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

Unhappy Sainz says he’s “paying the price” for F1’s failings after damage and penalty

Formula 1

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An unhappy Carlos Sainz Jnr says his dramatic incident in first practice when he hit a loose valve cover, and the penalty he got as a result, shows there are many ways F1 must improve.

The Ferrari driver suffered extensive damage to his car when he struck a loose water valve cover in the opening minutes of the first practice session at the new Las Vegas Strip Circuit.

He was travelling at around 300kph when the incident happened. Sainz said he was “okay” after the hit.

“I had a pretty big hit on my back and on my neck after the incident that you guys all saw,” he said. “Unfortunately, obviously the chassis, the power unit, the battery, even my seat was damaged after the incident.”

He praised the “huge effort from all the mechanics and the team to put together a completely brand new car for FP2 that allowed me to complete the session.”

“It was, in my opinion, a heroic effort by the team and the mechanics and I could take [part] in the session,” said Sainz. “We managed to do it, recover the time and focus on tomorrow.”

Sainz was encouraged by his car’s performance in the second practice session. “It felt good,” he said. “You can clearly see this weekend we are relatively competitive.

“I think the track layout is suiting a bit more compared to the last few. We seem to be switching on well the tyres over one lap and being competitive. So I was quite excited and optimistic.”

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However the collision with the valve cover damaged Sainz’s power unit and his team had to exceed his maximum allocation of energy stores while repairing it. While the stewards were sympathetic towards the team’s situation, they had to impose a 10-place grid penalty on the Ferrari driver.

“Unfortunately, as the session finished, the team communicated to me that I was taking a 10-place grid penalty for something that I have no fault and the team has no fault,” said Sainz. “Obviously this has changed completely my mindset and obviously my opinion on the weekend and how the weekend is going to go from now on.

“You can obviously imagine how disappointed I am, in disbelief with the situation and you will not see me very happy this weekend.”

Sainz said the combination of a crash which was caused by a fault on the circuit, and a penalty for a situation they could not have avoided, highlighted improvements F1 must make.

“What happened today for me is a very clear example of how the sport can be improved in so many ways. The FIA, teams, rules that – this could clearly be applied as force majeure for me not to take a penalty, but some way there’s always people always ways to make this situation worse for an individual. And I think in this case it’s my turn to pay the price.”

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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...
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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35 comments on “Unhappy Sainz says he’s “paying the price” for F1’s failings after damage and penalty”

  1. It’s ridiculous that he has to take a penalty due to the gross negligence of the organizers. They need to resolve that or the sport looks amateur. Hitting unsecured metal objects on the track is not a normal risk of racing.

    1. Have the FIA or Liberty even apologized? If not, they should bow their heads in shame.

      1. Neither F1 nor the FIA will apologise. Their lawyers will advise them that an apology is an admission of culpability.

    2. I’m not a Ferrari fan, but fair is fair. The organizers and the FIA should cover the costs from this incident and there should be no penalty.
      I’m beginning to lose my love for the sport. The fiasco with the 21 championship and incidents like this have been why I am not as excited to see the sport anymore.
      If it feels rigged or unfair, then it’s not a sport. Might as well watch fake wrestling for the show.

  2. I agree that the penalty is harsh. That being said, why should Ferrari benefit by refreshing worn out power unit components?

    The issue stems back to limiting the number of power unit components. That rule was brought in to save money before the cost cap. Now that we have the cost cap, the power unit limit is redundant. If a team wants to spend their resources on a new engine for every race, let them.

    1. As long as power unit costs are within the cap and controlled reasonably, I completely agree. The same goes for a lot of things, including many minimum weights and limits on materials in use: They were brought in as indirect ways to control costs, but we now have a direct way to control costs so they are redundant.

      1. Not just control costs, but also rewards reliability. Provides an aspect of engineering competition outside of pure performance.

        Making something cheap that brakes often is not as valuable as something that lasts a long time.

    2. Better question is why should they be penalised by being forced to take new components for a failure that was entirely outside of their control.

      It’s not a choice they made or a side effect of poor reliability which is what the penalties are there to punish.

      They’re not there to punish drivers for having the bad fortune of going out first on an unsafe circuit.

    3. I agree that the penalty is harsh. That being said, why should Ferrari benefit by refreshing worn out power unit components?

      So if the penalty is harsh, but Ferrari must not be allowed to benefit, then what’s the solution?

      1. Beyond running the new components on a dyno to age them to the same level of wear as the destroyed components, I don’t think there is a solution for this specific case.

      2. @khurtwilliams Let everyone have a free component swap.

        Maybe then the FIA will remember never to let this happen again.

  3. Terrible decision by the stewards. They have the ability to suspend penalties and pretending they don’t for whatever reason is disgraceful. One has to ask where is Steve Nielsen in any of these decisions. As the FIA sporting director who has final responsible for the sporting regulations, surely he could shine a light on these matters to ensure a fair sporting outcome where a competitor isn’t penalised for a dangerous failure of the circuit.

    In no world is it the aim of the regulations to hand out a penalty in a scenario such as this. Sainz and Ferrari did absolutely nothing befitting of a penalty.

    1. The stewards wrote in the ruling that they would have not given a penalty to Sainz if they had the authority to do that, but they don’t.

      1. In actual fact they literally have supreme authority over the enforcement of the regulations.

        1. As witnessed in 2021…

        2. I’m philosophically in agreement with you, but the regulations in question offer the stewards no discretion in their language. The wording for some penalties, like license points, state that the penalties “may” be imposed. But the grid penalties for power unit elements “will be imposed”. And, of course, section 2.1 holds that officials “undertake … to observe all the provisions” of the regulations.

          The stewards may have the literal ability to ignore the regulations in the same sense that any official has the ability to turn a blind eye to illegal conduct, but I can’t find any language that suggests they have the authority to do so.

          That’s a problem with the regulations that seems to come up all too often with F1. Comparing F1’s rulebook to IndyCar’s, for example, is an interesting exercise, in that (as far as I can tell) IndyCar’s rulebook uses exclusively “may” constructions, like “may impose” or “may be subject to”. I think the entire F1 sporting regulations need to be revised with a few more “mays” to give officials more discretion. That would certainly have saved us a lot of discourse over Abu Dhabi in 2021…

          1. As mentioned elsewhere, the ISC states that the stewards have the authority to suspend any penalty. I’m pretty sure that would give them the right to not apply it here.

        3. Based on what, though? The regulations give a lot of cases where the stewards can impose a penalty, or additional penalties, but the regulations on exceeding the number of are pretty unambiguous (emphasis mine):

          29.2.a Should a driver use more than the allowable maximum value of elements for a given RNC, a grid penalty will be imposed upon him for the race at the first Competition during which each additional element is used.

          Ferrari likely wouldn’t have gotten a penalty if this had happened in Spain, and they would have just slotted in a new ES. But this late in the season they’re all on their last parts.

          1. The International Sporting Code is equally unambiguous:

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

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

            Note: in the 2023 version of the International Sporting Code, there is no Article 12.2.3, only an Article 12.2.1 that is followed by letters going to 12.2.1o.

    2. The FIA’s international sporting code (which is defined in the sporting regulations as part of “the regulations”)… I go into more detail in the comments on the other article about the story here.

      It clearly states the duty of the stewards and that they may suspend penalties.

      @markzastrow @michaelN

  4. Jim the Nameless
    17th November 2023, 16:00

    It’s Ferrari’s fault for not being Red Bull.

    1. This. The drain accident could easily have happened to Max. No way would he have been given a grid penalty.

      1. I think Max would have taken the first flight home.

        1. Nah, Max is all talk no action. He likes to give his opinion on everything but he wouldn’t defy his team (unless it benefits him) or F1.

          1. I think you will be mistaken by that but in that case he has to think about his team and stays for them.

  5. In this case where the fault is clearly not the team’s or driver’s, they should have been given an exemption.

    Hopefully the cost of the fiix isn’t part of Ferrari’s budget…but we all know the saying in Vegas:

    They broke it, you bought it :)

    1. Michael, I agree that it seems ridicuous to penalise Sainz for a track failing, and yes, the stewards should have been more flexible, but then you start getting into increasingly grey areas. Suppose it is the Aussie GP and a wombat lurches across the track and a car piles into a barrier trying to avoid it. Is it fair to penalise the driver for a failing on the part of the track to have a wombat-proof fence? Suppose a driver is driving at legal speed down the pit lane and hit by another car wrecking the gear box? Or a brand new tyre from the monopoly tyre supplier bursts on the first fast lap? And so on. It is hard to know where to draw the line. It still feels hugely unfair on Sainz though.

      1. I understand about the gray areas but the stewards and the FIA seem to have no problem crossing gray areas in some instances.

        This was a fairly clear case – where it’s gray, they can err on the side of caution and penalize the driver/team.

  6. No Christmas Holiday for the FIA this year they will need to start doing their homework. F1 is becoming a laughable amateurish sport. They should really have a long hard look at that book of Formula 1 rules and do a proper rewrite. Top of the list, Track limits and how to be consistent.

  7. David Croft reports to Sky Sports that nine teams would have voted to allow Sainz to replace the parts without a penalty, but that one team refused to do so. If this is true than you can’t blame the FIA for applying the rules. Furthermore it will set a precedent for future incidents and where do you draw the line. Should they than not also have been more lenient to Ricciardo in Brasil? What if you are the victim of a race incident? Maybe also more fair to be lenient on those cases but it will also lead to more inconsistencies

    1. Being a victim of a racing incident is different than being a victim of an external factor out of all drivers’ & teams’ control.

    2. There is nothing in the International Sporting Code that allows this situation to be brought to a vote, so the opinions of the teams isn’t relevant.

  8. FIA again struggles with common sense application for different things.
    He couldn’t be more right about the force majeure argument & how FIA always tries to find an excuse for penalizing individuals or teams in situations caused by external factors.

  9. The stupidity of this ‘showtime’ Grand Prix knows no bounds.

    I suggest that the Ferrari team should take their grid places, then at the completion of the formation lap, pull into the pit garage and shut the roller doors.

    To me, it is disgraceful that Sainz should in this instance be landed with a ten place grid penalty. I totally agree with Fred Vasseur’s anger about the stupid incident that caused so much damage.

    To use a U.S.A. term – both Liberty and the F.I.A. in this instance really “suck”!

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