Toto Wolff, Mercedes team boss, has brushed off the Las Vegas Grand Prix manhole cover incident as a trivial setback, not a significant blot on Formula 1’s reputation. The inaugural race weekend on the streets of Las Vegas was jolted by a bizarre incident involving Carlos Sainz and Esteban Ocon.
Between the lines:
- The Incident: During the first practice session, Ferrari’s Sainz damaged his car severely by hitting a concrete frame of a water valve cover. Concurrently, Esteban Ocon of Alpine faced similar chassis damage.
- Session Abandoned: Following a red flag, the session was called off to inspect over 40 manhole covers on the new 6.2km street circuit.
- Wolff’s Reaction: Wolff robustly defended the event, downplaying the incident as a minor issue and emphasizing the grandeur of the Las Vegas GP.
- Ferrari’s Stance: Despite acknowledging Sainz’s significant car damage, Ferrari chief Fred Vasseur hailed the event as “mega” for F1.
In Wolff’s view, the manhole cover incident is a non-issue, overshadowed by the grand scale and novelty of the Las Vegas GP. He expressed frustration at negative perceptions, urging recognition for the organizers and Liberty Media’s efforts in expanding F1’s global appeal. Wolff’s stern rebuttal to a reporter’s disagreement highlights his strong belief in the event’s positive impact on the sport.
James Vowles of Williams, aligning with Wolff’s sentiments, suggested reserving judgment until the race’s conclusion. Fred Vasseur, despite acknowledging the costly damage to Sainz’s car, remained upbeat about the event’s significance for Formula 1, focusing on its contribution to the sport’s showmanship and entertainment value.
This mix of reactions underscores the complexities of bringing F1 to new urban landscapes, balancing spectacle and safety. While the incident raised concerns, it also highlighted the series’ resilience and adaptability in the face of unforeseen challenges.