Wolff: Las Vegas ‘a bad race that summarises our season’
By Ian Parkes
Tuesday 21st November, 2023 - 7:47pm
Toto Wolff feels the Las Vegas Grand Prix encapsulated the rollercoaster ride Mercedes has endured this season.
Wolff believes George Russell and Lewis Hamilton displayed such pace over the 50 laps that both could have finished on the podium.
Hamilton, however, was unfortunate to be on the wrong side of the grid when held up by the first-corner melée that was sparked by Fernando Alonso spinning on approach, with his Aston Martin left facing the wrong way.
After starting 11th, Hamilton had dropped to 14th by the end of the first lap before forcing his way into the top 10, only for the seven-time F1 champion to be involved in an incident with McLaren’s Oscar Piastri on lap 16.
Hamilton only realised he had sustained a puncture just after passing the pit entry, losing 15 seconds on his eventual incoming lap, whilst also ruining his one-stop hard-to-medium run plan that resulted in him requiring a second stop.
At times, Hamilton showed incredible speed, allowing him to finish seventh, a place ahead of Russell, who had crossed the line fourth, only to be relegated to eighth after incurring a five-second penalty following a collision with eventual race-winner Max Verstappen.
The knock-on effect of the incident resulted in a safety car that helped propel Sergio Perez into the battle for the lead, otherwise, it is almost certain the <exican would not have finished third behind Red Bull race-winning team-mate Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
Reflecting on the grand prix, Wolff said: “A bad race which summarises our season – a quick car that is able to fight for a podium.
“Look at the pace in free air and we had the pace of the leaders. When Lewis had no traffic, that was pretty much where he was racing in terms of lap times.
“But he was involved in two accidents, and then George with Max. As I said, it summarises the season. You can’t win (like that), you can’t be at the front.
“If we had more…you make your own luck and we had more bad luck, so seventh and eighth. We could have had two cars on the podium but they weren’t.”
Overall, though, Wolff felt the event delivered, despite its shambolic start that saw Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari severely damaged after he ran over a water drain cover in first practice after just eight minutes, sparking a two-and-a-half-hour delay that resulted in FP2 starting at 2.30am and in front of empty grandstands.
It was not a good look for F1, promoting a race for the first time in its history, and at a cost of half-a-billion dollars after building the infrastructure and creating the circuit.
The racing, however, was superb, although, by the end of the weekend, all involved departed Las Vegas thoroughly exhausted as a result of the schedule, an area Wolff is hoping will be addressed going into year two.
“It was an awesome weekend,” said Wolff. “The drain cover was nothing, as I said at the time.
“When you look back, a spectacular race, great audiences, mega event, and some good racing at the front. That’s what I will remember of the inaugural Las Vegas race that ticked all of the boxes.”
As to possible tweaks for improvement, he replied: “It’s logistics. How do you manage the traffic situation in Las Vegas?
“I don’t want to find a hair in the soup because it was so great. If we can take a look at the detail of the timing and maybe have qualifying a little bit earlier…but the big picture, everything was great.”