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Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix Practice Ended By Drain Cover



After weeks of anticipation, Formula 1 cars finally hit the Las Vegas Strip Circuit last night for the first practice session of the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix, but the excitement was short lived. Just eight minutes into the session, it was brought to an end after a drain cover was ripped from the Las Vegas streets.

Free Practice One in Las Vegas kicked off at 8:30 p.m. PST last night after months of construction work and preparations brought chaos to the city. After cars had completed just a few laps of the new 3.85-mile track, the city streets decided it was time for some pay back after all they had endured.

While the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz was speeding down the Las Vegas Strip, there was a huge clattering sound that can be heard from onboard shots shared by Formula 1. His steering wheel then flashes up warning him to stop the car after just eight minutes of running. The cause of the sound and the failure of Sainz’s car? A drain cover from the Las Vegas street had ripped free and smashed through the side of the Ferrari. As Formula 1 confirmed:

The FIA later confirmed that a concrete frame around a manhole cover had failed, which caused the damage to Sainz’s Ferrari, as well as the Alpine of Esteban Ocon – who the team confirmed would take a new chassis due to the hit.

A photo of Carlos Sainz driving his Ferrari in Las Vegas.

Carlos Sainz is slowly learning he shouldn’t have put it all on red.
Photo: Chris Graythen (Getty Images)

After the drain cover was ripped out of the ground, Formula 1’s governing body the FIA announced that the session would not be resumed while repairs to the road were made and so that other drain covers on the circuit could be fixed. This was bad news for the teams, as they need all the running they can get in order to master this brand new track ahead of Saturday’s race.

But that wasn’t the only way that Sainz’s weekend was hampered by the incident. When the cover broke free from its earthly bonds, it ripped into the rear of his car damaging his power unit. As such, the team has been forced to install a new engine in his Ferrari SF-23.

Because of the new engine that’s gone into the back of Sainz’s car ahead of the race, the Spaniard has now been hit with a 10-place grid penalty due to the swap, reports Formula 1. Sainz was handed the penalty as he has already used his allowance of power unit parts for the 2023 season.

Over the course of the season, each driver is permitted to use four internal combustion engines, turbo chargers, MGU-H units and MGU-K units. They can also use up two energy store systems and two control electronics units. If they use any components outside this allowance, they’re hit with grid penalties in the race. As Formula 1 reports:

“The stewards determine that notwithstanding the fact that the damage was caused by highly unusual external circumstances, Article 2.1 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations obliges all officials, including the Stewards, to apply the regulations as they are written,” read the document.

“Accordingly, the mandatory penalty specified under Article 28.3 of the Sporting Regulations must be applied.

A phoot of Carlos Sainz driving past the Las Vegas Sphere.

Come on, you’ve got to admit this is cool?
Photo: Mark Thompson (Getty Images)

The drop on Saturday’s race will be particularly disappointing for Sainz as his Ferrari is looking quick around the Las Vegas Strip Circuit. In the delayed second practice session, his teammate Charles LecLerc topped the timings with a lap of 1:35.265 while Sainz was hot on his heels just half a second behind.

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Inside Alpine F1 Team’s Nocturnal Preparations For The Las Vegas Grand Prix



The Las Vegas Grand Prix was a Formula 1 race like no other. The spectacle in the middle of the casino oasis put an extra burden on the drivers and teams for several reasons: the bizarre late-night schedules, the extensive media obligations and the bombastic nature of racing on the Strip. The unique Saturday night race required an unusual effort from the BWT Alpine F1 Team to prepare, including blackout curtains and greyscale casino towers.

Full disclosure: Alpine invited me to join its F1 team for the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix, including staying at the Venetian Resort alongside the team.

Wednesday was the first official day of the race week and featured a star-studded opening ceremony akin to a Super Bowl halftime show. Just two hours before, Alpine drivers Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon were racing team-branded gondolas in the Venetian’s indoor canals; a stunt was filmed for television and social media. It was impossible to avoid the fact this wasn’t a normal Formula 1 weekend.

CHAOS on the water 😂 Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly Try Gondola Driving 🚤

I would later discover that it was early in the day for the drivers despite only being 5:00 p.m. local time. Vegas’ pomp and promotional activations couldn’t distract from the sporting competition at the core of this half-billion-dollar event. Gasly said to me, “As an F1 driver, you need to be on top of your game every single time you jump in the car.” Both Gasly and Ocon worked with their trainers to be well-rested and at their cognitive peak for the track sessions regardless of the local time.

F1 races typically start at 3:00 p.m. However, the start time in Vegas was at 10:00 p.m. under floodlights and neon signs. Every F1 driver had to acclimate to a time zone shift as if they were racing in Japan, not Nevada. The days on-site would start in the afternoon and end in the early hours of the following morning.

Alexander Albon, Tony Finau and Pierre Gasly play in The Netflix Cup, a live Netflix Sports event, at Wynn Las Vegas Golf on November 14, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Pierre Gasly (right) competed with other drivers and PGA Tour pros on Netflix
Photo: David Becker (Getty Images)

Alpine’s drivers got a headstart on acclimating. Gasly had a session in the team’s simulator on Friday before race week and shifted his sleep schedule on Saturday. He emphasized, “You don’t tackle jetlag the day you arrive.” He hoped to get into a steady rhythm by Tuesday when he competed in the Netflix Cup, a made-for-streaming pro-am golf tournament at the Wynn Golf Club.

Mentioning the simulator, it’s a tool that F1 teams heavily rely on to prepare for race weekends. The sim was even more crucial for Las Vegas because it’s an entirely new circuit that no one has raced on before. The drivers must learn the track, and engineers also need to prepare their cars. Alpine’s technical director Matt Harman stated the team always aims to have a track-specific setup ready before either Alpine A523 even rolls out for practice.

Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon during the F1 Fan Festival in Vegas

Gasly (left) and Ocon (right) have had run-ins on and off track this season
Photo: Alpine

The sim version of the Las Vegas street circuit was somewhat different from what the drivers actually experienced. Ocon explained to me, “Because it was a very last-minute model, the track was well made, but you had like gray towers on the side.” He hoped the trackside buildings would be fully fleshed out for next year.

When I asked his teammate for further details, Gasly replied surprised, “Did he say that? He wasn’t supposed to say that!” He wasn’t a massive fan of Ocon sharing any information about the team’s proprietary simulator. Gasly added, “He speaks too much. I need to have a word with him.” However, nothing in the sim could have prepared Ocon for what happened to him the first time out on track.

Esteban Ocon racing during the Las Vegas Grand Prix

Alpine was best of the rest behind the Red Bull v. Ferrari fight for first
Photo: Alpine

The first practice session on Thursday night immediately threw a violent curveball for Alpine. Eight minutes into practice, Carlos Sainz drove over a water valve cover and its concrete frame failed. The cover was shot straight into the floor of Sainz’s Ferrari, destroying the car. Ocon significantly damaged his own machine when he drove over the debris. Alpine mechanics spent the rest of the night rebuilding Ocon’s car with a spare chassis. The sun was starting to rise when some team personnel finally arrived back at the hotel.

Despite qualifying 17th the next night, Ocon repaid his team’s efforts with a spectacular drive up the field during the race. He passed a dozen other drivers, including Gasly, to finish in fourth place, his second-best result of the season.

Not long after the checkered flag, the team’s focus shifted to the next week’s season finale in Abu Dhabi and next season. When asked about the expected toll of the 24-race 2024 season, Ocon quickly acknowledged the people with the most demanding roles on this intercontinental odyssey. He said, “It’s tough, for sure. I can’t complain on my side. The guys in the garage, the mechanics and the engineers, have much longer days and tough ones. They are going to be the ones suffering much more.”

Formula 1 drivers embody a weird hybrid of athlete and astronaut. They are behind the steering wheel in a dangerous technological arms race that requires an army of highly skilled personnel behind them. F1 is a competitive and commercial challenge that has reached a new frontier in Las Vegas and shows no sign of slowing down soon despite the strain put on the drivers and teams.

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Everything That Went Wrong With F1’s Las Vegas Grand Prix Before It Got Good



Paddock ahead of the Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix at Las Vegas Strip Circuit in Las Vegas, United States on November 18, 2023.

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto (Getty Images)

The race schedule made the Vegas Grand Prix incredibly difficult for drivers, teams and fans. Qualifying was slated to begin at midnight on Friday, and the race start was scheduled for 10:00 p.m. on Saturday. The time change for the European-based teams was equivalent to racing in Japan, not Nevada.

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Verstappen Wins Formula 1 Race After Turbulent Thriller On The Vegas Strip



It’s Monday, November 20, 2023 and this is Racing Recap, your summary of last weekend’s motorsports action. The Las Vegas Grand Prix weekend had a rocky start after a drain cover destroyed a Ferrari, but Max Verstappen emerged victorious after a surprisingly entertaining race. In Qatar, Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia extended his MotoGP points lead with only one race remaining.

Verstappen Outruns Leclerc And A Penalty In Vegas

Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing and Charles Leclerc of Ferrari the Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix at Las Vegas Strip Circuit in Las Vegas, United States on November 18, 2023.

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto (Getty Images)

Heading into the race on Saturday night was the literal damage control after a drain cover shot into Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari, ended Free Practice 1 and delayed Free Practice 2 to the point when spectators were told by police they had to leave. Sainz’s teammate Charles Leclerc would win pole the next night in qualifying, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen lining up second on the grid.

The first corner of the race was chaotic because a classic car used in the drivers’ parade dropped oil on the inside line of Turn 1. Verstappen would pass Leclerc while running both the Ferrari and his own Red Bull off the track. Fernando Alonso spun his Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas had nowhere to go but into Alonso’s front wing.

Race officials handed Verstappen a five-second time penalty for taking the lead off of the track. Two laps later, Lando Norris went careening into the TecPro barriers at Turn 12 after losing control of his McLaren. The next safety car period would be caused by a collision between Mercedes’ George Russell and Verstappen. The reset allowed the reigning world champion a better chance of winning the race.

Once Verstappen fought his way back to the front, the focus shifted to the back for second place. Sergio Perez had the chance to secure Red Bull Racing’s first 1-2 finish since the Italian Grand Prix in September. However, Leclerc made an audacious pass at the end of the Strip on the final lap to steal second from the Mexican driver.

Race Results

1. – Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2. – Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) – +2.070 seconds
3. – Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – +2.241 seconds
4. – Esteban Ocon (Alpine) – +18.665 seconds
5. – Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) – +20.067 seconds

Jorge Martin’s MotoGP Start Fading In Qatar

MotoGP EXTENDED HIGHLIGHTS: Qatar Grand Prix | 11/19/23 | Motorsports on NBC

Like Formula 1, MotoGP held the penultimate race of its season over the weekend at night. The Qatar Grand Prix was the maiden victory of Gresini rider Fabio Di Giannantonio’s MotoGP career. The 25-year-old Italian out-dueled the reigning world champion Pecco Bagnaia, slightly hindering the Ducati rider’s hopes of defending the title. Bagnaia’s title rival Jorge Martin was nowhere to be seen as he struggled for pace on Sunday and finished tenth.

Race Results

1. – Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini)
2. – Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) – +2.734 seconds
3. – Luca Marini (VR46) – +4.408 seconds
4. – Maverick Viñales (Aprilia) – +4.488 seconds
5. – Brad Binder (KTM) – +7.246 seconds

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