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Rough start Formula 1 Las Vegas drain cover ruins opening practice session

Las Vegas Grand Prix opening was bumpy, halted due to drain cover damage. Ferrari boss raged, but F1 is determined to continue.

The Las Vegas Grand Prix got off to a rocky start when the first practice of the $500 million Formula 1 race was interrupted nine minutes into the session on Thursday night because Carlos Sainz Jr. ran over a drain cover that severely damaged his Ferrari. This caused the first practice to be canceled, leading to a 2.5-hour delay before the second practice for track repairs. All spectators were also removed from viewing areas ahead of the 90-minute session that ended at 4 a.m. local time. Red Bull driver Sergio Perez expressed regret for the incident, but remained optimistic about the upcoming race.

The FIA reported that Sainz hit the concrete frame around the water-valve cover just moments after cars took to the track. All cars were ordered off the track so the governing body could inspect the entire circuit. Multiple drainage covers needed to be sealed ahead of the second practice, which was originally scheduled for midnight but didn't begin until 2:30 a.m. on Friday. Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur was furious about what happened to Sainz, calling it "just unacceptable" and expressing frustration over the financial cost and the need to change the chassis of the car.

Despite the setback, Ferrari managed to turn things around, with Charles Leclerc and Sainz going 1-2 in the second practice session. During a news conference, Vasseur refused to entertain questions about the "bigger picture" and expressed his dissatisfaction with the situation. The moderator made a second attempt to change the topic, but Vasseur was uncooperative, and Toto Wolff of Mercedes also grew irritable when asked about the incident.

The race, which marks F1's return to Las Vegas for the first time in 41 years, has been highly anticipated. However, it has been marred by disruptions and high costs, which have led to criticism from fans and locals. The 3.85-mile street circuit passes several Las Vegas landmarks, and the FIA was not able to inspect the track and approve it for racing until early Thursday morning. Despite the challenges, team principals praised the event and the efforts of Liberty and F1 for their contributions to the spectacle.

While the incident was a troubling start to the race, team principals noted that similar incidents have occurred in the past and expressed hope that measures would be taken to prevent such incidents in the future.

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