First Las Vegas Grand Prix practice cut short for track repairs

First Las Vegas Grand Prix practice cut short for track repairs
Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc of Ferrari in action during the first practice session of the F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix, in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, 16 November 2023. EPA-EFE/CAROLINE BREHMAN

LAS VEGAS, Nov 16 (Reuters) - The first practice session of the Las Vegas Grand Prix was cancelled on Thursday just eight minutes in to repair the track after a faulty water valve cover badly damaged Carlos Sainz's Ferrari.

The car ultimately left the course on the back of a truck but the Spaniard was uninjured.

Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur said two-thirds of the car would need to be changed out and called the situation “unacceptable.”

“What Carlos said was he hit something on track and he didn’t know exactly what it was,” a visibly frustrated Vasseur told reporters.

“We completely damaged the monocoque, engine and battery. It’s just unacceptable.”

Alpine said Esteban Ocon’s chassis would also need to be replaced due to suspected damage from the cover, and FIA said it would check all of the covers along the 3.8-mile street circuit on the famed Las Vegas Strip.

Other team principals were quick to defend the brand new course to reporters.

“These cars are generating huge amounts of suction underneath now,” said Williams Racing team principal James Vowles.

“From the picture I saw it was not something where there was a lack of diligence to it, it was an amount of force they weren’t expecting.

“I’m confident we’ll get everything sorted but I don’t think it was at all a case of cutting corners.”

McLaren CEO Zak Brown agreed.

“First we have to fix it and look back and go how did that happen. It would be unfair to say corners were cut. It’s happened before in Baku and in Sportscar racing back in Montreal.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff lashed out at a reporter who asked how the cancelled practice was not a “black eye” for F1. “That’s completely ridiculous,” Wolff said.

“How can you even dare to talk bad about an event that sets the new standards for everything, and you’re speaking about a … drain cover that’s been undone. It’s happened before, it’s nothing.”

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc provisionally topped the time sheet with a lap of 1:40.909, followed by the Haas duo of Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fourth.

The brief first test of the course along the transformed Strip marks F1’s return to Las Vegas for the first time in nearly 40 years.

Fans packed into the stands to see the track in action during its debut were let down as American Logan Sargeant became the only driver who did not make it out on the course during the session.

“Well… that was fun,” the Williams driver posted on X.

A second practice was scheduled to take place at midnight local time. Race organizers said in a statement that they would provide an update on the schedule “as soon as possible.”

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; editing by Miral Fahmy)


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