Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and Ferrari counterpart Fred Vasseur have both been issued with a formal warning by the FIA following transgressions made during an official press conference ahead of the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
Wolff used an expletive in angrily responding to an interruption from a journalist after the Austrian had stated the incident that led to the cancellation of the first practice session would quickly be forgotten.
FP1 was red-flagged after just eight minutes when a concrete ring surrounding a water-valve cover exploded underneath the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, causing considerable damage to the underneath of the SF73. The Alpine of Esteban Ocon also required a new chassis.
In the same press conference, Fred Vasseur made clear his displeasure at what had unfolded, describing the damage sustained as “unacceptable”, and giving short, sharp responses to the questions posed to him.
At one stage, when it was put to Vasseur it was the last time he would be sitting in an FIA press conference, he replied: “At least good news.”
The comments from Wolff and Vasseur led to them being summoned to face the stewards ahead of the Abu Dhabi GP weekend as there was no time for the matter to be addressed in Las Vegas.
After examining a transcript of the FIA press conference, and after speaking to both Wolff and Vasseur, separate stewards’ reports initially read: “A breach of article 12.2.1.f of the FIA International Sporting Code has been committed by the team principal in that the language used is not consistent with the values defended by the FIA.
“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.”
In Wolff’s case, the stewards added: “Based on the submission from the team principal, 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.”
With regard to Vasseur, the stewards noted: “In this case, the team principal was extremely upset and frustrated by the incident that has that had occurred in FP1 and that language such as this, by him, was not usual.”
Given the mitigating circumstances, as cited by the stewards, they felt “a formal warning” was sufficient.