Max Verstappen understands why fans would be upset at the disaster that was the opening night of the Las Vegas Grand Prix and the Formula 1 response to it.
Fans were unable to see the second practice session after it was delayed by over two hours because of track inspections and repairs. The first practice session was officially stopped 20 minutes after it began because a drain cover was sucked up off the track by Carlos Sainz’s car and significantly damaged the floor of his Ferrari.
Formula 1 and the Las Vegas Grand Prix issued a statement Friday night about the issues Thursday night into Friday morning and the statement did not include a mention of refunds for fans, though Nevada residents with tickets are reportedly getting a $200 merchandise voucher. When told of the voucher offer, Verstappen didn't hold back.
When Verstappen was told by Dutch television that fans who were sent home before second practice were offered $200 in vouchers for the race merchandise store as compensation, he said: "If I was a fan, I would tear the whole place down."
The second practice session Friday morning was originally scheduled to start at midnight local time but was pushed back to 2:30 a.m. The 90-minute session went on without fans in attendance because of logistical concerns for the workers staffing the event.
“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,” a statement from the LVGP and F1 said. “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 re-opened 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.”
The third practice session Friday night and the qualifying session Saturday morning went much smoother after the mess of the first day. Charles Leclerc will start first ahead of Verstappen as Sainz qualified second but has to start 12th because of F1 rules regarding the repairs to his car from the drain cover.
"First of all, I was sad yesterday to see how much criticism there was around the track," Leclerc said after qualifying. "Of course, it wasn't good enough and that is clear to everybody. But obviously, we must not forget also how much work there has been for many, many people in order to make this event work, and I think it looks amazing. I really hope we have an exciting race tomorrow, in order to really show what Formula 1 is and yesterday was obviously a pretty bad start."