Mercedes CEO apologizes for F1 fire incident after Hochtief race suspension

Written by By Natalie Morris, CNN

The Mercedes-Benz boss, Toto Wolff, has apologized after a spate of fires forced an indefinite suspension of the five-year partnership between the carmaker and construction firm Hochtief.

“We don’t want to be in any way responsible for the recent events,” Wolff said on Monday. “All attempts to explain what happened clearly did not resonate with our customer. That is why we decided to suspend the partnership. We wish to see a conclusion as soon as possible.”

The Volvo-powered team had been shortlisted as a contender to move into the United States Grand Prix. Hochtief, a cement company which entered the sport as a founding sponsor of Häagen-Dazs Sauber in 2016, has said the sport’s governing body, the FIA, should give them enough financial support to shift into Formula 1 in 2021.

“As Formula 1 is a high-risk business we felt we had to inject finances to achieve a sustainable future,” Brice Doohan, Chief Executive Officer of Hochtief Germany told AFP.

“Although not responsible, we accept the responsibility for these events.”

The FIA said it would review its cost-reduction strategy for F1 after the fires on Tuesday. The federation previously imposed a ban on employing the use of tail finels, which had helped manufacturer Häagen-Dazs Sauber reduce fuel usage.

The industrial company’s extensive roadworks operations in recent years, which have included a series of constructions projects close to tracks, have further increased pressure on teams and teams.

No further explanation was given regarding the Mercedes F1 CEO’s comments about the reasons for the deal’s termination, but Charlotte Dean, Hochtief’s Chief Marketing Officer was quick to apologize.

“We are deeply sorry that all the experiences we had in F1 so far were wrong,” she said. “We are talking to our partners like Mercedes-Benz and Formula 1 and the FIA about the way forward.”

Monday’s announcement came after several Russian F1 team owners “poisoned” their drivers ahead of last month’s first race of the new season in Melbourne, according to Formula 1 team body the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile.

Russian media reported that representatives of the, “Ladies and gentlemen, it is now your turn to run. The fields are yours,” was shouted from a car using loudspeakers that pulled alongside leading driver Sergey Sirotkin. The revelation of the incident came just three months after Formula 1 suffered a series of blackouts, causing the sport to be suspended for a day.

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