Problems with manhole covers at the Las Vegas Grand Prix track are “just unacceptable”, Ferrari team boss Frederic Vasseur says.
First practice was cancelled after just nine minutes when Carlos Sainz hit a manhole cover that had come loose.
Esteban Ocon’s Alpine was damaged in the same way before the session was cut short.
Vasseur said Sainz’s car had a damaged chassis, engine and battery and would miss the second session.
The FIA then announced an indefinite delay while all manhole covers around the track were checked.
Vasseur said the damage would “cost a fortune”.
He added: “The show is mega and I am very happy with what [F1 owners] Liberty [Media] did around the race but we have to separate the show and the sporting side.
“The opening ceremony (on Wednesday) was something mega in F1 but it is not because you are doing this that you don’t have to do the job on the sporting side. You can do the show and do a good job on the sporting side.”
The track was inspected and declared fit for racing by governing body the FIA before running began.
F1, which unusually is acting as the promoter for this race itself, has spent more than £500m on preparations for the race. This includes a buying plot of land in Las Vegas, on which it has built the largest pit building on the F1 calendar and prepared the track.
The pit building will become a permanent presence for F1 in the Nevada city.
Hosting a grand prix in Las Vegas is the culmination of 40 years of on-and-off effort and has succeeded because of buy-in from the casinos, who expect to make millions of dollars and see the race as part of Las Vegas’ bid to become a global centre for sport.
McLaren Racing chief executive officer Zak Brown said: “I don’t think it was because corners were cut. They have spared no expense on the event. We just have to work out what happened and fix it. I think they just got it wrong.”
Williams team boss James Vowles pointed out that modern F1 cars generated “huge amounts of suction” from their underbodies and “they just experienced a force they weren’t expecting”.
Alpine were also forced to replace the chassis on Ocon’s car following his incident.
Ocon hit the same drain as Sainz had while he was retuning to the pits after the red flag had been shown for the Ferrari’s incident. The team received no warning from race control about debris or problems on track.
Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu had a narrow escape. The Chinese was the first driver along after Sainz’s incident and had to take avoiding action to miss the detached drain cover.
The FIA spokesperson said: “Following inspection, it was the concrete frame around a manhole cover that has failed.”
It is not the first time a drain cover has caused problems on an F1 track.
At the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, first practice was cancelled when George Russell’s Williams hit a drain cover and was badly damaged.
At the time the first session was stopped, drivers were just beginning to familiarise themselves with the track. Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari was faster by 2.5 seconds than the Haas cars of Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen.
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