Sainz ‘expected more from the sport’ over Las Vegas penalty
By Mat Coch
Saturday 18th November, 2023 - 9:51pm
Carlos Sainz is still livid at the prospect of serving a grid penalty after his Ferrari was destroyed due to shortcomings with the Las Vegas circuit.
Sainz’s car suffered significant damage when a water valve cover broke loose from the track surface just eight minutes into track running in Las Vegas.
It forced officials to end the session to affect repairs while Ferrari had to swap the Spaniard into a different chassis.
The car also sustained damage to the power unit and other components, with a replacement Energy Store bringing with it a 10-place grid drop.
Each driver has a limited pool of units available, with Sainz exceeding that with the repair of his F1-23.
With no facility within the regulations to accept force majeure, event stewards had no choice but to reluctantly apply the grid drop.
Initially unwilling to discuss the issue after qualifying second for Saturday night’s race, Sainz eventually relented.
“There was clearly a safety issue with the track,” he began.
“That safety issue destroyed my car. My mechanics had to invest five hours in putting together a completely new car and, on top of that, we get a 10-place penalty for something that we have nothing to do [with].
“Just disappointed. At the same time, not surprised because there’s been many cases this year that I think the sport has proven that it can do things a lot better.
“I’m surprised the governing body doesn’t have the power, in cases of force majeure, to let’s say overrule a bit in this kind of situation, where it’s so clear that it’s completely out of the team’s control, completely out of the driver’s control.
“I don’t know. The rules, the governing body, the teams, I don’t know. I expected more from the sport in this situation.”
Sainz found support from Max Verstappen, who was sympathetic to his rival’s plight and called for changes to the rules.
One suggestion within the paddock is to have rivals sign off on allowing a ‘free’ change in such circumstances.
“It’s the same if you get taken out, and you have a big accident; you can lose parts, engine, energy store, these kinds of things,” Verstappen explained.
“First of all, that needs to change so that these things can be taken into consideration, that if you can take a free, let’s say, penalty or not.
“And besides that, I think the teams should not be allowed to have a say in these kinds of things because, for sure, they’re going to vote against that.
“Personally, I do think it’s very harsh on Carlos, but in this political environment that we are in, of course every team thinks about themselves, and they’re of course going to say ‘yes, take the penalty’.”
It has been suggested that eight of Ferrari’s nine rival teams would have supported Sainz escaping without penalty in Las Vegas.
The Scuderia sits third in the constructors’ championship heading into the penultimate round of the season, 20 points adrift of Mercedes.
The opening practice incident and resultant penalty aside, Las Vegas has been a promising weekend for the Ferrari, with Charles Leclerc on pole for Sunday’s race and Sainz second fastest – though relegated to 12th on the grid.
That will see George Russell move up to third on the grid, while Lewis Hamilton improves to 10th after he missed the cut into Qualifying 3.
Tensions between the two operations are therefore high as second in the constructors’ championship brings a notable increase in prize money entitlements over third.
“For sure there will be rival teams pushing for me to get a penalty, which surprises me in a way,” Sainz acknowledged.
“In others, I’ve been in this sport for too long [and] understand that this is business, and there’s too much money involved in the finishing position of the constructors’ [championship] or whatever.
“I’m extremely disappointed and honestly just very upset with the whole situation, with the sport.
“Honestly, I’m very upset, I think is the right word, and in a bad mood because I just expected more from the sport in this case.”