Ferrari criticise unsafe release penalty as Sainz “thought I saved someone’s life”

2022 Dutch Grand Prix

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The five-second time penalty Carlos Sainz Jnr received for an unsafe pit lane release was “very, very harsh”, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto believes.

Sainz pitted during the Safety Car period from sixth to switch from hard tyres to softs for the final stint of the race. He was released in front of Fernando Alonso Alpine, who was following the train of cars through the pit lane as instructed by race director Eduardo Freitas.

Alonso took avoiding action and almost came to a stop behind the Ferrari. The stewards later investigated the incident and handed the Ferrari driver a five-second time penalty for it, which dropped him from fifth on the track to eighth in the final classification.

Binotto says he disagreed with the stewards’ decision due to the fact that the very short pit lane had forced him to drive around Lando Norris’s McLaren ahead, who was also pitting.

“The five second penalty cost quite a lot to Carlos,” said Binotto. “Honestly, I feel that the decision of the FIA, of the stewards, has been very, very harsh.

“The reason is when he came in, [the] McLaren was passing through and we [held] Carlos in the pit position because we knew it would have be unsafe to release at the time. We waited to have the right space and we believe that the space was there with the Alpine coming, so that’s why we released him.

“What happened after is that he has to slow down almost to stop, because the pit crew of McLaren was going around the car and in order to be safe with the mechanics he almost stopped – having as well an anti-stall coming in, losing him time, and then it was [too] late.

“But the release itself was not unsafe. The release was safe, the way that Carlos acted was safe, that’s why it seems that the overall decision was harsh.”

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After reviewing video of the incident the stewards ruled “car 55 [Sainz] was released from the pit stop position into the path of [Alonso] who had to take evasive action to avoid a collision.”

Sainz, who saw a replay of the incident while behind the Safety Car on a large spectator screen on the exit of turn 10, remained adamant that his team had not been guilty of an unsafe release and that he had actually avoided a dangerous situation with his driving.

“I saw it in the car,” said Sainz. “By the time they released me, it was clearly safe with Fernando.

“But then I had to hit the brakes to not hit a McLaren mechanic that ran into my exit line and it was this braking that generated the unsafe release, if you can call it ‘unsafe’.

“I was clearly frustrated by it, because I thought I had saved someone’s life and not generated a dangerous situation.”

Speaking on his radio during the race, Sainz suggested Alonso intentionally exaggerated how severely he had to slow down. “It was not unsafe, I just saw on the cameras it’s not unsafe,” he told his team.

“The other car exaggerated the braking. He saw more exiting clearly. I’ve seen it on the cameras. If they give me a penalty for that it’s totally fake.”

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2022 Dutch Grand Prix

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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25 comments on “Ferrari criticise unsafe release penalty as Sainz “thought I saved someone’s life””

  1. Fair point by Sainz. Yes, the ptlane is tight, just as with Monaco, but whos fault is that? If the pitlane is too tight, ensure the track complies with it being less tight. Make it a requirement for a track to be F1-worthy. Monaco has been a mess for years now to: if it isn’t safe, bin the track.

    1. It’s not like people are dying or even getting injured in Monaco…

  2. Donny Sainz trying to distract attention away from his lack of competitiveness in today’s race.

  3. Yeah, the pitlane certainly doesn’t make it easy on them. But that just means teams have to pay extra attention when releasing their drivers. It’s not unsafe as such. Or doesn’t have to be.

    Pretty sure I saw other cars having a slightly longer pitstop because they stayed in the box a tad longer to wait for others to pass, exactly because it’s trickier and therefore slower here.

    1. You are right, plus, since on that lap drivers were asked to transit into the pit lane to let Bottas’ car to be removed safely, race direction should have banned pit stops for the time car were forced to go through the pit lane.

    2. I have to agree.

      However, with respect to Alonso, I can agree that the release (the team’s action in letting him go from his pit box) wasn’t unsafe, as Carlos has time to get out of his box into the pit lane (even with the mechanics in the way). However, he didn’t take that into account when setting off, expecting to be able to just set off as normal and then having to stop to avoid hitting someone.

      However, Carlos then set off again at an unsafe point, right into the path of Alonso. This was definitely unsafe, but it isn’t really something taken into account in the rules or procedures. The driver can’t really see what’s coming down the pit lane, and the team can’t easily hold him at that point.

      So, for me the unsafe release isn’t really to do with Alonso, more to do with Carlos’ exit from the box at a speed which didn’t allow him to get around where the mechanics ahead were working.

      Him setting off into Alonso’s path was a separate incident which should be addressed by improved procedures. Maybe, if a car stops before getting past the white line, they should have to be pulled back into their box so the team can control their release in a safe manner…. Although that sounds like it may be overkill, safety in the pit lane is paramount, so it could be proportionate.

      Either that, or ban/modify tracks with unsuitable pit lanes.

      1. Yeah, that makes sense @drmouse, you make a good argument that it really was a decision of Sainz to drive out even when Alonso was already there.

        I am not sure how well the drivers are able to see other cars (yeah, those mirrors are really badly in need of being larger and with a prime focus to actually SEE what is next to and behind), but at that point it was clear he would obstruct the car behind if he went there.

  4. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    4th September 2022, 21:27

    It also doesn’t help that teams in recent years have move the pit stop spot diagonally for easier drive in but with that harder drive out situation.

    Maybe for Monaco and Zandvoort the FIA should give clear instructions to have straight pitstop spots including a marked area in which the teams must operate themselves and equipment.

    I do tend to agree with Ferrari but then again a release is from moment of driving till moment being full back in the fast lane. Maybe unfair but Sainz should have waited for Alonso to pass after he slowed down for the Mclaren pitcrew as by then he knew he couldn’t get in front of Alonso without forcing Alonso to break.

    Regardless what Alonso did intentionally or not, make it look worse than it maybe really was, undisputed fact is that Ferrari/Sainz forced Alonso to slow down and that is not allowed and for that Ferrari/Sainz got the 5 second penalty.

    Ferrari should also getting a fine for leaving equipment outside their own area and in the way of competitor with no good reason. Maybe also Mclaren should get a fine if indeed Mclaren pitcrew unreasonable hindered a clean getaway from Sainz.

    1. I don’t get the idea that Alonso intentionally slowing down was a bad thing. The cars touched next to the McLaren put crew. Him slowing down as an emergency stop was necessary.

      I think the problem was caused by the race directors decision to make the drivers go through the pit line when there were still people taking pitstops. They should either

      a) Ban pitstops under safety car if the field are being lead through the pit lane.
      b) Don’t have the safety car leading the field through the pit lane if it’s very tight (keep cars on track and remove Bottas car when the cars are bunched up and lapping slowly or red flag if not possible)
      c) Make wider pit lanes a mandatory requirement

  5. Yes it was a tight pit lane, yet somehow all the other teams managed to avoid the pit lane incidents that involved Ferrari: leaving the spare wheel gun further out than normal so it was run over by Perez; and the unsafe release. It was just an absolute total mess from the Scuderia today in just about every aspect of undertaking an F1 race, and taken with the mess last week and this entire season I hope there are some major changes in Maranello very soon.

  6. Those guys were standing there when he was released. This was not force majeur. It was foreseeable. As others said maybe also time to look into the angled pit thing teams are doing now.

  7. I don’t think the release itself was unsafe as Alonso was nowhere near the Ferrari pit box when Sainz was told to go and had Carlos not slowed down to get around the McLaren I don’t think Alonso would have even needed to back off.

    For me an unsafe release is when the actual release of the car is unsafe, As in the mechanic releasing the driver should have known there was a car coming down the pit lane that was always going to need to take avoiding action.

    If the mechanic releases the driver at a safe time but something happens after that which causes a delay in the driver getting away I don’t necessarily see that as an unsafe release, Especially if it’s something the guy releasing the car couldn’t foresee happening when he hit the button to tell him to go.

  8. So, let me get this right. Binotto thinks that because he let one car go by (Norris) that he can release cars regardless of any other incoming traffic. I wouldn’t want to be a passenger when he navigates any road junction or roundabout.

    1. @Kringle:
      Read his statement one more time but this time envision car traffic in Rome during rush hour

  9. This argument does not work. There’s an automated system that is meant to inform teams when someone is too close, that’s timed to the pit lane speed limiter. There’s no subjectivity in it – it’s measured out beforehand at every race. Given that nobody was leaving the pit behind Sainz, the only ways this can have been subverted are:

    1) The system was malfunctioning. Nobody appears to be claiming this.
    2) The car behind was speeding. This would have been measured if so and, in any case, nobody appears to be claiming this either.
    3) Ferrari overruled the system. While that is allowed, that’s only permitted if a proper manual check of the situation was done – which it visibly was not.

    I think Mattia is trying to cover for an operational error. These things happen but they are happening to Ferrari much too often, especially since it was supposed to be a title-challenging team six months ago.

    Carlos probably did help the McLaren mechanic by not going immediately, and I think he did what he could with the situation he personally was presented, but the people releasing him only get credit for avoiding the cars they avoided, not the one they didn’t (or indeed the mechanic in the way, which should have been accounted for in the same way that Perez should have accounted for the gun in Ferrari’s pit box earlier in the race by exiting his pit box more slowly to get the necessary turning circle).

  10. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    5th September 2022, 7:07

    I actually just relooked the incident and it is a Ferrari guy that is in the wrong place.
    He first almost gets hit by Norris driving to his pitstop and then again almost gets hit by Sainz.
    None of the Mclaren pitcrew nor their equipment were in the way of Sainz, it was his own pitcrew making his exit tighter. Sainz claim he saved a Mclaren pitcrew members life is false.

  11. Binotto’s & Sainz’s points are fair, so perhaps stewards should’ve given him slack this time, considering the above-mentioned circumstance somewhat outside his control.
    However, he should’ve got penalized for overtaking Ocon under yellow caution.

    1. @jerejj – As @jelle-van-der-meer said if you watch the whole incident Carlos wasn’t telling the whole truth it was his team making his exit too difficult. It was a operation error from Ferrari again…

    2. To a certain extent I would criticise race control with this one too. Where Bottas’s car stopped should have triggered an instant safety car / automatic yellows along the whole straight. The cars passed side by side by a stopped car along the main straight… What if Ocon had defended more aggressively and Sainz had chosen the inside line?

  12. At the next race, I fully expect a Ferrari crew member to attempt to fit a wheel using a sandwich, such are their levels of incompetence currently.

    1. What a load of baloney!

      …and provolone cheese, sourdough, mayonnaise and mustard.

  13. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
    6th September 2022, 0:04

    One quick fix is to reduce the amount of people servicing these cars. There is zero reason to have so many bodies in the pitlane. They should only require five or eight people. You do that… Pit lane gets a lot more roomier for everyone.

    1. Bingo. F1 is unique in that manner, and there’s no good reason for it.
      F2 (for example) only use 6 people, and they are still doing pit stops more than fast enough. So are most other series around the world. 2.5 seconds up to 4 seconds is really not that big of a deal.

      Another improvement here is to make the cars substantially shorter. The shorter the wheelbase, the tighter the turning radius and the less space they need.

  14. Looking at the pit lane at Zandvoort, it did seem very, very tight for the cars to get by. They looked really big for the space available. I think the same is probably true at Monaco but maybe the teams are just more used to dealing with things there? This is only the second year most of the teams have been here at Zandvoort.

    I too wonder why they have so many people servicing the cars. I am sure they all have what is currently viewed as a key job but why not have less people and slower pit stops? If the same rules affect everyone then it would still be a level playing field. Would it really matter if the regular pitstops were 5 seconds instead of 2.5.

    Then it looks like the cars have outgrown some of the older style circuits in terms of pit space. I am sure the FIA could mandate that all of the cars have to be 30 cms shorter or something. I think the teams’ engineers could cope with this if they had to. I do think these 2022 cars may already be slightly shorter than the previous versions?

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