Toto Wolff responds to warning after Las Vegas outburst: ‘When I’m provoked, I punch back’

Henry Valantine
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

Mercedes team boss and CEO Toto Wolff.

Toto Wolff has responded to receiving a formal warning from the stewards after his fiery press conference in Las Vegas last weekend.

He and Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur were both warned after using colourful language in front of reporters for different reasons, with Carlos Sainz’s car having just been severely damaged in FP1 and attracting Vasseur’s ire.

Mercedes team principal and CEO Wolff, for his part, verbally hit out at a journalist over continued negative coverage of the Las Vegas Grand Prix, insisting Sainz’s run over a manhole cover did not constitute a “black eye” for the sport.

Toto Wolff happy to take FIA warning: ‘We should be role models’

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

Vasseur and Wolff were both given formal warnings and were reminded of their responsibilities after being summoned to the stewards in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

But rather than being frustrated at the move, Wolff took the view that, as one of the sport’s most public figures, he should be held accountable.

“I find it very good that we remind all stakeholders who have a public profile that we are responsible with what we say in the media and on telly,” Wolff told select media including PlanetF1.com’s Thomas Maher in Abu Dhabi.

“If it is Fred and I going to the stewards, if we can trigger a general change of approach of the stewards and the FIA to sanction swearing, then that’s good.

“Nobody should use the F-word in the car or outside of the car. We should be role models for the many fans we have, especially the young ones. I think that’s important.

“But on the other side, it’s also important to remind all of us stakeholders – whether it is the drivers, the team principals, FIA officials, that there is a sporting code – that there is an FIA code of ethics, a Concorde governance agreement, that we have to adhere to the rules around integrity, honesty, transparency, and with the sole target to grow the sport and do well for the sport.

“We all have this responsibility and we should all be held accountable for our actions, in whichever camp you are and whatever the seniority of your position.

“This is why I see it as a good situation, or the actions from the stewards to remind us, starting with the language that we should be utilising, to trigger a general reminder about how we interact with each other.”

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He added that he may have felt provoked by the reporter in question, with the context of his answer in Las Vegas surrounding their coverage of the sport in the past.

But when asked if he had learned a lesson from hitting back, he responded: “I will never learn that lesson. When I’m being provoked I punch back, double assault. That’s what I learned from life, unfortunately.

“But it’s good – language, integrity, honesty, transparency, truthfulness, respecting the governance process, decision making, fairness, and sporting equity. These are the important words for all of us.”

Despite being angry in the heat of the moment, Wolff believes the warning he and Vasseur received is a timely reminder for those in power in the sport to keep their words in check – even if it is the “smallest” aspect of the sport behind what happens on track.

“I’m sending this message to everyone in the sport that we shouldn’t forget about our values, and our regulations, and using swearing words is part of that, but maybe this is the smallest one,” he added.

“But I find it good. I really like the initiatives because I hope to trigger [people] to not use the F-word in the media, whoever we are, because we have a responsibility.

“We shouldn’t. We’re big boys in the sport and we have an obligation to the sport not to fall foul with our words.”

Read next: Toto Wolff’s incredulous Christian Horner assessment: “I just don’t know what drives the guy”