Team bosses react to FP1 drain drama at 2023 Las Vegas GP

FP1 was ended early after a loose drain damaged Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari


Ferrari’s team principal, Frederic Vasseur, was incensed following serious damage to Carlos Sainz’s car after he struck a loose drain valve and was backed up in his emotions by Toto Wolff, James Vowles and Zak Brown.

The incident came just over 10 minutes into the first Free Practice session of the weekend and left the Spaniard’s car with extensive damage to the monocoque, engine and battery of his SF-23, with Vasseur thinking that the damage could be so great that Sainz might even miss FP2.

Esteban Ocon was also reported to have collected damage from a drain valve. A yellow flag shown in the part of the track where Sainz collided with the metal plate before he got there, which then became a red flag after.

Vasseur livid

Through none of their own fault, Ferrari are now faced with a triple whammy in terms of costs to repair, time lost to set-up the car and possibly even losing their shot at finishing second in the constructors’ standings against Mercedes.

Naturally, the Frenchman wasn’t best pleased with events that transpired in the first running of Formula 1 cars in Las Vegas since 1982, and he didn’t shy away from speaking his mind.

“We had a very tough FP1,” Vasseur said to the media. “This will cost us a fortune. We f***ed up the session for Carlos. We won’t be part of the FP2 for sure. We have to change the chassis of the car, to seal off the car.

“The show is the show and everything is going well but I think it just unacceptable for F1 today.”

Meanwhile, Wolff was surprisingly emotional in how he responded to the drain valve situation, producing a foul-mouthed rant about how it isn’t actually a big deal.

While Wolff may have had something to gain from the damage to Mercedes’ closest competitor, he passionately defended the sport and event promoters amid questions about how embarrassing the incident would be given the hype around the race.

“It’s completely ridiculous. Completely ridiculous,” Wolff said to press. “How can you even try to talk bad about an event that sets the new standards, new standards to everything [in F1].

“Then you’re then you’re speaking about a f***ing drain cover that’s been undone. That has happened before. It’s nothing.

“Everyone give credit to the people that have set up this grand prix, that have made the sport much bigger than it ever was.”

Brown takes the long view

The American boss of McLaren is an avid motorsport fan but will also no doubt be grateful to have an extra weekend in his home nation of the USA. In the wake of the FP1 disaster, Brown elected to focus on the positives and remember the scale of the job done to get the race held.

“Unfortunate, obviously, the way we’ve kicked things off but hopefully we’ll get things rectified here shortly,” Brown said to media. “I feel terrible for Fred [Vasseur] and I think another car as well has some significant damage.

“But putting that aside, we have a tremendous amount of corporate partners out here. Lots of fans, lots of attention on this sport as a whole and I think it’s Liberty [Media] taking the sport to yet another level.”

Sergio Perez of Red Bull leads Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes during practice ahead of 2023 Las Vegas GP | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Although he was at Mercedes at the time, Vowles said that one of his first thoughts was when George Russell ran over a drain cover at the 2019 Azerbaijan GP in his rookie season with Williams.

It’s not a new problem for the F1 grid to face, but it is rare and unfortunate when it does, and Vowles lent his sympathies to his rivals who incurred damage due to the oversights.

“We have problems and I’m it is what happened today in FP1,” Vowles said to the media. “Obviously incredibly disappointed. I’m incredibly sorry for both Ferrari and Alpine in that have suffered damage as a result of that.

“If I had been us, I think that would affect the championship quite significantly. But we will get on top of it and we will get the show back on the road as a result of where we are and how important this is.

“Probably just judge us by what happens when the chequered flag falls on Saturday,” Vowles added. “Rather than what’s just happened in the last half an hour [Friday].”

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