Slippery slope: F1’s Vegas oil spill and the call for change

In the aftermath of Formula 1’s high-stakes and exciting Las Vegas Grand Prix, a lingering sense of dissatisfaction remains among the drivers and team officials, not just about the race but about a series of incidents that marred the event. Central to these grievances was an unforeseen and rather slippery issue: an oil spill on the race grid, just an hours before the five lights extinguished.

Alpine’s Pierre Gasly didn’t hesitate to raise his concerns face-to-face with the FIA. “I have already discussed it with the FIA,” he admitted, referring to the incident where a classic car, part of the pre-race driver parade and the supercharged ‘show’ elements of Liberty Media’s new blue-riband event, had an engine mishap, leading to an entire 8-cylinders worth of engine oil being spilled on the starting grid.

Carlos Sainz of Ferrari, already perturbed by the earlier manhole cover incident, was vocal about how this new problem affected the race. “This is another problem that the FIA should pay more attention to,” Sainz insisted. The Spanish driver pointed out the unfair advantage it gave to some drivers over others, “All the oil was on the inside. The asphalt there was already dirty and then we parked those cars there for the oil to leak onto the track an hour before the start. I want to emphasize that this is unacceptable.”

Fernando Alonso, a veteran of the sport, experienced the consequences firsthand, with Sainz noting, “Even Fernando, with all his experience, had no grip when he got there.”

Gasly, aligning with his colleague’s sentiments, expressed his hope for future improvements. “I’m sure they’ll change a few things for the future because it really didn’t feel fair that some guys had to start on oil while others had a clean track,” he said.

George Russell, a key figure in the Formula 1 drivers’ union, the GPDA, and increasingly known for his articulate and thoughtful approach, highlighted a recurring problem with historic cars in events. “It’s not the first time we’ve seen these historic cars dripping oil,” said the Mercedes driver. “It was quite shocking to see how bad it was.”

Andrea Stella, McLaren’s team boss, also acknowledged the severity of the situation. Recognizing the obvious safety hazard, he said, “This seems like an obvious point. If there’s a Formula 1 race about to happen, you don’t want oil spilled on the track an hour before the race.”

The consensus was clear: the incident was a breach of safety and fairness, demanding immediate attention. “I think there will be many things on the agenda for F1 and the FIA to improve safety conditions for the future. Because it certainly shouldn’t have happened, or it should be resolved as a priority,” Stella concluded.

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