A class action lawsuit has been filed against the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix, relating to the fans being escorted away from the circuit ahead of the delayed FP2 session on Thursday night.
A loose drain cover ended FP1 after a matter of minutes, and delayed FP2 to 2:30am the following morning as repairs and checks elsewhere were made – with fans trackside asked to leave the circuit before it commenced due to ‘logistical’ reasons.
The lawsuit pertains to the 35,000 fans who were advised to leave the grandstands in Las Vegas even before the delayed FP2 session had started, meaning they would have only witnessed eight minutes of on-track action before Carlos Sainz’s incident with the drain cover in FP1.
Once FP2 began, the grandstands around the circuit were empty, with fans paying upwards of $200 dollars for tickets, with some splashing out thousands for F1 packages.
Las Vegas-based Dimopoulos Law Firm and co-counsel JK Legal & Consulting filed the lawsuit against the Las Vegas Grand Prix and its owner, Liberty Media, in Nevada state court and are seeking at least $30,000 in damages.
Following an outcry, fans who were in possession of Thursday only tickets have been offered a $200 voucher to spend at the official Las Vegas GP gift shop.
A spokesperson for the Las Vegas GP issued the following statement regarding the lawsuit: “We cannot comment on the litigation. Our focus is on ensuring that our fans have an entertaining experience in a safe and secure environment which is always our top priority.”
F1 statement on Las Vegas debacle
On Friday, F1 and the Las Vegas GP released the following statement on the situation, explaining why certain decisions were made on the first evening of running.
“Our top priority at Formula 1 is the safety and security of our drivers, employees, and fans,” the statement from F1 read. “Responsibility for the oversight of a Formula 1 event falls with Formula 1 as the commercial rights holder of the sport, the FIA as the regulatory body, and the local promoter, in this case the Las Vegas Grand Prix. This is important for those who are new to racing to understand.
“Last night, approximately nine minutes into the first Free Practice session, a water valve cover broke on the straight on Las Vegas Boulevard. At that time the FIA, which is responsible for the safe running of the activities on the circuit, stopped the session so that we could look at the broken water valve cover and inspect the track. This has happened on occasion at other tracks at other races around the world.
“The precautionary step of removing all of the water valve covers on the entire track and filling them with sand and asphalt was undertaken. The entire process, from determination of the issue to remediation, took approximately five hours.
“The decision to remediate in this way was taken out of an abundance of caution and because the safety of drivers, trackside marshals and officials and our fans is always our highest priority. We thank the contractors who worked expeditiously to resolve the situation so quickly.
“As a result, the first Free Practice ended early. We moved ahead with the second Free Practice session at approximately 2:30 AM PT for 90 minutes.
“The decision to run the second Free Practice session at 2:30 AM PT was supported by all parties to ensure the sporting integrity of the remainder of the event.
“We would like to thank the drivers, mechanics and all the teams for their patience and commitment last night to ensure that we could run the session successfully.
“Now, let us turn to the fan experience.
“The delay in the start of the second Free Practice session from midnight to 2:30 AM PT created risks for our employees and our fans.
“We made the decision to close the fan areas that are under LVGP’s purview at 1:30 AM PT and send fans home.
“Let us explain why.
“First, we were concerned about our public safety and security officials who had been in service for a long time and who are being asked to work for the next three nights. We thank Clark County’s Metro Police Department, Department of Public Works and other public safety officials for their incredible support during the event and also as we reopened the track early this morning.
“Second, we were concerned about our transportation employees who are responsible for driving our fans back to hotels. By Federal law, they were bumping up against the amount of time they can legally and safely drive buses.
“Finally, our hospitality staff needed the ability to clean and resupply our guest areas to ensure that the fan experience is optimal for everyone over the coming days.
“We know this was disappointing. We hope our fans will understand based on this explanation that we had to balance many interests, including the safety and security of all participants and the fan experience over the whole race weekend.
“We have all been to events, like concerts, games and even other Formula 1 races, that have been cancelled because of factors like weather or technical issues. It happens, and we hope people will understand.
“So how will we address this tonight?
“We have worked overnight to adjust our staffing plans across security, transportation and hospitality to ensure that we can function and serve fans with the best possible experience in the event of an extended race schedule.
“We are excited about the racing today and thank our entire team and our fans for their support. We know this is going to be a great event. With that let’s get back to racing.”
Reaction from F1 community
Many fans were upset that there appeared to be a lack of an apology in the statement, whilst the offering of $200 in store credit, rather than an option for a full refund, also drew ire – including from world champion Max Verstappen.
Reacting to that, the Dutchman said: “If I was a fan, I would tear the whole place down.”
Fans were unable to hide their disappointment at what happened on Friday, with one fan telling Sky Sports News: “Ridiculous! We waited for four hours and they gave us hope. At 2:00am they said ‘we are going to have the race’. And then nothing, nothing happened. Now they are telling us to leave, so what a night.”
While another commented: “I’ve been here for the last two-three hours and now we’ve been asked to leave. We weren’t sure if practice was going to go ahead but fans were asked to leave. It was all kind of disappointing.”
The Red Bull ace has pulled no punches when it comes to criticising this weekend’s event, with him also saying it was like National League football compared to the Champions League equivalent that is the Monaco Grand Prix.