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Carlos Sainz incident causes the cancellation of free practice 1 at the Las Vegas Grand Prix

Las Vegas Grand Prix: F1 free practice 1 results

With tricky track conditions expected, which teams and drivers will triumph at the highly anticipated Las Vegas Grand Prix in free practice 1?

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Free practice 1 at the Las Vegas Grand Prix is cancelled after less then eight minutes of green flag action

Formula One takes to the the strip for the Las Vegas Grand Prix
Formula One takes to the the strip for the Las Vegas Grand Prix. (Image Credit: @F1 on X)

The most anticipated Grand Prix of the 2023 Formula One season has finally arrived, as the pinnacle of motorsport returns to Sin City. So far, the build-up to the weekend has been hard to miss, a subject that has caused quite a bit of controversary amongst the drivers. Additionally, the grid took part in the Las Vegas Grand Prix opening ceremony, which three-time world champion Max Verstappen had some choice words about.

To celebrate Formula One’s return to Vegas, the majority of the teams will run one-off special car liveries. Red Bull, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, AlphaTauri, Williams, and Alpine have all taken inspiration from the lights and famous landmarks that Las Vegas is known for with their new liveries.

But we are all here to see how the cars will handle this brand new circuit. With cool track conditions expected, Pirelli has already admitted they are taking a step into the unknown this weekend. The combination of cold temperatures and a low grip surface may throw up some surprises in Vegas.

The light goes green for free practice 1

Valtteri Bottas leads out Lance Stroll as the first practice session of the Las Vegas Grand Prix weekend gets the green light. The grid were quick to get out on track aside from Fernando Alonso, Alex Albon, and Logan Sargeant who is racing in his third home Grand Prix of the season. And from the start of the session, all three tyre compounds were in use so expect differing tyre strategies this weekend.

After the majority of the field had completed their first laps, Charles Leclerc set the early pace with a 1:44.019. The Ferrari driver’s time was 1.181 quicker than Verstappen, who set his time using the medium tyre compared to Leclerc’s softs.

Less than eight minutes into the session saw the first yellow flag of the weekend.

The session is red flagged

The yellow flag quickly became a red as Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz had come to a stop on the Las Vegas strip. The car displayed a messaged on its dash telling Sainz to stop the car. After watching replays of the incident, Sainz appears to run over something out on track. The delay will massively hinder the rest of the field, as the clock does not stop during red flag periods during free practice sessions.

The top ten during the red period was Leclerc, Nico Hulkenberg, Kevin Magnussen, Verstappen, Esteban Ocon, George Russell, Sainz, Yuki Tsunoda, Sergio Perez, and Bottas.

Following the red flag period, the stewards announced that the session will not be resumed.

Issue with a drain cover

The incident involving Sainz and his retirement from free practice 1 resulted in the session being cancelled. The surrounding frame of a drain cover appears to have come away from the track. While Sainz was the unfortunate victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Representatives from the FIA went down to the track to inspect the Ferrari as well as the circuit.

Following the session’s cancellation, Alpine announced that Ocon will need to change his chassis. The team believes their car also suffered with damage sustained from a drain cover issue. In the replays, the French driver appears to have a near identical issue to Sainz.

While commentating on Sky Sports F1, 2009 Formula One world champion Jenson Button suggested that the prolonged yellow flag period before the red flag may have initially been for the loose drain cover. Footage from Alonso’s onboard has come to light showing the Spanish driver appearing to avoid the drain cover that caused both Sainz and potentially Ocon’s issues later on.

Final classification of free practice 1

After less than 10 minutes of green light on-track action, it was Leclerc who set the pace with a 1:40.909. Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Verstappen, Ocon, Russell, Sainz, Tsunoda, Perez, and Bottas rounded out the top 10. With such little running Stroll, Oscar Piastri, Albon, Alonso, and Sargeant all did not get to set a time. The American Williams driver in particular didn’t even leave the pit lane before the session came to a close.

The FIA confirms the reason behind the session’s cancellation

After the completion of the initial investigations, the FIA made the following statement:

“Following inspection, it was the concrete frame around a manhole cover that has failed. 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.”

This could be a lengthy process as the FIA will need to ensure the track is in a safe condition before sending the drivers back out there for free practice two.

During the Sky Sports F1 broadcast, Martin Brundle commented that he believes that this could halt track action for the rest of the day. Could free practice two also be at risk?

Feature Image Credit: @F1 on X

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