F1’s ‘ridiculous’ start in glitzy Las Vegas slammed

Sat, 18 November 2023, 05:00

Nov.18 (GMM) The new Las Vegas GP got off to a “ridiculous” start on Thursday when a broken manhole cover smashed through the glitz and glamour.

Liberty Media’s blue-riband, billion-dollar project culminated in scenes of police ushering furious fans giving the thumbs-down out of the new street circuit – to give track staff some sleep ahead of a rescheduled practice session in the dead of the night.

“The FIA is guilty for this. They simply missed it,” former F1 driver Giedo van der Garde said on Viaplay as track workers poured quick-drying concrete into the broken asphalt.

The media was scathing, and even Ferrari team boss Frederic Vasseur – with Sainz’s damaged components dropping him down the grid in a controversial decision – called the situation “unacceptable”.

The Frenchman declared: “You can do the show and also do a good job on the sporting side. It’s two separate things.”

F1 analyst Sam Dejonghe told Sporza news agency: “When the show is the priority, you see what happens.”

NOS, a Dutch publication, called it a “ridiculous night” in Vegas, with Kolner Express agreeing that it was a “huge embarrassment for Formula 1”.

F1 did not even show replays of the explosion of sparks that ripped through the floor of a furious Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari – with fans only brought up to date when security footage a nearby hotel was leaked.

“Loud F1 farce in the middle of the night,” concluded Finnish newspaper Ilta Sanomat.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, however, lashed out at a reporter who said F1 and Liberty had taken a “black eye” on one of their most important-ever days.

“How can you even dare trying to talk bad about an event that sets new standards for everything – and then you’re speaking about a f***ing drain cover that’s undone?” the Austrian blasted.

But Alpha Tauri driver Daniel Ricciardo said wondering if F1 had prepared for the on-track show as much as it had prepared for the off-track glitz was a “fair question”.

“I also don’t want to criticise the sport too much,” said the Australian.

Former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher said that with no prior track testing and also no support events at Las Vegas, the new ground effect cars had just caught the sport out.

“We cannot underestimate that,” he said on Sky Deutschland. “The manhole covers are firmly screwed on – the problem is that the concrete broke all around it.”

McLaren boss Zak Brown agrees that it’s “unfair” to suggest that “corners were cut” on the sporting side due to the obsession with the show, while Las Vegas GP boss Renee Wilm also played down the calamity.

“We have all been to events that had to be interrupted or cancelled for various reasons,” she said. “It’s never nice, but it happens.”

But the last word is saved for Spaniard Sainz, whose Ferrari was not only destroyed, but stewards refused to wave a ten-grid qualifying drop for the damaged parts.

“At the moment I’m just too disappointed to talk,” he said. “But for me, what happened is clear evidence that this sport can still be improved in many ways.

“You won’t see me very happy this weekend.”

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