F1 Las Vegas practice halted as Carlos Sainz hits loose manhole cover at 200mph

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz looks at the bottom of his car after running over a loose manhole cover. Credit: AP

Formula One bosses were dealt an embarrassing blow after first practice for the Las Vegas Grand Prix was cancelled due to a loose manhole cover.

The $500 million race along the Las Vegas strip was suspended when Carlos Sainz broke down in his Ferrari with just eight minutes on the clock.

Eleven minutes later, at 8:49pm local time, it was announced the session would not be resumed after it emerged Sainz’s failure was caused by a loose manhole cover.

Television replays showed Sainz being jolted in his cockpit as underneath of his car hit the cover as he approached 200mph on the Las Vegas Boulevard.

Esteban Ocon also smashed into the debris causing significant damage to his Alpine.

Ferrari described the damage to Sainz’s car as “extensive”, while Alpine said Ocon will require a new chassis.

Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur said: “He (Sainz) said I hit something on track, and he didn’t know what it was. It is just unacceptable for F1.”

A hole on the strip that has needed filling in before the start of the second practice session for the F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix auto race Credit: AP

An FIA spokesperson said: “Following an inspection, a concrete frame around a manhole cover has failed.

“We now need to check all of the other manhole covers which will take some time.

“We will be discussing with the local circuit engineering team about the length of time it will take to resolve and we will update with any resultant changes to the schedule.”

A reporter shows Ferrari team principal Frédéric Vasseur, McLaren CEO Zak Brown and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff a video of the incident. Credit: AP

Second practice, had been due to begin at midnight local time (8:00 GMT), it was delayed and there were significant doubts if there will be any running today at the 3.8-mile temporary street venue.

FIA officials announced that free practice 2 would get underway at 2.30am (10:30 GMT).

Carlos Sainz, who suffered damage to his car due to the loose manhole cover, managed to get back onto the track for the second practice session.

The problems of loose manhole covers at street venues is not a new one in the sport.

Jenson Button struck a dislodged drain in practice in Monaco in 2016, while George Russell also ran over a drain cover in Azerbaijan four years ago.

The crew for Alpine driver Esteban Ocon, of France, carry the floor of the car following the Las Vegas practice session. Credit: AP

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said on Sky: “It’s a shame that we are not allowed on track.

“They are going to have to check all the manhole covers and weld them or do something because you can see the damage that it has done.

“It’s a great shame for the fans but safety comes first. We have got to get this right and hopefully it won’t take too long.”

The cancellation of opening practice comes 24 hours after World champion Max Verstappen criticised the staging of the Las Vegas Grand Prix – the first here in four decades and maiden event on the strip – as “99 per cent show, and one per cent sport”.

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