The first on-track session for the inaugural race weekend on the streets of Las Vegas was abandoned after just eight minutes on Thursday evening when Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz ripping up the concrete frame of a manhole cover on the flat-out Strip section.
The Spaniard’s car suffered huge damage to the chassis, floor and power unit and in a separate manhole incident, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon also damaged his chassis, which needed to be replaced.
After a red flag, the session was soon abandoned as track workers needed to check over 40 manhole covers across the 6.2km street layout, which had never been used before or stress tested by high-downforce cars due to its busy central Vegas location.
As the start of FP2 was delayed and discussions took place on extending the session into the night, Mercedes team boss Wolff rejected claims that the incident 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 that we’re not doing.
“They’re going to see the drain covers and nobody’s going to talk about that tomorrow morning anymore.”
When interrupted by a disagreeing reporter, Wolff snapped back: “It’s completely ridiculous. How can you even dare trying to talk bad about an event that sets the new standards to everything?
“And then you’re speaking about a f*cking drain cover that’s been undone. That has happened before. That’s nothing.
“Give credit to the people that have set up this grand prix, that have made this sport much bigger than it ever was.
“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 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. Come on…”
Williams team principal James Vowles succinctly added: “Judge us by what happens when the chequered flag falls on Saturday, rather than what just happened in the last half an hour.”
Despite his anger over Sainz’s huge car damage which will cost “millions”, Ferrari chief Fred Vasseur still thinks Vegas is a “mega” event for F1.
“I was really convinced before FP1 that the event was mega for F1 and I’m still convinced,” he said.
“And we have to continue in this…