The first practice session for Formula 1’s Las Vegas Grand Prix was effectively cancelled due to a track safety problem.
F1 drivers had completed barely 10 minutes of running on the Las Vegas Strip circuit when Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari stopped on track approaching the final corner.
Replays suggested the Ferrari struck a raised part of the track surface, which caused significant damage.
Sainz reported over team radio his car’s floor was broken, but the extent of the damage is likely much more significant given his in-car display told him to stop the car immediately.
The session was red flagged and not resumed, with the FIA initially declaring “an issue with a drain cover” on the Strip.
Shortly afterwards, it announced that the concrete frame around the manhole cover had failed and that it must now check all of the others around the track.
"Following inspection, it was the concrete frame around a manhole cover that has failed," said a further FIA statement.
"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."
Practice two is scheduled for midnight local time, just over three hours after the first session was stopped.
More on FP2
The FIA has issued an update on FP2.
“We are currently expecting around two hours of delay from the originally scheduled start time for FP2 in order for the local circuit engineering team to carry out the necessary works on the track. The session will be extended to 90 minutes. Will update with more specifics when they’re available.”
The anticipated start time is 2am local, which is 10am UK time.
Esteban Ocon’s Alpine also suffered significant damage in the early running on what is a brand new circuit for F1, requiring a chassis change.
Before the session was cancelled Sainz’s Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc set the pace, with his 1m40.909s best lap on the C5 soft tyre more than 2.5 seconds quicker than the Haas pair of Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen.
Max Verstappen was fourth fastest for Red Bull, running the C4 medium compound, but given how early it was in the session before the cancellation, the lap times are pretty much meaningless, as team were still doing exploratory runs on a very cold circuit lacking grip.
However, Leclerc did two flying laps and was straight to the top of the timesheet so perhaps felt immediately more comfortable than some others.
More onus will now be placed on FP2 - if the track can be made safe in time - as teams still need to decide the correct downforce levels for a street circuit that requires high efficiency given the long straights.
High speed and low grip is never an easy balance to get right. McLaren, for example, has a revised rear beam wing and flap profile for this race to try to combat high drag on the MCL60.
The track temperature was less than 20C at the start of the session, adding to the unique challenge here.