Five times a manhole cover stopped F1 in its tracks

The pausing of the Las Vegas Grand Prix is not the first time a manhole cover has caused disruption in Formula 1

Harry Latham-Coyle
Friday 17 November 2023 10:13 GMT
Practice has been paused in Las Vegas while officials investigate a number of manholes and drain covers on the street circuit
Practice has been paused in Las Vegas while officials investigate a number of manholes and drain covers on the street circuit (Getty Images)

The first day of action at the Las Vegas Grand Prix was called to an abrupt halt after a loose drain cover forced Formula 1 officials to cancel the opening practice session.

The much-trumpeted return to ‘’Sin City” could hardly have got off to a worse start, with Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari suffering damage after the cover came free as the Spaniard piloted his car around the street circuit.

Alpine have also been forced to repair damage to the chassis of Esteban Ocon‘s car in a farcical start to proceedings in Nevada. Manhole covers are meant to be welded in place before the start of every grand prix.

Second practice has been delayed while the drain covers and manholes on the track are inspected by officials, but it is not the first time that they have caused Formula 1 trouble.

Here are five previous occasions when F1 has been disrupted in this way.

George Russell, Baku 2019

George Russell’s car suffered damage in an incident in Baku in 2019 (Getty Images)

It was only four years ago that George Russell ran into similar bother in Baku, the damage caused to his Williams forcing free practice one at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix to be abandoned. The cover, between turns two and three of the capital city circuit, appeared to have been loosened by Charles Leclerc earlier in the session. Russell’s chassis had to be replaced, leaving him unable to participate in FP2.

Romain Grosjean, Malaysia 2017

Romain Grosjean (Haas) was the unfortunate party in Malaysia in 2017, his rear tyre sliced by a manhole cover dislodged by Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen. The team subsequently received compensation from the circuit.

Valtteri Bottas, Baku 2016

Baku again... Bottas himself had a brush with a cover in his final season at Williams. The Finn was on his way back into the pits at the 2016 European Grand Prix after an installation lap in FP3 but had to sit out the rest of the session after striking a loose drain.

Jenson Button, Monaco 2016

That Bottas blunder followed an incident for Jenson Button only two races earlier, his McLaren thrown off course in Monaco by an inspection hatch. Nico Rosberg suffered a puncture but Button’s front wing bore the brunt of the damage. Rubens Barrichello was another driver to fall foul of a cover in the principality, crashing into a wall after being thrown off course by a kerbside grate in 2010.

Juan-Pablo Montoya, China 2005

And, finally, another McLaren mishap, with Juan-Pablo Montoya clipping a cover at Turn 10 in China in 2005. Montoya was able to continue with a new tyre but was subsequently forced to retire with an engine issue.

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