The Las Vegas Grand Prix, marking Formula 1’s return to the city since 1982, has been hit with a series of setbacks both on and off the track, raising concerns about the event’s viability. The initial practice session was abruptly cut short after just eight minutes when Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari hit a manhole cover, causing significant damage.
The incident, occurring amidst challenging conditions with low grip due to cooler temperatures, led to the cancellation of the first practice (FP1) and a delay in the second (FP2) as local engineers worked to inspect and secure all the valve covers on the track.
The situation was described as “embarrassing” by Sky Sports’ Martin Brundle, highlighting the severity of the problem. The impact of the manhole cover was so severe that it not only damaged Sainz’s Ferrari but also affected Esteban Ocon’s Alpine, leading to a chassis change. The time required for these repairs meant that neither driver could participate in the second practice session, as confirmed by Sky Sports’ Ted Kravitz.
Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur expressed frustration over the incident, criticizing the event organization and highlighting the extensive damage to the car. Alpine team boss Bruno Famin also shared concerns about the possibility of Ocon missing the night session due to the time-intensive chassis replacement.
The issues extend beyond the track, with street closures across Las Vegas and lower-than-expected ticket sales despite high prices. Daniel Ricciardo, an Australian F1 driver, called for a balance in ticket pricing to ensure accessibility for fans of all economic backgrounds. Meanwhile, the event’s glitzy ceremonies have drawn criticism from World Champion Max Verstappen and other drivers, who questioned the focus on commercial commitments and entertainment over the sporting aspect.
Despite these challenges, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton expressed optimism about the sport’s growth in the United States and praised the efforts of F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and the American investor group Liberty Media. Hamilton also noted the excitement surrounding the event, especially among Hollywood celebrities, suggesting that it will still be a spectacle to watch.