resumption of racing." The second practice session then kicked off around 2:30 a.m. local time.
"These additional measures required multiple hours to fully complete, which led to a significant delay in the race schedule," the F1 Las Vegas statement read. "Given the lateness of the hour and logistical concerns regarding the safe movement of fans and employees out of the circuit, LVGP made the difficult decision to close the fan zones prior to the beginning of Free Practice 2. With a full round of practice successfully completed, LVGP looks forward to providing a safe and entertaining race weekend for all."
As for Sainz, the driver was handed a 10-place grid penalty for Sunday’s Grand Prix, after having to change "key parts" of his vehicle, per F1.com. He told the outlet that mechanics put on a "heroic effort" to built him essentially a "brand new car."
"This has changed completely my mindset and obviously my opinion on the weekend and how the weekend is gonna go from now on," he said of the situation and penalty, expressing that he was "disappointed" and "in disbelief."
“What Carlos said was he hit something on track and he didn’t know exactly what it was,” Vasseur said. “We completely damaged the monocoque, engine and battery. It’s just unacceptable.”
Alpine’s Esteban Ocon was also impacted by the drain, according to CNN, as he dealt with a chassis change following "damage from a suspected drain cover on the track.”
During the eventual second practice, Sainz's Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc topped the timesheets and set the pace during the extended second free practice, per F1.
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