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FIA conducting manhole cover inspections after F1 Las Vegas FP1 cut short

The FIA will inspect every manhole cover around Formula 1’s new Las Vegas track as questions swirl about whether or not second free practice can go ahead as planned.

Work and discussion is undertaken to fix the loose manhole covers on track

Following huge hype surrounding F1’s newest track, the event got off to an inauspicious start after the first free practice session was called off because a drain cover had broken free and was hit by two cars.

First, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz ran over the cover on the main straight, which badly damaged his car as he came to a halt at the side of the circuit.

“We are checking the damage caused to Carlos’ car when he hit the manhole cover, which seems quite extensive,” Ferrari reported.

Then, just moments later after the red flag had been called out, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon struck the same cover – and suffered serious damage to the front his car.

His French manufacturer outfit has already confirmed it needs to work on a replacement chassis for the remainder of the weekend.

Alpine’s interim team principal Bruno Famin told Sky Sports F1 about the possibility of getting back out on track later: “Not totally impossible. It should not be ready but I don’t know.

“If FP2 is a bit longer, if it is one-and-a-half hours which I have heard could be possible, we have a possibility to be back on the track before the end of FP2.”

With the FIA trying to better understand the situation and the circumstances that caused the manhole cover to come loose, the fate the second free practice session remains uncertain.

Just over an hour after FP1 was cut short, F1 and Las Vegas GP organisers released a joint statement outlining the problem:

“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 FIA, F1 and local circuit engineering teams are actively working to review and address the issue. We will provide an update on the race schedule as soon as possible.”

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523

If major work is needed to ensure the safety of all the remaining manhole covers around the circuit, it could mean that the second session will not be able to take place as scheduled.

However, if the FIA quickly concludes the problem is under control and events can proceed, that will allow the session to go ahead – and it could potentially even be extended to make up for the time lost by FP1 being abandoned.

Detailing what had gone wrong in FP1, an FIA spokesman said the issue revolved around the concrete casing surrounding the cover.

“Following inspection, it was the concrete frame around a manhole cover that has failed,” he said. “We now need to check all of the other manhole covers which will take some time.

“We will be discussing with the local circuit engineering team about the length of time it will take to resolve and will update with any resultant changes to the schedule.”

The cancellation of FP1 comes amid a wave of scepticism about the Las Vegas Grand Prix, which has been criticised by world champion Max Verstappen for putting showbusiness in front of sporting elements.

Speaking on Wednesday, Verstappen had said about Vegas: “99% show, and 1% sporting event.

“Not a lot of emotions, to be honest. I just like to always focus on the performance side of things. I don't like all the things around it, anyway. I know, of course, in some places they are part of it, but let's say it's not in my interest."

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