F1 fans who were treated to just eight minutes of track action in FP1 on Thursday in Las Vegas and who patiently waited for FP2 to finally roll around only to be ejected from their seats will not be given a refund by F1.
The sport’s much-anticipated return to the neon-lit streets of Las Vegas suffered a rocky start after Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz hit a water valve cover embedded in the track in the early stages of the opening practice.
The Spaniard’s car was practically destroyed by the encounter and forced Ferrari to build up a new chassis, with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon suffering a similar fate.
For safety reasons, the session was red flagged and eventually cancelled as maintenance workers undertook a thorough inspection of the dozens of manholes and water valve covers located around the track.
FP2 which was initially scheduled for midnight local time was pushed back until 2:30 am, or well past the end of the final shift of the track’s unionized security personnel which, along with a series of logistical constraints, compelled the organisers to empty the grandstands much to the fan’s discontent.
The day’s disruption cast a shadow over what was supposed to be a triumphant return for Formula 1 to the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas.
Fans who had purchased tickets for Thursday’s practice were understandably disappointed, with many calling for a refund or compensation.
In response, single-day ticket holders were offered a $200 voucher to spend on site in Las Vegas at F1’s official merchandise store. Three-day ticket holders were offered nothing despite being deprived of a full day of action.
“We appreciate your patience while we remedied the situation,” read a message sent to those fans who had been forced to depart the track.
“This was not a decision we took lightly. As a thank you for your support, we would like to offer you a $200 voucher to the Las Vegas Grand Prix Official Shop.
“With a full round of practice successfully completed, we look forward to providing a safe and entertaining race weekend for all.”
On Friday afternoon, Las Vegas Grand Prix CEO Renee Wilm released a statement in which it ws explained why the organisers had been forced to ask fans to leave the premises from 1:30am.
“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,” read the statement.
“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,” Wilm added. “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.”
Sadly, none of the statements released by F1 or the Las Vegas GP organisers included a hint of an apology to the fans, or the inclusion of the words ‘sorry’ or ‘regret’. It was an omission that shocked many.
However, Formula 1’s reluctance to issue a formal apology for the disrupted day is likely rooted in legal and liability concerns.
By offering a public apology or an admission of guilt, the organization could inadvertently open itself up to claims of negligence or wrongdoing from fans, sponsors, and other stakeholders.
F1’s approach has allowed it to acknowledge the disruption without formally admitting fault, potentially minimizing its legal exposure.
Ultimately, F1’s decision to prioritize its legal and financial interests over a full-fledged apology is simply a calculated risk.
But it’s one that likely won’t go down well with the congregation of fans that were unceremoniously walked off the premises in the middle of the night.
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