Wolff tirade after criticism for F1 and Las Vegas GP
By Ian Parkes
Friday 17th November, 2023 - 6:21pm
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff launched a furious tirade during an FIA press conference after criticism was aired following the cancellation of the first practice session for the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
FP1 was red-flagged after just eight minutes due to the failure of a water valve cover located on the Strip that caused extensive damage to the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz and Esteban Ocon’s Alpine.
The suction forces of today’s ground-effect cars were integral to the incident, forcing the FIA into an assessment of all the remaining covers around the 6.201-kilometre circuit.
It was suggested to Wolff the issue was ‘a black eye for F1’, particularly given the half-a-billion US dollars that have been spent in creating one of the most-hyped races in the sport’s history.
Initially, a relatively calm Wolff replied: “That is not a black eye. This is nothing. We are on a Thursday night, a free practice session one that we’re not doing.
“They’re going to see about the remaining drain covers, and nobody is going to talk about that tomorrow morning anymore.”
Another journalist interjected, however, stating, “They are. It’s absolute rubbish!”
It was at that point Wolff snapped. He said: “It’s completely ridiculous! Completely ridiculous! How can you even dare to talk back about an event that sets new standards for everything?
“And then you are speaking about a f***ing drain cover that’s been undone, that’s happened before. That’s nothing, it’s FP1.
“Give credit to the people that have set up this grand prix, that have made this sport much bigger than it ever was.
“Have you ever spoken good about someone, or written a good word? You should about all these people that have been out here.
“Liberty has done an awesome job, and just because in FP1 a drain cover has come 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, the track, everybody needs to analyse to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
“But talking here about a black eye for the sport on a Thursday evening…nobody’s watching that on European time anyway.”
During FP1 for the 2016 Monaco GP, then Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg dislodged a manhole cover that flew up and severely damaged the McLaren of Jenson Button.
Three years later ahead of the Azerbaijan GP, and again in first practice, George Russell, then with Williams, sustained damage to his car after running over a manhole cover, forcing the cancellation of the session.