Carlos Sainz Jnr

Ferrari tried a last-lap ‘Hail Mary’ play for Sainz – but their rivals were ready

2023 Australian GP team radio transcript

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Carlos Sainz Jnr was distraught when the Australian Grand Prix stewards handed him a five-second time penalty for crashing into Fernando Alonso during the final standing restart.

The penalty was announced during the final red flag period, before the drivers left the pits to complete the last lap of the race. Sainz lay fourth behind Alonso, who had been reinstated to his third position by race control’s decision to reset the running order.

Behind them were Lance Stroll, Sergio Perez, Lando Norris, Nico Hulkenberg, Oscar Piastri, Zhou Guanyu and Yuki Tsunoda. If Sainz could cross the line five seconds before any of them, he could avoid leaving Melbourne point-less.

He had one card left to play. The final lap would begin behind the Safety Car, which would then peel into the pits, leaving the drivers to run to the line while forbidden from overtaking.

If Sainz could delay his rivals for long enough, then sprint for the line, he might stand a chance of scoring a point. This was a ‘Hail Mary’ play – a huge long-shot. Sainz was only allowed to fall 10 car lengths, or about 55 metres, behind Alonso.

Sainz knew it was his only chance. Had one of his rivals dithered for some reason, or suffered a technical problem, it might have worked. But as their radio messages reveal, they largely anticipated Ferrari’s tactics.

Sainz’s radio messages

Sainz protested bitterly about his penalty. After he joined the track for the restart, his race engineer advised him to drop back from Alonso as much as possible and then push.

Lap: 57/58
AdamiWe have 5 seconds penalty
SainzNo, it cannot be, Ricky. They need to wait until the race is finished and analyse the incident it with me. They need to wait. It’s only 10 minutes left ’til I come in the stewards room and explain it.
SainzHe said that we’re going to finish P3. And then we’re going to finish before. Why do you need to put me out of the points? It is unacceptable. I cannot accept this. It’s impossible. It’s so unfair. It’s a racing incident, lap one.
AdamiAnd K2 is available. And charge button on for the first part.
Lap: 58/58
MekiesIt’s clear, Carlos. It’s clear. Let’s finish that race, and we’ll discuss here.
SainzBut let me at least discuss with the stewards in the stewards’ room.
MekiesOf course we’ll go and see them, just after you get out of the car.
AdamiYou can open 10 car lengths to Alonso, can open 10 car lengths to Alonso now and then push. Open 10 car lengths and then push, closing the gap at the second.
AdamiGood job.
Automatic voiceChequered flag.

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Alonso’s radio messages

Alonso, ahead of Sainz, was unaffected by his penalty, but advised his team to ensure his team mate was ready.

Lap: 57/58
CroninSainz has been given a five-second penalty. That puts him behind Lance.
AlonsoBut make sure that Lance crosses the line close enough, I guess, or it doesn’t matter
CroninYep. He knows it’s important, he knows. So Fernando while you’re following the Safety Car, obviously you keep within 10 car lengths of the car ahead. So just be real watertight on all are procedures.
AlonsoCopy. Understood

Stroll’s radio messages

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, Albert Park, 2023
The closest driver to Sainz finished one-and-a-half seconds behind him

Stroll urged his team to tell Alonso to delay Sainz. When the Ferrari driver sprinted for the line, Stroll crossed it one-and-a-half seconds afterwards, and had Perez and Norris within seven-tenths behind him.

Lap: 57/58
StrollBut, so are we doing a start now? Or no? Just going to be ’round?
StrollSo can you confirm, are we doing a proper standing start and a lap of racing or are we just following the Safety Car to the finish line because it’s the last lap?
MichellSo Lance the feedback is that we will go out of this order behind the Safety Car, take the flag with no overtaking.
MichellOkay Lance, to be clear, we go out behind the Safety Car. Safety car will come into the pits. You will stay on track and take the chequered flag with no overtaking.
MichellOkay Lance additional information Sainz has a five-second penalty, Sainz has a five-second penalty for the collision. So we need to be tight with him across the line. Stay absolutely on his gearbox across the line, he has a five-second penalty.
StrollTell Fernando, make sure you tell Fernando to make sure he pushes him back.
MichellSo Lance, obviously we’ve told Fernando what we discussed. We need to make sure we maintain the 10 car lengths to the car in front until the Safety Car has come in.
MichellConfirmation it’s a rolling start procedure, Lance. So it’s just across the line, Safety Car will pit, you stay out and cross the line. And within five seconds of Sainz is the target. Let’s be clear, Lance, you need to be behind him across the line. Not alongside. Behind him across the line. So stay behind Sainz at all times.

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Perez’s radio messages

Gaining a position from Sainz meant Perez finished fifth having started in the pit lane.

Lap: 57/58
BirdWell, we’ve got just under seven minutes until the restart. Expectation is: go around following the Safety Car. The Safety Car will peel into the pit lane. You’ll all go and take the chequered flag. No racing Lance.
BirdAnd an update: Sainz has a five second penalty for causing a collision. So he’s… We need to be within five seconds of Sainz at the finish line. Got Stroll here then Sainz.
PerezOkay, copy.
BirdSo, Checo, obviously we’re not going to be in a situation where we’re allowed to overtake people, it’s just staying close to Stroll to get that place off Sainz.

Hulkenberg’s radio messages

Hulkenberg had a last-lap drama which could have helped Sainz

Hulkenberg had been in fourth position before race control reordered the field ahead of the final restart. The reshuffle left him eighth, but still with a chance of picking up a place from Sainz, which he knew was very likely unless he suffered some kind of misfortune.

As it happened, he did – Hulkenberg’s engine began to fail on the final lap. Fortunately for him he was still able to chequered flag, then was told to park up immediately.

Lap: 57/58
GannonOkay, Nico. So the only information I have right now that’s important is that Sainz up there has a five-second penalty, a five-second time penalty. So on this lap, get your tyres warm or whatever, just stay close to the cars ahead so that we’re close as we can be in terms of time when we cross the line.
HulkenbergOkay but normally we’re sure as shit within five seconds of him. We’re all together.
GannonYeah. Yeah.
HulkenbergHe’s probably going to be last.
GannonPossibly, yeah. But just anyway, don’t leave a gap. That’s all. Very strange situation. We’ll just get through it here nicely and take what result we can get.
HulkenbergYeah, copy that.
HulkenbergThis radio is terrible. You have so much interference. I hardly hear you on this one.
Lap: 58/58
HulkenbergHe’s going too slow again.
GannonYeah. Safety car is in 12. Safety Car’s going into the pit lane, coming around to take the chequer…
HulkenbergFuck, I lost the engine! I lost the engine! Okay, I think it’s okay again.
GannonIt’s okay to go to the end. It’s okay to go to the end.
HulkenbergI think I lost the gear sync.
End of race
GannonChequered flag, Nico chequered flag. Mode slow and you were three seconds behind Sainz

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Piastri’s radio messages

While there was no obvious chatter about Sainz’s penalty on Norris’ radio, his rookie team mate demonstrated his grasp of the finer points of racing by quickly sussing how Ferrari would handle the restart.

Lap: 57/58
StallardOscar reminder Alonso and Sainz are under investigation. So when you take the chequered flag, we mustn’t pass this car but we want to be close.
StallardSainz does have a five second penalty.
PiastriOkay, copy. Yeah, Just I guess let’s be hot if he drops ten car lengths back as well, ’cause I imagine he’ll try and get close to get a run at the line.
StallardYeah. Copy
End of race
StallardWe were within five seconds of Sainz. So Oscar that should be P8 once that penalty’s applied. Well done buddy! Points, home grand prix! Not a bad weekend.

Zhou’s radio messages

Zhou was another driver who lost places because of race control’s decision to reorder the field. He made sure he claimed an extra point by staying close enough to Sainz.

Lap: 57/58
BeckerZhou for the lap at the end, try to be as close as possible to the car ahead, quarter-length, there might be some penalties, cars in front.
ZhouOkay. Yeah. So we go out, Safety Car in, we cross the finish line, basically.
BeckerCorrect. Try to be as close as possible. Obviously, don’t overtake.
Lap: 58/58
BeckerSo this is the lap behind the Safety Car. It’s basically a rolling start but at the same time it’s the finish. And stay as close to Sainz as possible.
BeckerDrivers we have a rolling start procedure, meaning the Safety Car is coming in like a normal Safety Car start, but at the same time, it’s the finish. Stay as close to Sainz as possible.
End of race
ZhouThank you, guys. Good comeback. Yeah. Maybe it’s not best for the team points, but happy with where we were after struggle. We keep pushing. Did we get Sainz at the end, yeah?
Becker[Unclear] So pick up rubber, drive off-line. Good race from your side. Verstappen won, Hamilton, Alonso P3. Then Stroll, Perez, Norris, Hulkenberg, Piastri, yourself and Tsunoda completing the top 10.

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Tsunoda’s radio messages

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, Albert Park, 2023
Tsunoda took the final point of the day by just half a second

Remarkably, Tsunoda finished 11th on the road – one place outside of the points – for the third race in a row. However Sainz’s penalty meant he bagged the final point of the day.

The disconsolate Ferrari driver was classified 12th and last of the runners behind Valtteri Bottas. Sainz crossed the finishing line 4.5 seconds before Tsunoda – had any of the drivers between them dithered by half a second, Ferrari would have salvaged a point from their weekend to forget.

Lap: 57/58
SpiniSo out of the pits you go charge off. You stay as close as possible to the car in front. Really close. Probably it’s going to be only one lap. We need to stay close so if somebody gets a penalty, we take it.
TsunodaSo we don’t do a start?
TsunodaWhat we doing? Any information?
Lap: 58/58
TsunodaWhat are we doing?
SpiniYuki. We stay behind the Safety Car, stay as close as possible to the car ahead every time. As close as possible. Charge off. So it’s not possible to overtake, but stay as close as possible.
SpiniSafety Car will come in, we stay out, cross the start/finish, will be the end of the race. Stay as close as possible.
SpiniPush, push.
End of race
SpiniChequered flag.
SpiniYuki that’s P10.
Tsunoda…result. Good job, guys. I mean, compared to P5, you know, bit of a disappointment, but definitely we maximised the package, positions, yeah.

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2023 Australian Grand Prix

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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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7 comments on “Ferrari tried a last-lap ‘Hail Mary’ play for Sainz – but their rivals were ready”

  1. Wow, would have loved to hear a panicking Hulk on the radio!
    Also good to see no team misinterpreted the rules. Alpha Tauri sounded a bit unnecessarily messy in the communication though.

  2. Not sure if we can say all teams were ready. All except McLaren simply said stay close to the car ahead to benefit from Sainz penalty. That is standard advice.

    Only Piastri’s engineer at McLaren correctly guessed that Sainz would try to get a run at the start finish line.

    1. According to the article it was Piastri who guessed correctly, not his engineer.

      I wonder if the better strategy for Sainz would have been to wait until he turned onto the start finish straight, then accelerate and head to the pit wall side and back off before the line and hope someone overtook before the start finish line. I know they can’t do that behind a safety car but under green flag conditions he would be off the racing line and it might have caught someone out?

  3. With all this going on I’m amazed there wasn’t ANOTHER crash at the finish line….

  4. Kind of surprised nobody (Lance especially) tried to game it so that they pushed other runners behind backwards enough to lose the required gap.

    1. The last two points finishers were Zhou and Tsunoda. Based on the constructors championship and the relative pace of the cars, it probably made more sense for Aston Martin to take the points off a Ferrari and give them to an Alfa and and Alpha.

  5. I wonder if Sainz could wait for the car in front to cross the line, wait to take the flag by going super slow, let the cars behind almost stop on track then accelerate to take the flag. Would have been against the rules?

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