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Toto Wolff On the Carlos Sainz Drain Cover Incident: “I Need to Act for the Benefit of the Team”

Toto Wolff believes that Carlos Sainz's penalty was unfair, but that's just how it goes sometimes....

When Carlos Sainz hit a drain cover in Las Vegas causing damage “beyond repair”, it was suggested that the teams had agreed to waive the penalty due to the unforced nature of the incident. That is, except for Mercedes.  

That has never been substantiated but Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, has come out in a recent interview to say that he would penalise Carlos Sainz for the sake of the team if the option was given to him.

The Stewards acknowledged that due to the extreme circumstances, Sainz shouldn’t have been penalised, but the rules don’t allow for “mitigating, unusual and unfortunate circumstances.”

Wolff said that he sympathised with Sainz, even if his penalty helped Mercedes secure P2 in the Constructors’ Championship.

“What happened to Carlos was absolutely unfair and me as a racer, I’m the first one to say that he didn’t deserve the outcome. I think we should look at the rules,” says Wolff.

“Force majeure as a difficult one, though, what happens with kerb strikes? You destroy your car by riding over a kerb, there’s nothing we can do.

“What if you’re riding over bumps with cold tyres, like what happened to Lando [Norris], and you smash it into the wall? Are people going to say this is a force majeure event?

“What if another car T-bones you and you haven’t done nothing, is that force majeure? Nobody liked the situation with us as sportsmen, it wasn’t just what happened to him.

“It ruined the race weekend for him that he maybe could’ve won. So we have to think hard about how we want to change that.”

The Austrian boss added that though he didn’t have the option to veto the potential penalty waiver, he would exploit it like “every other Team Principal will.”

“As a Team Principal for rival team that is fighting for P2, I need to look at the regulations and at the full scope of possible actions of ourselves in order to finish P2 in the championship,” explains Wolff.

“If the regulation says so, I need to act for the benefit of the team and 2,500 people. That will have a very big difference in bonuses, people would be free to act to the limit of the regulations.

“If we lost the championship by five points because I have acted in sporting fairness, and the rules would have allowed me to actually penalise the car, I need to do this.

“And every other Team Principal will do it as much as it’s unfair.

“I need to decide, is it unfair for a rival driver? It is. But I have 2,500 people that I’m literally responsible for that pay mortgages and school fees. So it’s a no-brainer.

“I think it’s important that we sometimes, put ourselves into the other’s position.

“I have done that for Carlos and it’s awful. The other way around, I’m not sure whether the exercise was done.”

Carlos Sainz managed to recover to P6 in Las Vegas from P12 while Lewis Hamilton finished behind in P7 and George Russell in P8. Mercedes would go on to take P2 in the Constructors’ by just 3 points.

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