Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff has denied that first practice for the Las Vegas Grand Prix being abandoned has caused an embarrassment for Formula 1.

F1’s eagerly anticipated return to Las Vegas for the first time in 41 years was marred less than 10 minutes into FP1 when a loose drain cover caused extensive damage to two cars.

Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari ground to a halt on the 1.9km straight that covers the Strip, having substantially damaged his SF-23 when he hit the loose cover. Meanwhile, Esteban Ocon also incurred damage, leaving his Alpine team to undergo an entire chassis change.

It was swiftly announced that the opening practice hour would not be restarted to allow the relevant parties to check every single drain cover around the new 6km venue.

While Ferrari team boss Frederic Vasseur branded the situation “unacceptable”, Wolff has hit back at claims that F1’s reputation has been tarnished by Thursday’s events.

“That is not a black eye, this is nothing, we are Thursday night, we have a free practice one session that we’re not doing, they’re going to seal the drain covers and nobody’s going to talk about that tomorrow morning anymore,” Wolff declared.

He added: “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.”

The Ferrari SF-23 of Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari SF-23 is recovered back to the pits after hitting a manhole cover on track. 16.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Las Vegas Grand Prix, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Practice Day.

The sport previously encountered a similar circumstance in Baku four years ago when George Russell’s Williams was destroyed by a loose drain cover at that city circuit.

Wolff believes people must be less critical of Liberty Media and the FIA for failing to prevent a repeat on the inaugural day of on-track running at the Las Vegas track.

“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 who have set up this grand prix, that have made this sport much bigger than it ever was,” Wolff continued.

“Have you ever spoken good about someone and written a good word, you should about all these people 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, between the FIA and track everyone 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.”

Former Mercedes employee and current Williams Team Principal James Vowles concurred with Wolff’s view, saying the grand prix shouldn’t be prematurely assessed.

“Judge us by what happens when the chequered flag falls on Saturday, rather than what’s just happened in the last hour,” Vowles asserted.

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