Las Vegas GP’s Loose Manhole Cover Incident One of Most Bizarre-Ever F1 Mishaps: What Are Others?
The inaugural Formula One’s Las Vegas Grand Prix began with a spectacle on November 17 – or rather, with a spectacular debacle.
A street circuit in a gambling oasis in Nevada, USA, right next to the legendary Las Vegas Strip, has seen a drain hole whose cover dropped out of its socket as Formula 1 cars roar by at full speed. The car of Carlos Sainz suffered the greatest damage on Friday. His Ferrari remained practically unusable, experiencing significant engine and frame damage after running into one of the drain holes that appeared during the first unofficial practice session early in the morning, less than 10 minutes after it started. And the car of Esteban Ocon, the pilot of the Alpine team, suffered major damage too.
Unofficially, the organizer’s debacle, which was life-threatening to the drivers, occurred because one of the subcontractors didn’t do their part in the preparation of the “historical” event and welded the concrete frame surrounding the manhole. There are 30 manholes on the track and all of them had to be examined following the practice’s suspension and, of course, before the main race.
The FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile), the governing body for Formula One racing events, got involved in all this. Its technical delegate asked the race management to set a precedent and allow Sainz and Ocon to compete in new cars, which is otherwise prohibited by the rules. However, the FIA judged that the damage to their cars was caused by external influence and the negligence of the race organizers, and not by the mistakes of the drivers or teams.
Something never seen before occurred later as the drivers returned to the racetrack, whose manhole has since been “patched” with asphalt, at 2.30 a.m. local time for a 90-minute drive. It’s hard to remember that an official sports competition, especially at such a high level, started during the night and lasted until the early morning hours. On this second free practice, the fastest was the Ferrari duo – the best time was achieved by Charles Leclerc (Formula One online top bookmakers’ second overall favorite behind Max Verstappen) 1:35.2365, and the second fastest was Carlos Sainz with a gap of 0.517 seconds.
What happened in Las Vegas absolutely deserves to make it to the list of the all-time most bizarre fails that occurred during F1 races. So, let’s make one. We dug through Formula One history and this is what we came up with:
Mansell’s Premature Celebration at 1991 Canadian GP
Half a lap before the finish in the 1991 Canadian Grand Prix, Nigel Mansell waved to the crowd in celebration, throwing what appeared to be a dominant win off to everyone’s faces. However….
His vehicle halted. His engine stalled because he had allowed the revs to drop too far. Nelson Piquet, the three-time champion, swept ahead in his Benetton to claim the checkered flag.
This race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve will live in Mansell’s memory forever… Not in a good way though.
Inoue Gets Hit by Safety Car at 1995 Hungarian GP
Being an F1 driver is risky enough; accidents and breakdowns are commonplace. Luckily, assistance in the form of emergency vehicles and safety teams is on its way when you do need it.
However, you don’t anticipate getting hit by the very vehicle that has come to your aid. Yes, that’s correct: Taki Inoue immediately pulled his car over and leaped out when it caught fire during the 1995 Hungarian Grand Prix at Hungaroring. Attempting to retrieve a fire extinguisher to assist the firefighters with the engine fire, he was knocked over the bonnet by the arriving safety car, resulting in a leg injury. Ironically, he was OK prior to that.
Coulthard Slides into Pit Wall at 1995 Australian GP
Leading the 1995 Australian Grand Prix, which was being held on the Adelaide street circuit for the final time, was David Coulthard competing in his final race for the Williams team. He pulled into the pits for his first stop on lap 20, leading easily, but he never made it to his garage as he spun right into the wall at the pitlane entrance.
An ultimate failure…
Lola’s Debut at 1997 Australian GP That Has Actually Never Happened
It’s amazing to consider that Lola, a well-known motorsports supplier of chassis to teams across numerous categories, was such a huge failure when it came to Formula One.
Lola made the decision to give the top flight a try. With support from Mastercard, the team began the 1997 season in Australia—well, they didn’t really begin because neither driver was able to get into the season’s opening race at Albert Park Circuit. Lola never competed in Formula One Racing again after being forced to withdraw from the following race in Brazil owing to technical and financial issues. That was one race, followed by receivership a few weeks later and an estimated £6 million in debt. Well done, Lola (ironically)!
Protester Runs on Track at 2003 British GP
Irish protester Neil Horan managed to get onto the track at the 2003 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Clad in an outfit best described as an elf’s folk dancing attire, he ran down the “Hangar Straight” where cars run by with the speed of 200 mph, and waved a board at passing vehicles. Fortunately, no one was harmed, and Catholic priest Horan—who the church later defrocked in 2005—was taken to the ground by a marshal and placed in jail.
Michelin Tire Disaster at 2005 US Grand Prix
Throughout the 2005 United States Grand Prix in Indianapolis, the Michelin racers experienced multiple tire failures.
The French company brought in new tires in the hopes that they’d be able to bear the weight of Indy’s banked turn, but it didn’t seem as though they would. Michelin offered a number of recommendations for the race following their failure with tires, including placing a chicane at Turn 13, enforcing a speed limit, and scheduling pit stops every 10 laps. It was all vetoed. Consequently, teams wearing Michelin attire pulled out of the race (they could’ve easily stopped in the pits by current rules to make a quick replacement), leaving only six teams to compete: two Ferraris, two Jordans, and two Minardis.
Piquet’s Deliberate Crash at 2008 Singapore GP
Where to begin with this one… To put it briefly, Nelson Piquet’s Renault team managers asked him to purposefully crash during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix in order to give teammate Fernando Alonso an advantage.
Alonso pitted early, out of time for his competitors, but a few laps later, his teammate’s accident at a recovery black spot brought out the safety car, giving Alonso the lead and the victory. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary at the time, but Piquet’s whistleblowing in exchange for immunity in the midst of the 2009 season sparked an investigation after he was cut from the team. As a result, the Renault team boss Flavio Briatore and engineering chief Pat Symonds were kicked out of F1.
There were a few more bizarre incidents at F1 throughout its 73-year-old history, but these were more related to the entire season than to a specific race. For instance, Pastor Maldonado’s paid seat from the Venezuelan government to start to compete in 2011 or the McLaren vs. Ferrari “Spygate” (espionage controversy between the two constructors resulting in a record $100 million fine for the former for gaining fraudulent sporting advantage).