Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff and Scuderia Ferrari Team Principal Fred Vasseur have each been given a formal warning by Stewards during a hearing in Abu Dhabi following comments made in Las Vegas that included expletive language.
An FIA Statement issued to both men read: “The Stewards of the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix, having received a report from the FIA Media Delegate concerning the use of certain language at the FIA Press Conference in Las Vegas on 16 November, in view of the inability to conduct a hearing last Sunday morning, delegated their authority to the Stewards of the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.”
Both Vasseur and Wolff were then required to attend a Hearing in the Stewards Room at Yas Marina at 1700 local time on Thursday, 23 November to assess whether either of them was in breach of Article 12.2.1.f of the FIA International Sporting Code and if so, what action should be taken as a result.
Article 12.2.1.f of the FIA International Sporting Code refers to “Any words, deeds or writings that have caused moral injury or loss to the FIA, its bodies, its members or its executive officers, and more generally on the interest of motor sport and on the values defended by the FIA.
Thursday 16 November saw a spirited Press conference held at the Las Vegas Strip Circuit, following the curtailed opening practice session.
FP1 in Vegas came to a halt after just nine minutes following significant damage caused to Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari, triggered by a loose drain cover.
Vasseur was rightly aggrieved that Sainz’s Ferrari was a near write-off, throwing the team’s entire weekend into chaos.
The Ferrari Team Principal said, “This [situation] will cost us a fortune – we fucked-up the session for Carlos”.
Vasseur was understandably frustrated, and his weekend worsened following a 10-place grid penalty that was issued to Sainz for replacing battery components as a result of the damage sustained during FP1 in Vegas.
“You’re speaking about a fucking drain cover that’s been undone, that has happened before – that’s nothing, it’s FP1,” said Wolff in a quite passionate rant.
Expletives from both men were seen to be in breach of Article 12.2.1.f of the FIA International Code and the joint hearing found that “Based on the submission from the FIA, the FIA regards language of this type to be unacceptable, moving forward, particularly when used by participants in the sport who have a high public profile and who are seen by many, especially younger, followers of the sport, as role models, and that in future the FIA will not tolerate the use of such language in FIA forums by any stakeholder.”
Wolff and Vasseur have both been hit with formal warnings, with the context of both their remarks likely stopping the matter from being escalated further.
“The use of the language concerned was, in this case, unusual and was provoked by an abrupt interjection during the Press Conference and therefore cannot be regarded as typical from this Team Principal,” the FIA reasoned regarding Wolff’s offence.
The FIA took a similar stance towards Vasseur, stating that “[he] was extremely upset and frustrated by the incident that had occurred in FP1 and that language such as this, by him, was not usual.”