LAS VEGAS — In an attempt to explain the events of the chaotic opening night of the Las Vegas Grand Prix, Formula One has issued an unapologetic statement to fans and offered those with single-day tickets a $200 voucher to spend on race merchandise.
A water valve cover came loose on the Strip eight minutes into the opening practice session on Thursday evening, causing severe damage to Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari and extensive delays to the night’s schedule.
Work on the circuit to prevent a repeat of the incident stretched late into the night, to the point that fans were told to leave because security workers’ shifts had time out before the resumption of track action at 2:30 a.m..
The detailed statement, issued jointly by F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and Renee Wilm on Friday, CEO of the Las Vegas Grand Prix, explained the course of events but did not offer a straight apology to ticket holders, some of who had spent up to $50,000 on three-day passes.
It went on to brush off the disastrous opening day by comparing it to other failed sport and entertainment events, stating “it happens.”
The disastrous opening day, which eventually featured an extended 90-minute track session until 4 a.m. in front of empty grandstands, followed months of hype from Formula One including claims that it had the potential to be “the greatest show on earth”.
In another statement posted on Friday night, again which did not include an apology, F1 confirmed anyone who had a one-day ticket for Friday would receive a voucher for race merchandise.
There has been no refund or discount announced for anyone who purchased a three-day ticket.
Unlike other events on the calendar handled by third parties, the Las Vegas Grand Prix is being promoted by Formula One itself, which has spent over $500 million on preparations, including the purchase of a $240 million parcel of land near the famous Strip on which it built the pit and paddock complex.
The statement, in full, read: “Our top priority at Formula 1 is the safety and security of our drivers, employees, and fans. 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.”