Formula 1’s return to Las Vegas got off to a shockingly bad start with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz striking a loose water valve cover in FP1 and that session having to be abandoned after just eight minutes of running. What followed was a communications and optics horror show from both the race organiser, which is F1 itself, and FIA regulator.
But by the end of a very long working day in Sin City – taking in two, with track action having started at 8.30pm on Thursday night and ended at 4am on Friday morning – an extended practice session had taken place. But in front of no fans.
Things did look better for Ferrari come the action’s end – even if it was still livid about Sainz’s car being smashed, along with Esteban Ocon’s Alpine, in the FP1 shambles. The Scuderia led the way on pure pace with its slippery SF-23 on this straight-heavy new course in FP2, but it looks to be very close so far with Red Bull on the long runs that eventually concluded the elongated session.
That and much more is included in this presentation of everything we learned in the first practice sessions for F1’s return to Vegas after a 41-year absence.
The story of the day
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Sainz struck a water valve cover that had been worked loose
FP1 lasted just eight minutes. Just as the drivers were building up to speed on the slippery new track surface and Charles Leclerc had gone quickest with a 1m40.909s, the red flags flew as Sainz had stopped in the other Ferrari halfway down the long blast across Las Vegas’ famous Strip.
There was no further information on what had gone wrong for 11 minutes. Then a jaw-dropping message was displayed: The session would not be resumed.
Autosport was watching trackside at the Turns 7/8 complex in front of the gigantic Sphere entertainment venue. There was stunned silence from the spectators in not-packed grandstands behind us. The circuit commentary team announced they could not provide any information for what was going on. People began to head for the exits. Reports of booing from the grandstand opposite the main straight soon began to appear.
News began to trickle out as the FIA’s media team relayed information from race control. Sainz had struck a water valve cover that had been worked loose – smashing considerable parts of his SF-23.
After the session had been stopped a few moments later, Ocon then hit the valve too – damaging his floor so badly Alpine had…