Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz lash out in Las Vegas GP qualifying reaction – F1 news round-up

Oliver Harden
Max Verstappen, Red Bull

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen speaks to the media at the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix.

It will come as no surprise that Saturday’s F1 news roundup is dominated by reaction to Las Vegas Grand Prix qualifying.

As Charles Leclerc claimed a third pole position in four races for Ferrari, his penalised team-mate Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen aired their grievances.

Here’s Saturday’s fast-paced roundup…

Max Verstappen’s Vegas criticism continues apace

Verstappen made his feelings about the Las Vegas GP very clear on Wednesday, when he remarked that he was made to feel like a “clown” during the race’s opening ceremony.

You certainly don’t get opening ceremonies at Spa and Monza – and that, in Max’s view, is part of the problem with Vegas.

Whether or not you agree with him, his opinion carries weight as the reigning three-time World Champion and Verstappen launched into an uncharacteristically passionate soliloquy about what Vegas lacks compared to F1’s heartlands.

It’s very rare to hear him talk like this.

Read more: Max Verstappen launches passionate defence of ‘proper racetracks’ and ’emotion’ in F1

Max Verstappen takes aim at Toto Wolff

Max didn’t stop there either.

Before Verstappen’s emotional rant about Vegas came Toto Wolff’s emotional rant about Vegas, the Mercedes team boss – and one-third team owner, don’t forget – leaping to the defence of the latest addition to the F1 calendar after a calamitous opening day.

Wolff has been widely criticised for his outburst, with Verstappen joining in too.

“I don’t expect anything less from him,” Verstappen said, before deconstructing the angry Wolff.

Read more: Max Verstappen hits out at Toto Wolff: ‘I don’t expect anything less from him’

Toto Wolff clarifies Vegas comments

With criticism coming in from all quarters, it is only right and fair to include Wolff’s own response too.

He may have expressed his views in an unbecoming fashion for one of F1’s leading figures, but beneath the raised voice and manic exterior he had a point.

A poor opening day should not define the success of the Las Vegas Grand Prix no matter how many want it to fail. And, as ever in F1, very few will remember what happened on practice day if the race itself is an instant classic.

Wolff has explained the roots of his outburst, arguing that a reporter’s question in the FIA team principals’ press conference was “just totally out of place.”

Read more: Toto Wolff explains outburst at journalist in Las Vegas press conference

Carlos Sainz angered by lack of support from rival teams

Sainz may have qualified second, but will start 12th after incurring a 10-place grid penalty for switching to a new energy store for Las Vegas.

That new energy store was only required after the previous one was destroyed by a drain cover in the opening minutes of Friday practice.

It was highly unfortunate and the penalty was imposed on him with great reluctance by stewards whose hands were tied by the regulations, but given the circumstance was there a possibility for the penalty to be waived?

Sainz believes so and has been angered by the sport’s failure to come together to ensure he avoided a grid drop.

Read more: Carlos Sainz lashes out at ‘rival teams’ after push for Las Vegas grid penalty

Mercedes respond to Carlos Sainz penalty speculation

With Mercedes and Ferrari separated by 20 points in the fight for second place in the Constructors’ standings with two rounds remaining, it did not take long before fingers were pointed in Merc’s direction when it came to the thorny subject of Sainz’s penalty.

Manufacturing every situation into a competitive advantage is an intrinsic trait of every F1 team and it would be no great shock if Mercedes were quite happy to see Sainz penalised on a weekend Ferrari are fast enough to set pole and potentially challenge for the win.

Mercedes have responded to the rumours that they were among the teams in support of Sainz’s penalty.

Read more: Clear Mercedes response to speculation they blocked Carlos Sainz penalty reprieve