Formula One was dealt a hugely embarrassing blow after first practice for the Las Vegas Grand Prix was abandoned.
The running under the lights of the Las Vegas strip was suspended when Carlos Sainz broke down in his Ferrari with just eight minutes on the clock.
And then 11 minutes later, at 8:49pm local time, it was announced the session would not be resumed – it emerged Sainz’s failure was caused by a loose manhole cover – and the start to second practice scheduled for midnight (8am GMT) would be delayed until at least 2am (10am GMT), if run at all.
Television replays showed Sainz being jolted in his cockpit as the cover struck the underneath of his machine as he approached 200mph on the Las Vegas Boulevard.
Esteban Ocon also smashed into the debris – against the backdrop of Caesars Palace, Bellagio and Venetian hotels – causing significant damage to his Alpine.
Ferrari described the damage to Sainz’s car as “extensive”, while Alpine said Ocon will require a new chassis.
Ferrari team principal Frederic Masseur said: “He [Sainz] said I hit something on track, and he didn’t know what it was. It is just unacceptable for F1.”
An FIA spokesperson said: “Following an inspection, a concrete frame around a manhole cover has failed.
“We now need to check all of the other manhole covers which will take some time.
“We will be discussing with the local circuit engineering team about the length of time it will take to resolve and we will update with any resultant changes to the schedule.”
Speaking on Sky Sports, Martin Brundle, said: “That’s it for today from my experience.
“Fixing that and checking everything else, letting it dry and making sure it won’t come out again is going to be a big job.
“Theoretically, they are going to re-open the Strip [for public use] after the F1 practice sessions. That is a very, very big issue if there are other areas like that around the track.”
The problems of loose manhole covers at street venues is not a new one in the sport.
Jenson Button struck a dislodged drain in practice in Monaco in 2016, while George Russell also ran over a drain cover in Azerbaijan four years ago.