Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Las Vegas Strip Circuit, 2023

Stewards deny Ferrari’s request for exemption from grid penalty for Sainz

Formula 1

Posted on

| Written by

The stewards of the Las Vegas Grand Prix say they do not have the power to accept a request from Ferrari not to penalise Carlos Sainz Jnr after repairing parts of his car.

Sainz’s power unit and survival cell suffered irreparable damage when he struck a loose water valve cover early in first practice at the Las Vegas Strip Circuit. As the damage was caused by reasons outside the team’s control, Ferrari asked the stewards to let them replace Sainz’s energy store using a new component without incurring a penalty.

However after discussions with a representative of Ferrari and the FIA’s single seater director Nikolas Tombazis, the stewards said they could not grant the team’s request. They explained the rules make a penalty for Sainz mandatory in these circumstances and they do not have the power to overrule them.

The stewards made it clear they sympathised with Ferrari’s situation as the damage had been caused by a fault on the Las Vegas track.

“The stewards note that if they had the authority to grant a derogation in what they consider in this case to be mitigating, unusual and unfortunate circumstances, they would have done so, however the regulations do not allow such action,” they stated.

After Ferrari replaced Sainz’s energy store, fitting his third different example of the season, the stewards confirmed he will have a 10-place grid penalty.

Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur did not rule out seeking compensation for the damage Sainz’s car sustained when he spoke in the FIA press conference after the curtailed practice session. “We’ll have time to discuss about this,” he said.

Stewards’ decision on Ferrari’s request for Sainz

Having received a report from the FIA Technical Delegate concerning Car 55 (Document 16) stating that the Survival Cell, Internal Combustion Engine, Energy Store and Control Electronics were damaged beyond repair following an impact with a foreign object; and having received a request from the Competitor requesting a derogation of the Sporting Regulations in order to allow a replacement of the Energy Store from outside the pool, without penalty; and having heard from the team representative, the director [of the] FIA single seater department, having viewed video evidence and examined the Team’s declaration sheet, the stewards, determine that notwithstanding the fact that the damage was caused by highly unusual external circumstances, Article 2.1 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations obliges all officials, including the stewards, to apply the regulations as they are written.

Accordingly, the mandatory penalty specified under Article 28.3 of the Sporting Regulations must be applied.

The stewards note that if they had the authority to grant a derogation in what they consider in this case to be mitigating, unusual and unfortunate circumstances, they would have done so, however the regulations do not allow such action.

Competitors are reminded that they have the right to appeal certain decisions of the Stewards, in accordance with Article 15 of the FIA International Sporting Code and Chapter 4 of the FIA Judicial and Disciplinary Rules, within the applicable time limits.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix

Browse all 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix articles

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

37 comments on “Stewards deny Ferrari’s request for exemption from grid penalty for Sainz”

  1. This is beyond ridiculous, if I were in Vasseur I would pack the cars and fly back home right now

    1. You are aware they’re fighting to get 2nd, against Mercedes?

      1. Wow fighting for second. The extra tunnel time is probably worth more than the difference in money prize. They are not exactly a poor organization.

        1. Dex Prize money still has value to all teams.

    2. Manto, it is, however, in line with how Williams were treated in 2019 when Russell had his car damaged by a manhole in Baku, how Haas were treated in Mayalsia in 2017 when Grosjean crashed after a drain cover punctured his rear tyre, how Williams were treated in 2016 when Bottas’s car was damaged during FP3 in Baku or how McLaren were treated in Monaco in 2016 after Button had his car damaged by a manhole cover, to list just some of the more recent instances of a team also suffering damage from their car hitting a loose manhole cover.

      In all of those cases, the stewards declined to ask for any special dispensation for the teams involved. Only one of those cases saw the FIA intervene to help, which was Haas in 2017 – but the only benefit they got was the FIA allowed them extra time to repair the car.

      In those historical incidents, the general attitude of the stewards and the FIA was that it was an unfortunate event, but the sporting rules were still enforced as normal and it was left to the teams to seek financial compensation from the circuit owners (in the 2019 and 2017 incidents, the circuit owners did offer compensation). In only one case was there a minor suspension of the sporting penalties, and even then the suspension – which was to not count Haas’s need to work overnight to repair the car as one of their two permitted violations of the overnight curfew – was still not hugely generous.

      You might not like it, but if no other team was given special treatment for similar incidents in the past, those other teams might think it a bit unfair if Ferrari were to receive different treatment now.

      1. You are right!

        This case doesn’t make all the other cases you listed less ridiculous, they are all the same

        The problem was the first team who accepteded an absurd penalty (williams or mclaren in 2016) that set the standards for stewards to keep pursuing the same road.

        But Ferrari are an emblematic team, stepping down in this case, on a “”””big event”””” like Las Vegas would be a really strong move, that may push FIA to reevaluate these absurd situations.

        1. pretty much. When stupidity goes unquestioned, it rains.

      2. Anon, thank you for the comprehensive list. I knew it had happened a couple of times before, but seeing them all listed out like that was a surprise. Five times now in less than ten years. That is no longer an unfortunate and unforseeable accident, it is inadequate track preparation procedures and standards.

      3. Once is happenstance.
        Twice is coincdence.
        Three times is enemy action.
        But making the same mistake so many times starts to sound like outright irresponsibility (or penny pinching). Either way there are grounds for a court case.

  2. If he has to start from the back, it would be fun if all the teams and drivers would let Sainz through to win on sunday.
    Just to make the farce complete.

    1. This is NOT ME.
      I do not wish to be associated with any comments by that user.

  3. Vegas hype (and $$) goes down the manhole

  4. Every team wanted to grant Ferrari an exception, except for angry Toto and his Mercedes gang.

  5. Watching F1 on Sky just now, apparently 1 team objected to the exemption of a penalty, and so stewards were unable to waiver.

    1. Although I understand why you don’t want to give your rivals an edge, this is a petty decision and sets an unwanted precedent in my opinion

      1. The precedent has already been set for Haas, Williams and others. If I were one of them and I’d previously been told sorry, no exceptions… I would vote against Ferrari getting a different answer.

      2. Axel, what Croft said was that he’d heard a rumour that a team had objected and thus the stewards couldn’t issue a waiver, with Croft then guessing who might have objected – but that doesn’t match up with the statement from the stewards, which explicitly refers to the FIA’s governing statutes not allowing them to offer any special dispensation to Ferrari.

        We also have precedents from past races where drivers had their cars damaged due to a drain cover where the stewards and the FIA did not offer any additional assistance to the teams involved. In 2019, Williams did not receive any special treatment in the Azerbaijan GP when Russell’s car was damaged by a manhole cover. Additionally, when Russell’s gearbox failed unexpectedly in the practice sessions for the Spanish GP, which was the subsequent race to Baku, Williams still received a 5 place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change – even though some rumours linked his gearbox failure to damage sustained from the manhole cover in Baku.

        I’d agree that there is a reasonable argument that a “force majeure” clause could be introduced into the regulations to cover instances like this – but it would seem a bit unfair to suddenly introduce it now simply because Ferrari are involved, when smaller teams at the back of the field weren’t treated in a similar manner.

        Indeed, it could be argued that the way in which this was handled was already a little unfair. Alpine were originally concerned that Ocon would have to take a new gearbox, having already had his chassis written off, but nobody on this site seems to have called for Alpine to be offered any sort of recompense or special treatment for the damage to their car, or seemed to particularly care if they might have had to take a grid penalty for a premature gearbox change.

    2. In 2005 is was Ferrari who didn’t want a exemption in the rules so the US GP could have a full grid. It blowed, but they had arguments which were understandable from their point of view. I gues now it’s the same for that other team, and also ironic that it’s the same GP, a ferrari on the other end this time.

  6. How absurd. This event has just been so farcical and it’s only just started… how’s the fans being sent packing just before the cars actually hit the track! I would be livid if I’d spent time and money on tickets and accommodation. Here’s hoping the next few days will be smooth sailing but I fear it will not be…

  7. Domenicali has to go. Anyone can do high fives with kids at GPs. This farce needs a real leader or F1 will pay dearly..

  8. How surprising, but unfair to penalize over a foreign object entirely out of any team’s control.

  9. Ferrari should protest this absolute shambles by not racing. The other teams should do the right thing and petition the FIA to do the right thing with this matter.

  10. This should end up in regular court.

  11. Doesn’t the race director have a veto on about every single decision? That’s what’s happened in Abu Dhabi 2021.

    1. No, only a few things are at their sole or absolute discretion, such as the deployment of the safety car.

    2. Didn’t work out very well for said race director, did it?

      1. Worked out well for one of the teams, though.

  12. I can see why Ferrari had to ask, especially if they are going to go down the compensation route (it makes sense to show you’ve done everything possible to minimise your losses, so trying to get out of a grid penalty that will compromise their race is understandable). But equally unsurprising that there is no flexibility in the rules to allow for this type of scenario.

    1. I agree. Crashes with other cars, losing control of the car, even bad weather, these are all normal parts of motor racing. However, the track falling apart… Surely there should be a force majeure role to cover such incidents. It’s insane that they should be penalised because the track broke.

      This is a circumstance where I would completely support a lawsuit.

      1. Surely they could find a “circuit judge” to say no race until the principles of justice are upheld. Your rules deny natural justice .

  13. All of a sudden the stewards are enforcing the rules? Didn’t see that coming. An I agree with Ferrari.

    1. They always do when it involves Ferrari.

      See the numerous impeding penalties and, most hilarious this year, only penalizing Sainz at the Melbourne restart. Unlike, you know, the drivers who literally crashed others out of the race.

      Ferrari’s political game is very weak. Even if they build a good car, like last year, they’ll inevitably keep losing unless they start to play on all fronts.

  14. Okay, let’s dig into this for a second shall we?

    Article 2.1 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations obliges all officials, including the stewards, to apply the regulations as they are written.

    Article 2.1:

    All drivers, Competitors and officials participating in the Championship undertake, on behalf of
    themselves, their employees, agents and suppliers, to observe all the provisions as
    supplemented or amended of the International Sporting Code (the Code), the Formula One
    Technical Regulations (Technical Regulations), the Formula One Financial Regulations (Financial
    Regulations) and the present Formula One Sporting Regulations together referred to as “the

    So as we can see, yes there is reference there to folloowing the regulations. However, let’s dig into the ISC and we won’t have to go far…

    1.1.1 The FIA shall be the sole international sporting
    authority entitled to make and enforce regulations based on
    the fundamental principles of safety and sporting fairness,
    for the encouragement and control of automobile
    Competitions, and to organise FIA International


    1.2.2 The purpose of the Code is to regulate, encourage and
    facilitate motor sport.
    1.2.3 It will never be enforced so as to prevent or impede a
    Competition or the participation of a Competitor, save where
    the FIA concludes that this is necessary for the safe, fair or
    orderly conduct of motor sport

    One could argue that their enforcement of the regulations, indeed impedes the participation of a competitor. Therefore, there is indeed a provision that does not oblige the stewards to to apply (together) the regulations.

    Let’s look even further into the stewards position that they do not have the ability to “derogate”? the penalty…

    11.9.1 The stewards shall have supreme authority for the
    enforcement of the Code
    , of the regulations of the FIA if
    appropriate, of national rules and Supplementary Regulations
    and of Official Programmes within the framework of the
    Event for which they are appointed, subject to the
    application of the provisions of Articles 11.9.3.w and 14.1.

    Suspension is a much more accurate term than derogation as there’s really nothing much derogatory going on is there?

    11.9.3.g may decide to suspend any penalty in accordance
    with Article 12.2.3;

    Now this is where it gets interesting as there actually is no article 12.2.3, however I think it’s a typo and meant to point to 12.3.3 which covers more specifics regarding to penalties, and this little beauty:

    12.3.3.c The decision of the stewards as to whether or not
    the penalty should be suspended is not subject to appeal
    before the national court of appeal or the international court
    of appeal.

    So if they decide to suspend a penalty, which is entirely within their power and purpose as to implement fair sporting competitions as defined in the International Sporting Code, this is not subject to appeal.

    Hope someone notes this if for no other reason than to fix up that 12.2.3 typo.

    But really, I’m so sick of the stewards deciding at a whim which things they can choose to override as they have supreme power, and which things they choose not to using the very same regulations as a blanket for. You just can’t have it both ways.

    1. Yeah, that makes it very clear that the stewards do have the power and authority not to apply that (or any) penalty. They do need to maintain the appearance of neutrality, of course, but I don’t think anyone could reasonably claim it was unfair to allow Ferrari to avoid a penalty in circumstances such as this.

    2. I love this — fantastic comment. But I do reach a different conclusion on a few points.

      1.2.2 The purpose of the Code is to regulate, encourage and
      facilitate motor sport.
      1.2.3 It will never be enforced so as to prevent or impede a
      Competition or the participation of a Competitor …

      This says that enforcement of the Code can be withheld, but not the enforcement of the regulations, which is where the power unit penalties are specified (with the word “will” and not “may”).

      11.9.1 The stewards shall have supreme authority for the
      enforcement of the Code, of the regulations …

      This reminds me of the infamous “overriding authority” of 15.3, but more encompassing. Still, it could be argued that “supreme authority” does not encompass doing the opposite of what the regulations prescribe will be done.

      Now this is where it gets interesting as there actually is no article 12.2.3, however I think it’s a typo and meant to point to 12.3.3 which covers more specifics regarding to penalties

      Reading 12.3.3, it seems clear to me that the described ability to “suspend” a penalty is limited to suspending the penalty in the case of an appeal, and that only the appeals court can overturn the penalty entirely and restore the driver to their original place in the classification.

      To be clear, I think that all penalties should be worded with “may” to make it completely unambiguous that the stewards do have the ultimate discretion. (I also think that 15.3 should have explicitly given the race director absolute discretion over the use of the safety car.) But it seems that many in F1 are uncomfortable with that approach (e.g. Abu Dhabi, track limits), and wish to see a more rigid, rules-based architecture implemented with as little room for discretion as possible.

  15. Drainz should take up his rightful position on the grid (assuming we make it to Saturday night without something worse happening.) See what the stewards do about that.

  16. The least they could have done is let Sainz race from the pointy end and put a 1 race restriction on the power unit. Limiting the replacement parts to this race only. Then they should reimburse the team (FIA-Standards/Quality/Engineering) or whomever did not adequately test and evaluate the man hole covers for improper foundations, improper drilling/adhesion techniques, environmental concerns (temperature), etc… FIA need to be more responsible for the circuits that they reign over, and the safety systems there-in.

Comments are closed.