Wolff: A “proper race director” in Abu Dhabi will ensure a fair fight between Mercedes and Ferrari

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Low fan expectations for the Las Vegas GP were met at the start of free practice, when the lifting of a water valve cover caused damage to Carlos Sainz and Esteban Ocon cars. The grandstands were then closed off due to the 2:30am start and FP2 basically took place behind closed doors.

Toto Wolff, Mercedes Team Principal, spoke in favour of the fans who received neither apology nor compensation from the sport or the event organisers.

“Thursday was so difficult with the drain cover coming loose [and then] the driving from 2:30 to 4am also to see whether everything was fine for the following day.

“I think it was unforeseen circumstances. You can’t make people to work [at the] track that late. And I think for next year, maybe we can create some kind of buffer. But it was unforeseen circumstances.”

“Often communication can do a lot to make the situation better. I hope for the people that ended up upset for the right reasons we can find a good package for next year so they can enjoy the race and in a way maybe we can pay them back for the unfortunate situation.”

Wolff had already aggressively defended the shambles on Thursday during the team bosses press conference between FP1 and FP2, and the Austrian continued his praise of the event after the race in his written media session.

“That was an awesome weekend. The drain cover was nothing, like I said. When you look back at tonight on Sunday, spectacular race, great audiences, mega event. Some good racing at the front, that’s what I will remember [of the] inaugural Las Vegas race. Ticked all the boxes.”

Photo Credit: Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team

The 2023 season will end this weekend at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi. After a gruelling schedule with few breaks, Wolff talked about how tough Las Vegas was for him and everyone in the sport.

“Now we’re on a roll in complete autopilot. You don’t know anyway where you’re waking up, on what timezone you are, and where the toilet is in a hotel room. Let’s just get it done.”

With flashbacks looming to the final race of 2021, that saw the closing laps shaken up by Nicholas Latifi’s crash into the barriers and Michael Masi’s subsequent decision to only allow lapped cars between Verstappen and Hamilton to unlap themselves — thus opening the door for the Dutchman to overtake Hamilton to win the race and the Drivers’ World Championship for the first time — Wolff seems fierce and, at the same time, calm alluding to the presence of a “proper race director” for the 2023 edition.

Ferrari’s strong weekend in Las Vegas has left them just four points behind Mercedes heading into this Sunday’s race.

“We’re going there on pretty much equal points, we have a proper race director, so that should be fine.

“Then let’s race, it’s all down to the last weekend. [Ferrari] are very quick, they’ve done a good job, I think we could have been on par [in Las Vegas], but the result shows something different so let’s race.

“To be honest it’s good to have P2 as a positive to finish the season, but P2 or P3 doesn’t make me particularly cheer anyway.”