Formula 1 released a lengthy 649-word statement on Friday evening in a bid to restore credibility after an embarrassing first day of the Las Vegas Grand Prix, but refused to apologize to disappointed fans.
Instead, the joint publication from F1 president Stefano Domenicali and Grand Prix CEO Renee Wilm struck a dismissive tone as it told fans: ‘It’s happening’.
Race followers will not receive a refund, but instead those with a single day ticket have been given a $200 voucher.
The first practice session was abandoned after eight minutes on Thursday evening due to a loose drain cover that damaged Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari, forcing F1 to close the track to inspect the entire 6.2 kilometer circuit that uses a long section of the Strip.
By the time the next practice started, 2.5 hours late at 2:30 a.m., attendees had been ordered out of the fan viewing areas. F1 conducted a 90-minute session until 4am, after which the streets had to be returned to the city for morning traffic.
The first practice of the Las Vegas GP was canceled after eight minutes on Friday evening
A loose drain cover put an early end to embarrassing scenes for a long-awaited event
Domenicali and Wilm released a joint statement on Friday evening to explain the debacle.
It said in full: ‘Our top priority at Formula 1 is the safety and security of our drivers, employees and fans. The responsibility for overseeing a Formula 1 event lies with Formula 1 as the sport’s commercial rights holder, the FIA as the regulatory body and the local promoter, in this case the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
‘This is important for those new to racing to understand.
“Last night, about nine minutes into the first free practice session, a water valve cover broke on the main straight on Las Vegas Boulevard. At that point the FIA, which is responsible for the safe conduct of track operations, stopped the session so we could look at the broken water valve cover and inspect the track. This has happened occasionally at other tracks during other races around the world.
‘As a precautionary measure, all water valve covers on the entire track have been removed and filled with sand and asphalt. The entire process, from identifying the problem to repair, took about five hours.
“The decision to reinstate in this manner was made out of an abundance of caution and because the safety of drivers, marshals and officials and our fans is always our top priority. We thank the contractors who worked so quickly to resolve the situation so quickly.
‘As a result, the first Free Training ended early. We continued with the second free practice session at approximately 2:30 AM PT for 90 minutes.
‘The decision to hold 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 we could run the session successfully.
“Now let’s look at the fan experience. The delay in the start of the second free practice session from midnight to 2:30 a.m. PT created risks for our employees and our fans.
“We have decided to close the fan areas under LVGP jurisdiction at 1:30 a.m. PT and send fans home. Let’s explain why.
“First and foremost, we were concerned about our long-serving public safety officers who are being asked to work the next three nights. We thank the Clark County Metro Police Department, the 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.
‘Secondly, we were concerned about our transport workers who are responsible for returning our fans to hotels. Under federal law, they were running short on the amount of time they could legally and safely drive buses.
“Finally, our hospitality staff needed the ability to clean and restock our guest areas to ensure the fan experience is optimal for everyone in the coming days.
‘We know this was disappointing. We hope that from this explanation our fans will understand that we had to balance many interests, including the safety and security of all participants and the fan experience throughout the entire race weekend.
‘We have all been to events, such as concerts, competitions and even other Formula 1 races, that have been canceled due to factors such as weather or technical problems. It’s happening and we hope people will understand it.
‘How are we going to handle this tonight?
“We have been working overnight to adjust our staffing plans across security, transportation and hospitality to ensure we can operate and serve fans with the best possible experience in the event of an expanded racing schedule .
‘We are excited about today’s races and thank our entire team and our fans for their support. We know this will be a great event. Let’s get back to racing with that.’