LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Formula 1 and Las Vegas Grand Prix officials have released a statement explaining the reasoning behind why it took so long to make repairs after a water valve cover broke during the first practice session on Thursday, as well as why fans were removed from the circuit and the grandstands ahead of the second practice session, which began on Friday morning at 2:30 a.m.
Cause of Delays
About nine minutes into the first practice session, the cover broke after Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz ran over it. According to Formula 1 officials, the FIA, their governing body, stopped the session for safety reasons.
“The precautionary step of removing all of the water valve covers on the entire track and filling them with sand and asphalt was undertaken,” the statement reads. “The entire process, from determination of the issue to remediation, took approximately five hours.”
The statement said that the decision to remediate in this way was taken out of an abundance of caution and because the safety of drivers, trackside marshals and officials, and fans is always the highest priority.
Removal of Fans
Formula 1 officials also said that safety was one of the reasons why race officials chose to close fan areas at 1:30 a.m. instead of letting people watch the second practice session.
“We were concerned about our public safety and security officials who had been in service for a long time and who are being asked to work for the next three nights,” the statement reads in part. “We were concerned about our transportation employees who are responsible for driving our fans back to hotels. By Federal law, they were bumping up against the amount of time they can legally and safely drive buses. Finally, our hospitality staff needed the ability to clean and resupply our guest areas to ensure that the fan experience is optimal for everyone over the coming days.”
They added that they know they have let down their fan base with that decision.
“We know this was disappointing,” the statement continues. “We hope our fans will understand based on this explanation that we had to balance many interests, including the safety and security of all participants and the fan experience over the whole race weekend.”
Team Principals, as well as race officials, have all stressed that this type of incident is not unusual and has happened before. For example, it happened whenever George Russell was driving for Williams Racing during the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, which was about 12 minutes into the first free practice session of the day. Manhole covers have also caused races to be paused in Malaysia in 2017, Azerbaijan in 2016, Monaco in 2016, and China in 2005.
Race officials said they have worked through the night to adjust staffing plans to make sure they can give fans “the best possible experience” for the rest of the event. Tonight’s practice session is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. with qualifying scheduled for midnight.
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