Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is rushing to defend Formula 1‘s disastrous first practice session at this week’s Las Vegas Grand Prix.
Ferrari’s Fred Vasseur, however, had a much dimmer view of things when one of his cars struck a loose manhole cover, destroying the car and bringing an early end to the session.
“That is not a black eye, this is nothing,” the Mercedes boss said of the incident.
To Wolff’s credit, it’s not the first time a loose manhole cover has delayed a session on a Formula 1 street circuit.
“It is a Thursday night. We have a free practice 1 that we’re not doing, they’re going to seal the drain covers. Nobody is going to talk about that tomorrow morning.”
When the reporter pushed back, Wolff exploded.
“It’s completely ridiculous,” he said. “How can you even dare talk bad about an event that sets the new standards to everything?
“And then you’re speaking about a f—— drain cover that’s come undone, 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.”
Vasseur, however, was not nearly as forgiving. Especially after Formula 1 denied a waiver that would allow his team to repair its car without penalty.
“The situation is we damaged the monocoque completely – the engine, the batteries…and I think it’s just unacceptable,” Vasseur said. “We had a very tough FP1, it cost us a fortune, we f—– up the session for Carlos. We won’t be part of the FP2 for sure. We have to change the chassis, half the car, to set-up the car… OK the show is the show and everything is going well but I think it’s just unacceptable for the F1 today.”
Vasseur did, however, separate the incident from the rest of the weekend.
“We don’t have to mix everything. I think the show is mega and I’m very happy with what Liberty did around the race and I think it’s a huge step forward for F1,” he said. “We have to separate what is the show and the sporting side.”
But while Sainz did return for a delayed second practice, it won’t be any consolation when he now faces a 10-position penalty for qualifying after making repairs.