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First Las Vegas Grand Prix practice called ‘disappointing’ — PHOTOS

Updated November 17, 2023 - 10:47 am

The first practice session of the Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix was a night to remember on the Strip. Or not.

The session started with a stoppage Thursday night, thanks to the failure of a “single water valve cover” on the track. Practice finally resumed around 2:30 a.m Friday morning.

Find out what happened:

11:30 p.m. ‘Disappointing’ but still excited

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority President and CEO Steve Hill called the issues with the track that halted the race disappointing, but it didn’t take away his excitement of the Las Vegas Grand Prix finally coming to life after years of planning.

“It’s disappointing to start and not be able to finish that practice session,” Hill said Thursday night outside of the F1 pit building. “It looks like it’s a valve cover that failed and they need to inspect the others. It looks like it’s a very solvable problem and we’ll move forward.

Hill didn’t have an estimate as to when, or if, Thursday’s practice round would resume, but he noted safety was top of mind.

“It would have been better if that hadn’t happened, but it was great to see the start and we’ll be back on the circuit as soon as we safely can,” Hill said.

Having a team in place to be able to address any issue that might arise is key and Hill said they have just that on hand across the 3.8-mile track.

“This team, Las Vegas Paving and Penta, all coordinated from Miller Project Management, are prepared really for any contingency that can happen,” Hill said. “So there are crews and materials out here to repair anything that would come up. We understand the importance of this event to Las Vegas and to Formula One. So all of those contingencies have been anticipated and there are numerous crews out here to get to work on this.”

Despite the rough start to the racing action, seeing those first Formula One cars hit the Strip after years of planning and discussing it was a surreal moment for Hill.

“It was just fantastic to see Formula One cars leaving this paddock and running down Las Vegas Boulevard,” Hill said. There is really nothing like this feeling after all that work. A year-and-a-half of construction, two years of planning overall, it was really gratifying to see that.”

— Mick Akers

10:55 p.m. A ‘single water valve cover’

The Review-Journal’s Mick Akers has a statement from Formula 1:

10:53 p.m. Over in minutes

Matthew Sliver and Chris Harrison are two friends who flew into Las Vegas from Dayton, Ohio, to watch the Las Vegas Grand Prix in the T-Mobile zone near the MSG Sphere. Harrison said there was confusion after the video boards announced the first practice session ended and a lot of fans went to nearby casinos.

“We didn’t think the first practice session would end in nine minutes,” Sliver said.

The pair said the abrupt conclusion of the first practice session was disappointing but they were optimistic about the rest of the weekend.

“We bought tickets to all three nights, so we will probably get our money’s worth,” Harrison said.

The two were in front of the Venetian and said they were planning on going to back to their seats if the second practice session happens, but they do have a backup plan in case it doesn’t.

“We’ll just find a poker room if they cancel,” Sliver said.

Sean Hemmersmeier

9:47 p.m. Footage shows apparent issue on track

The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s John Katsilometes has tweeted footage of the apparent problem with the drain cover on the track. Katsilometes shot this footage from Drai’s Beachclub and Nightclub at Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road.

— Brett Clarkson

9:32 p.m. Formula 1’s X account

9:09 p.m. Loose drain cover scuttles session

An apparent loose drain cover caused the first practice session of the Las Vegas Grand Prix to be canceled. Team Ferrari Driver Carlos Sainz car had to be wheeled into his team’s garage for repairs after stopping on the track.

A “bump on the track” (the loose drain cover) caused Sainz’s vehicle to stop, per Formula 1’s X account.

— Mick Akers

9:05 p.m. First practice ends abruptly

The first practice for the Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix ended abruptly Thursday as Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was forced to stop in the third sector just nine minutes into the session, bringing out red flags.

The race stewards announced the session would not be resumed.

The FIA, the governing body for Formula One, cited a problem with a drain cover on the track.

“We are currently looking at an issue with a drain cover, which is the reason for the current delay,” the FIA said in a statement.

A second practice is scheduled for midnight, but there is no word on its status.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc recorded the fastest lap at 1:40.909, though five drivers were unable to record times before the session ended.

— Andy Yamashita

Fans react to canceled practice

Laura and Travis Carlisle are a married couple from Olympia, Washington who were on the Strip for the first few minutes of the Las Vegas Grand Prix’s first practice round that was canceled due to an apparent loose drain cover on the track.

They visit Las Vegas at least once a month and are lifelong Formula One fans so they were excited to see the event despite all the turmoil caused by construction for it.

“It’s not surprising that the roadwork was messed up,” Travis Carlisle said. “It’s only fitting for how much Formula One work has caused disruption in Vegas.”

When the first practice session of Thursday night was canceled they decided to go back to their room at the Flamingo because the room was comped and had a view of the Strip.

Even though Formula One had a disappointing start Laura Carlisle is excited to see what happens for the rest of the weekend.

“I want to see it work out for Vegas, because of what has been invested into this,” Laura Carlisle said.

Sean Hemmersmeier

8:37 p.m. Vegas is ‘where the money is’

Anthony Mosharrafa is celebrating his 24th birthday on Thursday and wanted to mark the occasion by flying from Los Angeles to be in town for the Las Vegas Grand Prix. He said he just plans to walk around the Strip for the first night of practice rounds but will look to get a ticket for the more fast-paced Friday and Saturday events.

Mosharrafa is a fan of F1 because of its global presence and because each Grand Prix has its own challenges for the drivers to overcome. He said he thought the Las Vegas Grand Prix’s design was interesting but wasn’t overly impressed.

“I think F1 is in Vegas since it’s going toward where the money is,” Mosharrafa said.

Mosharrafa said he has no big expectations for the race and just wants to be surprised by whatever happens.

Sean Hemmersmeier

8:20 p.m. Will ‘bring stupid wealth to this city’

Outside Bellagio people lined fencing along the track that was partially obstructed by see-through black material. Brennan and Melissa Scott, who made the trip from British Columbia, Canada, found a spot just before cars began to zoom by.

Brennan Scott is a veteran of the F1 race weekend having twice attended the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.

“I’ve watched a lot of NASCAR, Indy Car and seen Formula 1 and I want to see how the venue plays out and the hype and just want to say I was there first,” Brennan Scott said.

It was his wife Melissa’s first Grand Prix.

“Super excited to watch it with him,” she said.

While he’s a fan of Red Bull, Brennan Scott hopes McLaren driver Lando Norris can pull off an upset.

He said locals who have been frustrated by all the headaches caused from the race will see the benefits in the years to come.

“It’s next year and the years after that is going to bring stupid wealth to this city … It will make sense after this year,” Brennan Scott said.

— David Wilson

7:51 p.m. First in-person F1 event

Frankie and Nick Miner are a married couple who traveled from Santa Maria, California, to attend every night of the Las Vegas Grand Prix. Nick Miner is a fan of Formula One who has been following the sport for the last five years and the Las Vegas Grand Prix was the first time an F1 event was close enough for the couple to attend.

“I’m excited to see it out of my computer and in-person for the first time,” said Frankie Miner.

Nick Miner said the setup for the race “looks awesome.”

The couple said that the prices were really expensive and that they booked general admission tickets to save on costs.

The couple is staying at the Aria and said traffic hasn’t really affected their stay as they were walking to the race and had a Uber driver who knew which streets to take.

Sean Hemmersmeier

7:15 p.m. Feels like normal weeknight

Michael Urban is a temp worker at the Venetian who was working the first full night of events for the Las Vegas Grand Prix and early in the night he didn’t seem too flustered by the event.

“Aside (from) getting in and out, most things have been unaffected,” Urban said. “It feels like a normal weekday night inside (the Venetian).”

Urban said he is a fan of Formula One but has been “super disappointed” about the coordination efforts by local authorities to set up the race since it’s made life more difficult for workers on the Strip to get to work.

The traffic has been a “nightmare every day,” Urban said, adding he now leaves for work an hour and a half before his shift starts.

Sean Hemmersmeier

6:40 p.m. Mystery beverage in replica racing shoe

Preston and Jacquie McClusky have wanted to go to a race for a few years since becoming fans through the Netflix series “Formula 1: Drive to Survive.” The Las Vegas Grand Prix is their first.

The couple traveled from Orange County, California, and will be in town all weekend for the racing festivities.

“Just looking forward to everything. The whole experience, hoping to see Ferrari win,” said Jacquie McClusky, who was sporting a team-branded jacket.

Around Preston’s neck hung a small replica racing shoe with a beverage tucked inside. He said he was pulling for Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo, who made the “shoey” famous as a post-race victory celebration.

He declined to say what he was drinking and said it was whatever the Bellagio’s Shoey Bar was serving.

They said expected the areas around the track to be busier Thursday night.

“So far the crowd control has been pretty good,” Preston McClusky said.

— David Wilson

6:10 p.m. Ticket prices ‘too high’

Isha Kuldeep was walking along the Strip as construction crews were putting the finishing touches to the Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix racetrack for the first practice sessions of race weekend.

Kuldeep was hoping to get a peek at the Formula One cars later in the evening as she didn’t have a ticket to the F1 events.

“The ticket prices are too high,” Kuldeep said.

Kuldeep is visiting Las Vegas from Ontario, Canada for a vacation and said there have been no big issues during her stay at the Flamingo because of the F1 setup. She credited the Flamingo for sending emails to her warning her about F1’s impact on the Strip for preparing her so she knew what to expect.

Sean Hemmersmeier

6 p.m. ‘Keep walking’

A security guard asked pedestrians stopping at a railing near Bellagio to not lean on the banister and keep walking. Guests stopped to get a peek at portion of the track, snapped a picture and kept moving.

— David Wilson

5:30 p.m. Walkways bustling

Walkways around the circuit were bustling with people in Formula 1 team gear about three hours before the start of the first practice session. Event staff were posted around walking paths holding signs offering help to guests.

— David Wilson

5:00 p.m. Betting on practice

The Las Vegas Grand Prix has already set a record for Formula One betting handle at Caesars Sportsbook, and the same is expected at sportsbooks around Las Vegas. Caesars assistant director of trading Adam Pullen did offer the caveat that, “Although we’ve already eclipsed the record handle, auto racing is a niche sport. It’s just not heavily bet.”

The majority of money wagered is expected to pour in Friday and Saturday, but Station Casinos does have a prop bet up for tonight’s first practice:

— Fastest driver in practice (listed in order of odds): Max Verstappen (-175), Charles Leclerc (+450), Carlos Sainz Jr. (+500), Lewis Hamilton (+1,100), George Russell (+1,500), Lando Norris (+1,500), Sergio Perez (+1,800), Alex Albon (+3,500), Oscar Piastri (+3,500), Fernando Alonso (+4,500), Kevin Magnussen (+6,000), Nico Hulkenberg (+6,000), Esteban Ocon (+8,000), Pierre Gasly (+10,000) and the field (all other drivers) at +5,000.

In betting terms, minus odds reflect the money bettors have to wager to win $100, while plus odds reflect how much bettors win for a $100 wager. In this case, bettors can wager $175 to win $100 on Verstappen, or $100 to win $450 on Leclerc. A long shot wager on Gasly pays $10,000 on a $100 bet.

Verstappen, who has won 17 of the 20 F1 races this season, is the heavy favorite at Station (-450) to win Saturday’s race, but he is as low as -220 at Circa Sports.

— Jim Barnes

Related links:

Las Vegas Grand Prix track info

Meet the drivers

Live traffic cams

Las Vegas GP betting info

Formula One FAQs

More Las Vegas Grand Prix coverage

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