Formula 1 is nothing if not a spectacle. And that would seem to suit Las Vegas perfectly, if not for some considerable teething problems. To say the very first practice session — free practice one or FP1 in racing speak — went off with a hitch wouldn’t quite be accurate. In fact, it went off with what was variously described as a manhole cover or a drain cover, depending on who was doing the describing.
FP1 was canceled after a scant few laps were recorded in the books during the racing cars’ first on-track experience after Ferrari F1 driver Carlos Sainz’s red race car came to a halt on the track. At first, spectators who didn’t have a direct view were left to assume the Ferrari had experienced technical difficulties. Those who witnessed the on-track excitement saw plenty of sparks and heard a loud bang before Sainz came to a stop. Video replays from the in-car cameras and other various views of the track showed that Sainz, along with other drivers, had encountered a sizable circular hunk of metal that covered a hole in the track, seemingly for drainage.
— F1 Las Vegas (@F1LasVegas) November 17, 2023
The FIA’s official statement said in part, “After inspection by Formula 1 and the FIA, a single water valve cover on the Las Vegas Grand Prix circuit failed during the first practice session.” The sport‘s governing body later added that all drain covers on the track would be inspected.
Post-stoppage footage appeared to show quite a bit of damage to the floor and undercarriage of Sainz’s Ferrari F1 car. Just minutes after the stoppage an announcement was made that the remainder of FP1 had been canceled. Though a scant few laps had been completed, Ferrari driver Charles LeClerc led the leader board with a best lap time of 1:44.019.