Ferrari kept Sainz’s “undriveable” car running because they expected a red flag

2023 Belgian Grand Prix

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Ferrari kept Carlos Sainz Jnr’s car running after he picked up damage on the first lap of the Belgian Grand Prix as they expected a red flag during the race would give them an opportunity to repair it.

Sainz collided with Oscar Piastri at the first corner. The McLaren driver retired on the first lap but Sainz carried on despite extensive damage to the right-hand side of his floor.

The preceding two days of running at Spa-Francorchamps had been disrupted by rain. Pre-race weather forecasts indicated a 40% chance of a shower during the grand prix, and some rain did fall around half-distance. However it never became strong enough to jeopardise the running of the race.

As Ferrari realised the race would not be stopped, they retired Sainz’s car shortly after the rain passed.

“We were just expecting a red flag at one stage, to be able to fix it, with the first shower,” Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur confirmed. “But when the shower came without the red flag, we decided to stop it.”

Ferrari eventually retired Sainz’s car
Vasseur said Sainz’s car was badly affected by the damage but they did not estimate how much performance he lost.

“It’s quite difficult because you are losing downforce, but it’s not just the downforce it’s the balance of the car,” he explained. “We never did the calculation of a potential lap time with its points of downforce its points of balance that, but it was a lot.”

Sainz said his car was “undriveable, pretty much,” after the collision. “But we kept it going and never gave up in case there’s a red flag. Then when the rain passed and there was no red flag we retired.”

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2023 Belgian Grand Prix

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Author information

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...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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10 comments on “Ferrari kept Sainz’s “undriveable” car running because they expected a red flag”

  1. “We were just expecting a red flag … with the first shower,” Ferrari confirmed.

    Because that’s perfectly normal for racing.

    What gets me is, based on Saturday, that was actually a reasonable gamble

    1. Precisely, this says more about F1’s inability to have wet weather racing than about Ferrari.

    2. @smallvizier They were likely expecting a red based on the Porsche race in the morning which got red flagged with 3 laps left when it started raining even though there hadn’t been an accident.

      A few cars locked up and went wide at the chicane but that was it. It hadn’t even got to the point where there was any spray. It just started raining a bit harder so they called it off.

  2. It impress me how this as absurd as it is, sounds completely normal coming from who said that.
    This team has really went a long way.

    1. It is absurd, but it makes sense in today’s F1. And I am not happy about it.

  3. Expecting an SC period is realistic, but solely expecting a red flag over anything else is rather pointless, so I didn’t think about this possibility before, especially as they expected that a mere ‘drizzle’ would cause race suspension.

  4. I get that they thought “why not wait and see”, it wouldn’t be the first time. And they didn’t lose anything from not retiring the car earlier.

  5. TBH waiting for a red flag wasn’t an unreasonable call. At Spa, there’s a reasonable chance that there will be a major collision which damage to the barriers, especially with wet weather. It’s also not unreasonable that there could have been a major incident which took out enough cars to bring him into the points anyway.

    That said, my first thought when I saw his damage was “Get the Duck Tape out!” They could have patched the car in a reasonably short amount of time and, while it would still have been compromised, it should have made it much better. However, I haven’t seen any teams using that engineering technique for quite a while…

    1. Ahah, yes, I think toro rosso with tsunoda were the last ones.

  6. Another indefensibly bad call by the scuderia. They should have just gotten on with a better strategy sooner.

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