The defective cover of a water shaft caused huge damage to Formula 1's image in the middle of the dazzling Las Vegas Boulevard. In front of the magnificent backdrop of the luxury Bellagio Hotel, material damage on the asphalt caused the opening training session to be canceled after just eight minutes of driving. At least the second training session for the prestigious Formula 1 project in the USA was only supposed to be completed two hours late. The team bosses from Mercedes and Ferrari had long since been pissed off. “This is simply unacceptable for Formula 1 today,” complained Frederic Vasseur from Scuderia.
What exactly had happened before? Just eight minutes after the start of the first session, Carlos Sainz stopped his Ferrari on the long straight over the so-called strip after rumbling over an obstacle at around 320 km/h and crashing heavily. First red flags were waved, then the hour-long warmup was completely canceled after just 19 minutes.
After the subsequent track inspection by the motorsport premier class and the world motorsport association Fia, the defective cover of a water shaft was identified as the cause - curiously located directly in front of the VIP tent called "Fountain Club".
“All other manhole covers” now have to be checked, which will take some time. After the incident, pictures showed a marshal leaning over the narrow hole in the asphalt after the shaft cover had been removed. The damage to the chassis and drive of Sainz's car will "cost a fortune," emphasized Ferrari team boss Vasseur. That was simply “unacceptable,” he reiterated.
Questions about damage to the image of the premier motorsport class once again angered Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff. “We’re talking about a damn manhole cover in the first free practice,” he complained. “Give some credit to the people who make this event possible.” This is also “not a black eye” for Formula 1. “It’s nothing.”
The fans in the stands probably saw it differently. Formula 1 had announced an incomparable spectacle. The opening party with stars like Kylie Minogue and John Legend went as planned the day before. The first exit 41 years after the flop in the parking lot behind the Caesars Palace Hotel was also a flop.
“The race in Las Vegas will be a huge loudspeaker for our sport,” the CEO of Formula 1 rights holder Liberty Media, Greg Maffei, had previously said. That can still happen, after all, the penultimate Grand Prix of the year is only scheduled for Sunday at 7 a.m. German time. But the path there looks like a fiasco.
"That was an unfortunate incident. I don't think it's because they wanted to take a shortcut," said McLaren boss Zak Brown, who was asked about the time pressure in realizing the Las Vegas project. Within 378 days, almost 2,900 workers built the course, which is expected to generate well over a billion euros in revenue. Layers of old asphalt up to 25 centimeters thick had to be removed and filled with fresh asphalt.
“A huge spotlight will be on Vegas,” record world champion Hamilton said the day before about the interest in this Grand Prix. The booming Formula 1 in the midst of glitz and glamor - until a water leak broke the script.