Among plunging ticket prices and surprisingly low hotel occupancy, the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix got off to a rough start Thursday night.
Fans got to see eight minutes of the first practice session before racing was stopped when an issue on the course led to the damage of multiple vehicles.
A water valve cover on the course came loose on the track due to the downforce of Carlos Sainz’s Team Ferrari car. F1 cars generate so much suction, adhering them to the pavement, that they are essentially vacuum cleaners when they pass over any loose materials.
The cars of Esteban Ocon (Alpine) and Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo) were also damaged.
Race officials temporarily shut down the course for 2½ hours to make sure any other potential hazards were securely affixed or welded in place. Spectators were asked to leave, and the grandstand and hospitality areas were emptied.
“There is no higher priority at a Formula 1 race than the safety and security of drivers, fans and staff alike,” race officials said in a statement early Friday morning. “Given the lateness of the hour and logistical concerns regarding the safe movement of fans and employees out of the circuit, LVGP made the difficult decision to close the fan zones prior to the beginning of Free Practice 2.”
The practice session resumed at 2:30 a.m. and was extended to 90 minutes to make up for the abbreviated earlier session.
“With a full round of practice successfully completed,” the statement said, “LVGP looks forward to providing a safe and entertaining race weekend for all.”
According to Front Office Sports, the average get-in price for the event has dropped 63% across all three days. There have also been significant price reductions for local hotel rooms.