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

Ferrari want answers over red flag delay which led to “millions” in damage

Formula 1

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Ferrari intend to have discussions about a claim for compensation over the damage done to Carlos Sainz Jnr’s car when he struck a loose water valve cover during first practice for the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

The team wants to know why the session was not immediately red-flagged when the broken cover was noticed. Team principal Frederic Vasseur said it caused “millions” in damage, in addition to causing Sainz to receive a 10-place grid penalty for using his third energy store of the season, exceeding the maximum allocation.

The incident occured eight minutes into the opening practice session at the new Las Vegas Strip Circuit. Yellow flags were displayed at the Strip before Sainz arrived at the broken cover.

Pierre Gasly, Alexander Albon and Fernando Alonso all passed through the area before Sainz arrived and hit the loose cover. At that point the session was still under yellow flags, and was only red-flagged after Sainz came to a stop.

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Sainz’s crash occured around 23 seconds after the yellow flags were first displayed. By the time the session was red-flagged the yellow flags had been waving for 70 seconds.

Vasseur said the session should have been stopped more quickly. “The main issue for me on this case is that when you put the first yellow flag, it means that you saw something,” he said. “You don’t put the yellow flag by anticipation.

“It means that the guy who put the yellow flag – and the yellow flag obviously on my board, this is coming from the race control – it means they saw something and then took one minute before putting the red flag. When it’s a straight line and you have metallic parts and [drivers] are at 340kph.”

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The team intends to seek compensation for the damage. “This will be a private discussion that I will have with the stakeholder of this,” said Vasseur. “But again, I’m a bit more upset with the way [they] managed it than with the incident itself.”

He acknowledged similar problems have occured at other tracks in recent years. “The incident we had precedent [for] in the past. Even in Monaco which is probably the top of the top of the street circuits, they had this kind of incident two or three years ago I think on the kerb exit turn one.

“We had the case in Malaysia, you had the case two times in Baku with the pit entry with Bottas a couple of years ago and with Russell. I think this is difficult to anticipate and to fix. But then the way you manage the incident [matters].”

Ferrari are also frustrated that Sainz was given a penalty for the damage caused by the cover, but Vasseur reiterated the handling of the incident is their biggest concern.

“We’ll have time to discuss next week about this,” he said. “I think it was not a very fair decision given the circumstances. It was very harsh for Carlos, very harsh for the team.

“We will have to discuss about the circumstances of the incident also because it’s not just about the cover coming out, it’s also for me that we had one minute between the yellow flag and the red flag coming out. It means that when they put the yellow flag it means they saw something on track and it took one minute before to put the red flag and I think it’s too much.”

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Ferrari asked the stewards to consider granting Sainz an dispensation from the rules to avoid a penalty, which was refused. Vasseur said it would have been possible to do it without giving his team a performance advantage.

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“It’s not an easy one to give a set of tyres or to give an engine because it’s a gain of performance,” he said. “But there is no performance in the battery.

“Considering that we missed FP1, that we had a couple of millions of damage, that we had mechanics working like hell to come back and so on I think it was not too stupid to consider the case of force majeure.”

The team will have to bring a replacement chassis for the final race of the season. “We can’t repair the chassis, even the seat was damaged,” he said.

“For sure you have a lot of extra cost that we have. The loom was damaged, the gearbox was damage, the battery was damaged, the engine is dead. We have a lot of consequences on the financial side and the sporting side on the stock of spare parts and on the budget side. For sure it’s not an easy one.”

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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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15 comments on “Ferrari want answers over red flag delay which led to “millions” in damage”

  1. Of course. Negligence has consequences. And in this case Liberty owns the track unless I aim very much mistaken.

    1. It’s kind of like what answers? The answers are 100% obvious: their car was damaged by a loose drain cover and the millions would normally be no big deal if it weren’t for a budget cap and the rule in which makes it their responsibility, which does make it a big dea. So basically they have to take up the issue with the FIA and the teams even if Liberty reimbursed them.

      So, theirs your common sense answers.

      1. That doesn’t answer what happens with the financial consequences, which are the answers that it sounds like are needed.

  2. A lawsuit, just to make it more American

    1. $200 voucher for the online store.

  3. 23 seconds of yellows before Sainz hit it is shocking.

    In a slightly related note, I noticed 2 separate incidences in practice in which a driver lost control under braking and came across another driver already in the escape road. In neither case had the yellow flag been shown at the time they slid off the track into the occupied escape road.

    Motor racing should use the GPS trackers to automatically identify stopped cars and automatically show race control that area’s camera views to ask them whether it needs to be a yellow. They’re just not fast enough with yellows.

    1. They’re just not fast enough with yellows.

      It’s a natural consequence of making yellow flags largely irrelevant and race control instead relying solely on safety cars; it also decreases the urgency for those who are supposed to wave them.

      F1 could handle the 1996 Spanish GP in a torrential downpour with only a handful of cars making it to the end – all without a single lap of FCY. That they can’t do so now is 100% on the poor level of race directors F1 has had since.

      1. Indeed, such a shame we have to rely on recording of past races to see racing in those conditions and we can’t just look forward to new ones, brazil 2016 was the last decent one, I say decent because it was still plagued by safety cars and interruptions, but at least they ran in heavy rain conditions, and then we have spa 2021, which should’ve been like brazil 2016 at least, but we know what happened.

  4. A similar precedent in this case, is Haas being compensated by Sepang circuit owners, running over a loose drain cover in practise in 2018.

    1. They did get compensated, iirc.

      1. What are the damages for potentially winning the inaugural Las Vegas race?

  5. Actually with Sainz starting from P2, Ferrari may have won the race.

  6. Could this cause Ferrari to breach the cost cap?

    1. No, because they already had the replacement parts made and ready to be put into use, while HR is a constant.
      It didn’t cost them anything at all, financially, over what they’d have spent anyway – and these new parts can be used again at the following event (or, in the case of aero, parts that weren’t used in Vegas and therefore weren’t affected).

      While Ferrari can make an argument that they’ve lost a car/parts they might otherwise sell post-season, that isn’t accounted for in the budget cap.

    2. Vasseur, in an interview with Ted Kravitz, said that there would be NO impact on the cost cap, since they had a lot of spare parts

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