LAS VEGAS -- Formula One's $500 million Las Vegas Grand Prix got started in farcical circumstances as a loose drain cover caused the abandonment of the first practice session.
Only eight minutes into the session, Carlos Sainz's Ferrari stopped on the track, triggering a red flag.
It appeared he had driven over a loose drain cover, which would have damaged the underside of his car.
As a clear safety risk, and because the clock of a practice session does not stop ticking down during a red flag, the time it would take to fix the drain cover meant the session was called off.
Alpine also confirmed it will have to change the chassis on Esteban Ocon's car for damage at the same place of the circuit.
"After inspection by Formula 1 and the FIA, a single water valve cover on the Las Vegas Grand Prix circuit failed during the first practice session," F1 and Las Vegas Grand Prix, Inc. said in a joint statement.
"The FIA, F1 and local circuit engineering teams are actively working to review and address the issue."
The second practice got underway after a delay of 2½ hours for track repairs, and all spectators were removed from viewing areas ahead of the 90-minute session that ended at 4 a.m. local time. That was the deadline for F1 to return the roads to Las Vegas commuters.
For that revised session to happen, the governing FIA had to check every one of the water valve covers located down the Strip, which makes up 1.3 miles of the circuit, and secure them down with fast-setting concrete.
It was a nightmare start to F1's controversial race. The sport has spent $500 million on it in a rare deal that sees it be the promoter of the event.
Having annoyed locals through the construction of the circuit, it is one of the worst outcomes F1 could have had.
A similar incident occurred ahead of the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, when George Russell's Williams was damaged by a loose manhole cover.