Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff launched into a passionate defense of the Las Vegas Grand Prix, calling it “an event that sets the new standards” despite track issues that damaged cars and delayed practice into the early hours.
FP1 was canceled after just eight minutes of track running due to a drain cover that was struck by Carlos Sainz. Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur described the incident as “unacceptable” and while the eventual delay of two and a half hours led to a trouble-free FP2, Wolff had already insisted that the issue should not be blown out of proportion.
“That is not a black eye,” Wolff said. “This is nothing. We are Thursday night, we have a Free Practice 1 session that we’re not doing. They’re going to seal the drain covers and nobody’s going to talk about that tomorrow morning anymore.”
When a separate comment from another reporter — with whom Wolff has had a turbulent relationship — added further criticism against the race, Wolff snapped: “Did you ask the question?
“It’s completely ridiculous, completely ridiculous! FP1, how can you even dare trying to talk bad about an event that sets new standards to everything. And then you’re speaking about a f*****g drain cover that’s been undone, that has happened before. That’s nothing.
“It’s FP1. Give credit to the people that have set up this grand prix, that have made the sport much bigger than it ever was. Have you ever spoken good about someone and written a good word? You should about all these people that have been out here. Liberty (Media) has done an awesome job. And just because in FP1 a drain cover has become undone, we shouldn’t be moaning.
“The car is broken, that’s really a shame. For Carlos, it could have been dangerous, so between the FIA and the track, everybody needs to analyze how we can make sure that this is not happening again. But talking here about ‘a black eye for the sport’ on a Thursday evening? Nobody watches that in European time anyway.”
Sitting alongside Wolff, his former colleague and now-Williams team principal James Vowles backed up the Austrian’s stance, speaking before fans were told to leave the track before a 90-minute FP2 session started at 2:30am local time.
“I’d probably just add, judge us by what happens when the checkered flag falls on Saturday, rather than what’s just happened in the last half an hour,” Vowles added.