Toto Wolff blows up at reporter over ‘drain cover’ incident criticism

© Steve Etherington for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.

Things got heated at the team principals’ press conference while discussing the loose drain cover that put a stop to Las Vegas Grand Prix Free Practice 1.

The Las Vegas Grand Prix Free Practice 1 got cut short after only nine minutes, after a loose manhole cover damaged Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari.

Afterwards, at the team principals’ press conference, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff was asked to comment on the “ramifications” of the incident.

“This is a mega spectacle, it’s going to set a new standard for the sport and that’s important,” the Austrian said.

“And then we have track action and a drain cover that’s become undone. There was another. I remember Williams 2012. I think we had it in DTM with Bernd Maylander, which nearly exploded the car.

“It’s not new and that can happen. It’s a brand new circuit. I saw the picture and it’s a part of the concrete that has broken out.

“So yeah, it’s a shame for the people here but these things can happen.”

When a reporter suggested that his incident could be considered a “black eye” for the event, Toto said:

“That is not a black eye. This is nothing. We are Thursday night, we have a Free Practice 1 session that we’re not doing.

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“They’re going to seal the drain covers and nobody’s going to talk about that tomorrow morning anymore…”

Another reported then interjected, but was inaudible on the broadcast, and then things got really heated.

“Did you ask the question,” Wolff asked.

“It’s completely ridiculous, completely ridiculous! FP1, how can you even dare trying to talk bad about an event that sets the new standards, new standards to everything.

“And then 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 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 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 and everybody needs to analyse 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.”

When asked if it would be a good idea for new tracks to first hot a ‘test event’, Toto said:

“Like I said before, unemotionally, drain covers, it’s a problem that we’ve known before. It happens on new tracks.

“This one is a bit freakish because the concrete broke out and they’re going to fix it and then from then on, I think it’s going to be improved.

“And like Fred [Vasseur] said, the marshals need to learn the track and we need to see where the cars stop, how quickly can you get a car off the track?

“And that will take a few years to really synchronise it well. But that’s the normal teething problems,” he concluded.

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