Toto Wolff, Mercedes, Las Vegas Strip Circuit, 2023

“This is nothing”: Wolff angrily defends Las Vegas GP after practice is abandoned

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Mercedes’ team principal Toto Wolff denied F1 suffered a reputational hit after first practice at its new Las Vegas race was cancelled.

The opening hour of practice at the new Las Vegas Strip Circuit was halted after less than 10 minutes when a loose drain cover caused damage to at least two cars. The session was not restarted, in order to allow all drains around the six-kilometre track to be checked.

Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur criticised the preparations for the event as “unacceptable” after Carlos Sainz Jnr’s car was badly damaged when he hit a drain on the Strip. Esteban Ocon also damaged the floor on his Alpine in a similar incident moments later.

F1 has poured huge sums of money into setting up the Las Vegas Grand Prix, which it has promoted relentlessly since it was announced early last year. Wolff dismissed suggestions the cancelled session was an embarrassment for the series.

“That is not a ‘black eye’ – this is nothing,” he said. “We are [on] Thursday night, we have a free practice session one that we’re not doing. They’re going to seal the drain covers and nobody’s going to talk about that tomorrow morning anymore.”

He said it was “completely ridiculous” to suggest otherwise. “It’s FP1 – how can you even dare trying to talk bad about an event that sets new standards to everything?

“You’re speaking about a fucking 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 this sport much bigger than it ever was.”

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“Liberty has done an awesome job and just because in FP1 a drain cover has become undone, we shouldn’t be moaning,” Wolff continued. “The car is broken – that’s really a shame. For Carlos, it could have been dangerous. So between the FIA and the track and everybody needs to analyse how we can make sure that this is not happening again.

“But talking here about the ‘black eye for the sport’ on a Thursday evening – nobody watches that in European time anyway.”

Williams team principal James Vowles echoed Wolff’s views, saying: “Judge us by what happens when the chequered flag falls on Saturday, rather than what’s just happened in the last hour.”

Drain covers have caused problems at other, more established races in recent years. The opening practice session for the fourth event at the Baku City Circuit was cancelled after a drain cover damaged a car. Similar incidents have also happened in recent years at Monaco, which has been on the F1 calendar since the first world championship season in 1950.

Despite his anger over the damage to their car, Vasseur said there was no reason to believe the effort F1 had put into promoting its new race had led them to make compromises to its preparations.

“I think you don’t have to mix everything,” he said. “I think that the show is mega and I’m very happy with what Liberty did around the race.

“It’s a huge step forward for the F1 and we have to separate what is the show and the sporting side. The show is mega, I was in the Paddock Club yesterday when they did the ceremony and it was something that I never saw before.”

“You can do the show and do a good job on the sporting side, it’s two separate elements,” he added.

The FIA subsequently confirmed the start second of the second practice session had been delayed.

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Keith Collantine
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51 comments on ““This is nothing”: Wolff angrily defends Las Vegas GP after practice is abandoned”

  1. this is nothing

    You wait until Qualifying is cancelled/abandoned.

    Indianapolis 2005 is waving

    1. lol well this prediction didn’t do too well did it? :) Some people think bigger than others, and Toto obviously thinks bigger than a lot of accounts on here. He’s part of the billionaire club of course, and he sees the whole event as a whole thing

      1. For that club the racing isnt important and the racingfans aren’t either.

        1. that’s not the whole view is it, that’s the money view. The thing with Toto is he does racing, I mean he did race, and he also does the money side as well. But the main thing with these people is how brave they are, like with Elon, they see opportunity much more than risk, and at this scale, in billions. So one valve cover is something he just sees in an objective way without the shock horror drama what-iffing

          1. I can’t tell if you’re being tongue-in-cheek, especially if you’re non-facetiously calling Musk “brave.”

          2. well for me Nick ‘brave’ includes risking everything backing your judgment, and that’s Toto somehow making £300m investing and then buying an F1 team with it before they were necessarily worth anything, same as starting a battery car company before anyone else and installing a national charging grid so it’s worth 10 times Toyota, launching literally thousands of satellites with your own reusable rockets you made, so Ukraine has internet, and casually saying ‘okay 44 billion for Twitter why not”.

            Brave does not mean perfect, it just means daring to do things that other people don’t dare

          3. You realize he had massive government grants and funding and never risked his personal wealth. He’s also enabling gene-oh-side (the right word gets auto flagged) for Xi, puts his thumbs on the scale in the hopes of a V. Glutin (another flagged word) victory will win and promotes widespread Miss Information. Glad to see he’s your hero.

          4. BTW, if he was such a big picture guy, he would realize that that kind of answer would only add fuel to the fire and all of this actually have been forgotten soon enough if the rest of the weekend went well. But through his explosive comment, he has attracted much more negative attention and makes it more unlikely this will fade away. Finally, he’s so big picture that as soon as he didn’t inherit a winning product from Ross Brawn and Mercedes, he’s failing left and right and showing no patience. Throwing the team under the bus to make the drivers feel better and seem as if he’s “on it.”

    2. Will Torger Christian Wolff say it’s nothing if both Merc’s are wrecked? If the drivers get injured?
      You lost a great opportunity to keep your maw shut, TCW.

  2. Senseless Wolff, we could have had injured drivers and maybe even the public.

    It was a shameful work by F1.

  3. Spoken like a guy applying for the top job in a year or two.

    1. Yeah this was my first thought too. It’s pretty transparent.

      That said, it’s not like this is an unprecedented event and as dramatic as Fred tried to make it, either. There’s a middle ground here where it can be a bit annoying for everyone involved and not be the end of the world nor no problem at all.

      1. Mhh. Well I think Fred has all the right to be as angry as he is. Car ruined, weekend ruined. F1 and Vegas just got very lucky it could have ended so much worse – maybe they should stop pushing their luck and call it a day.

    2. He can apply all he wants, it’s not going to happen.
      He’s burned too many bridges in the pitlane, and teams have the power to reject him.

    3. All the profanity seemed unprofessional to me. But, hey, if 42 can do it, I suppose Toto can TooToo.

      There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.

  4. Weird & even somewhat hilarious argumentation.

    1. I agree! Such a strange reaction from Toto. And it WAS actually a pretty big deal to those who paid premium prices for the weekend ticket (or maybe even just a Friday GA ticket), just to see 5 minutes of action.

  5. “That is not a ‘black eye’ – this is nothing,”

    Yup. Nothing. But let’s be honest they got very lucky in Vegas. This could have ended up far worse.

  6. And again he doesn’t think before opening his mouth. Later today we will learn that he didn’t mean to put the european watchers in a bad corner, blablabla. Toto go home and shut up.

  7. Usually I side with wolff, but he’s so far off the mark on this one.

    Let’s wait and see what he’s saying when one of his cars is out due to the same issue.

    1. I would pay big bucks to see what would be left of toto’s headset or workstation bench if that happened to one of his cars, not to mention the verbal abuse liberty would suffer…..

  8. He is wrong. Firstly it is belittling to say no one in Europe is watching, hardcore fans stay up or get up for all sessions, secondly 2 cars have been damaged within 10 minutes despite half a billion being spent directly by the owners to set up a “showcase event”.
    Absolutely it is a black eye on the sport

  9. To me the problem is they’ve spent so much time, money and effort on loads of off-track things but they did not put enough effort in making the most importart part of the weekend perfect: the track itself.

    1. Indeed @f1mre that does seem the case,or at least Not enough Priority to making sure that part works.A great show for the vips but the Race can’t happen seems like a potentially poor Choice for a sport.

  10. He is right…this is nothing..and am sure they may add some time to a practice…I am not keen on the high speeds they reach on the straights….that is where you can have a huge accident

  11. So loose drain cover that goes through safety cell like a hot knife through butter and can kill driver in the car, driver behind when it hits his helmet or marshalls/spectators is “nothing”, but porpoising was extremely dangerous and something had to be done about it because of SAFETY IS PARAMOUNT? Do I get it right?

  12. This clown … he’d be singing a completely different tune if it was one of his cars damaged.
    He lacks any ability to be objective, and that means anything he says has zero credibility.

  13. Toto would be singing a different and dramatic tune when it would have been one of his cars being a total loss.
    We have seen and heard his tune for the past 2 years.

  14. This Vegas thing is turning into a farce.
    All that money spent on razzmatazz and music and all that stuff, but no one bothered to check that the drain covers were safe for the race?

  15. When is the FIA finally going to punish/ban Toto – his reactie and behavior it is utterly outrageous and has been for a long time. It was a perfectly valid and justified question from a FIA credited journalist and this is the reaction from a major team principle.

    If this happened to Lewis while leading the race his response would have been completely different – is Toto going pay out of Mercedes development budget the million damage caused to Ferrari that comes out of Ferrari development budget?
    Is Toto already actively discussing with the FIA that Ferrari should get a penalty free engine change for Carlos Sainz?

    The world was too small when RB exceed the budget cap with a small amount (less than the damage caused by Mercedes drivers to Red Bull cars) or Abu Dhabi. Toto is often still talking about it discrediting the sport.
    Toto has a serious anger management problem and is adding unnecessary extra toxicity and politics to F1.

  16. The interviewer asks Fred Vasseur: “Other than that, Mrs Lincoln, how was the Play?”

  17. how can you even dare trying to talk bad

    Because that person exists! No other reason needed
    How dare YOU dismiss or demean another human like that?

  18. the opening was a farce, and the racing is a disaster. i hope the party in the surrounding disneyland is worth it, because the grand prix isn’t….

  19. That’s a bit wild isn’t it, swearing at reporters, saying nobody watches practice in Europe anyway… That alone isn’t a very good argument if you’re trying to sell your sport to a new market?

    1. saying nobody watches practice in Europe anyway…

      Maybe just having another Wiki moment.

    2. He is a megalomaniac, period. I’ve reiterated this since the beginning of the hybrid era, though the Mercedes and Hamilton fan–boys have been in complete disaccord !

  20. They are really forcing them to defend this race…

  21. “I did nothing. The pavement was his enemy.”
    – Arnold Schwarzenegger

  22. Alienate fans at your peril.

    While we can’t draw conclusions until after the race, as a good one can change perceptions remarkably quickly, the online reaction to this event has been overwhelmingly negative. So much so one can call it a cultural phenomenon and it feels very different to 2021. Toto’s reaction here seems to suggest this hasn’t gone unnoticed with the higher-ups.

    Liberty are walking a very fine line. F1 has always been a ‘for the elite of society’ sport but somehow had appeal for the ‘everyman’ (for want of a better term). This event however seems to have created a rupture and we have sections of the fan base who truly feel alienated from the sport. I think this is the first event where a lot of ordinary fans truly feel this isn’t really for them. Even Monaco has appeal because as a spectacle it’s brilliant, especially Saturday, and has clear heritage.

    Simple comments like “no one in Europe watches at this time anyway” will rub a lot of people up the wrong way. We’ve seen from various F1 affiliated personal posts that seems to infer fans are being unreasonable etc… This kind of stuff really doesn’t wash. Alienated fan bases can be krytonite for major corporations once they start organizing themselves. We’ve seen hundreds of millions lost when fan bases abandon franchises etc…

    As often the case a ‘good race’ can cover the cracks pretty quickly. But I can’t help notice reading various socials and forums there’s been a fundamental shift.

  23. Mind your manners, you’re a grown man, a team principal and co-owner. I don’t want to listen to this kind of stuff. You’re not my boss (and if you were, and talk to me like this, I’d quit or worse). This is how you harm the reputation of F1, you let Wolff talk angrily in defense of his own investment. I don’t like faking it and playing too nice, but I don’t care for this guy’s aggression either. I hope he doesn’t talk like this to people face to face, in a bar or something. Nice Toto, very nice, since you know no one will talk back…

  24. It’s not the first time drain covers will be cause an issue and it won’t be the last.

    There’ll still be an FP3 with sealed drain covers (if not an FP2).

    Just glad nobody was hurt. Sucks cars were damaged, of course.

    1. It needs to be the last. If the drain covers can be fixed within a few hours, as they were today, then really there’s no excuse for them coming up in the first place. This is a multi-billion dollar operation. I am not safety freak, far from it, but drain covers coming up can be lethal. So there’s no excuse here. It’s an awful oversight.

  25. Good luck explaining this to the fans with a Thursday/Friday ticket.

  26. He’s entirely wrong, this is something.

    A broken drain cover does happen on other street circuits, yes – but this one not only destroyed a car leading to a penalty, it delayed practice and led to fans being ushered out of their seats. With the frankly obscene levels of money F1 is charging for this event that’s farcical and the race hasn’t even started. Saying also “nobody watches practice” is objectively foolish and is either a bold lie or he doesn’t really know who watches his sport.

    With the hype of Las Vegas, F1 needed this to go as smooth as possible and this was some serious teething issues and the event’s just begun like call the loss for what it is. Then again we all know we’re not here for the racing anyway, so move along.

  27. Whoops – did someone hit a nerve Toto?

  28. Plan B is for the drivers to just race via sim. The fans that paid thousands to see a race weekend will be just as happy.

  29. After Domenicali’s job by any chance Wolff? If his comments weren’t so insulting, they would be hilarious.

  30. All organizers should have a 3rd party review drains – it seems that whoever is sealing them does not always understand the speeds that F1 cars race at. F1 should have sent someone to review the drains before the race especially for new races. They need to go out there with a crew at night and try and pry them open.

  31. It’s remarkable what a bit of pressure does.

    2014-2020, you could be forgiven for thinking Toto Wolff was a man of calm, rational thinking. Pretty much most of what he said made sense, was pragmatic.

    2021 – Toto (and Christian Horner) makes some rather silly public comments.

    2022-2023 – Toto keep saying stupid things.

  32. This was a very different situation to what has been seen before as in past cases it was just a drain cover that came loose be it due to a loose nut or inadequate welding. As such as the repair was simply tightening the nuts and/or putting more weld around it to better hold it down.

    In this instance it wasn’t a loose nut or failed weld causing a cover to come up but the concrete ring that caused not just the cover but everything it was attached to to come up which is not only more dangerous due to it been a much larger/heavier object but it was also a significantly bigger fix and caused a significant amount of damage to a car & engine.

    Not to mention FP1 had to be cancelled after only 8-9 minutes with FP2 delayed for several hours taking place eventually at what 2am with many fans having to be sent home having paid a fortune to see virtually no track action.

    This has from memory never happened before in any of the other cases where some sort of drain cover has come loose.

    It’s pretty obvious that everyone has been told not to criticise the event or the circuit. I mean look at the Sky coverage with Brundle pushing the view that it wasn’t an issue and teams just needed to raise the ride height or the tone of the coverage in general acting like this is the best event on the greatest circuit in F1 history.

  33. Clown of the year goes to Wolff. Worst day of racing to Wikipedia to fans don’t watch in Europe to worshipping Liberty to saying hell much rather run the car lower to fight for a win he has done it all in this single year. Carried by engine would be the best description underscoring his success in hindsight. Maybe he’s competent and will bring Merc back up or he will simply run away if Merc don’t make a good engine in 2026 which is as probable as Hulkenberg scoring a podium.

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