Sainz penalty a ‘huge hit’ for Ferrari

Ferrari had a fast but frustrating Thursday in Las Vegas. Image: XPB Images

Ferrari had a fast but frustrating Thursday in Las Vegas. Image: XPB Images

A disastrous opening day at the Las Vegas Grand Prix saw Ferrari forced to build a new car for Carlos Sainz who then copped a 10-place penalty.

Charles Leclerc and Sainz topped Free Practice 2 in Vegas, the day’s only real running after the opening session was cancelled over safety concerns on track.

A loose drain cover caused significant damage for both Ferrari and Alpine.

Esteban Ocon and then Sainz impacted the drain cover, forcing both teams into action.

The damage to the Ferrari was most severe, forcing a chassis swap together with a host of other components.

Included in that laundry list was the energy store, which cannot be freely replaced under the regulations.

Ferrari had attempted to plead its case to officials, given issues with the circuit caused the damage.

While they were sympathetic to their argument, they were powerless to do anything but hand Sainz a grid drop.

“For sure it’s a strange feeling,” said team boss Fred Vasseur when asked by Speedcafe for his thoughts on the Sainz penalty.

“I don’t think that we did something wrong.

“We have to pay a mega price for this and, on top, you have the penalty.

“We are fighting for [Mercedes for second in the constructors] championship, so 10 places is a huge hit.”

Officials are limited in applying the regulations as they are written, leaving them hamstrung in what Daniel Ricciardo described as an “unfair” situation – a similar sentiment to that of Sainz himself on social media.

“The situation of the manhole damage and the 10-place penalty is not acceptable, but we’ll deal with it,” he wrote on Twitter.

Ferrari completed the repair in time for Sainz to take to the circuit at the start of Free Practice 2, going on to log 38 laps, the same as his pace-setting team-mate.

“It was a good job from the mechanics,” Vasseur noted.

Ferrari trails Mercedes by 20 points with two rounds remaining, with second in the constructors’ title fight worth a substantial amount of prize money.

Hence it is worth fighting for, and potentially ramps up the cost of the loose drain well above simply the price of replacement parts.

The team’s performance in Free Practice 2 was therefore encouraging, though Vasseur is wary that, although it was an extended session, it was still only the first time on track in Las Vegas and much can change.

“We know that it’s like Monaco or Baku, it’s a long weekend and we have to build up the performance over the weekend,” he said.

“We know it will be all about graining,” he added of the tyres.

“So far, so good.”

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