Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Yas Marina, 2023

Current cars make drivers a passenger in high-speed crashes, Sainz and Ricciardo say

Formula 1

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Carlos Sainz Jnr’s heavy crash in second practice at Yas Marina was another example of how the current generation of cars are susceptible to snapping out of control at high speed, he says.

The Ferrari driver hit a TecPro barrier at turn three after losing control of his car as he went through the sequence of quick corners at the beginning of the lap. Sainz said he was “feeling good” despite a “pretty big crash” which caused extensive damage to the right-hand side of his SF-23.

“But in the end, again, with these safe cars you can get away with these pretty big hits pretty untouched,” he said. “And that’s the case now, I’m obviously a little bit sore but nothing to worry about.”

He said there was nothing he could do to avoid the crash once the car got away from him. “I just couldn’t control the car,” said Sainz. “It just snapped on me and it’s those moments where you feel like you’re a complete passenger and you wish you maybe would have done something different.”

Sainz said changes in the track surface in recent years contributed to his crash. The Yas Marina circuit has been resurfaced in two places since F1 raced there last year, but not in the area where the Ferrari crashed.

“For some reason there’s been a change in the track compared to all other years,” Sainz explained. “There’s two bumps, one at the exit of turn two and one at the entry of turn three that, with this new generation of cars, it’s upsetting the car a lot.”

Robert Shwartzman, who drove alongside Sainz in the first practice session, told the team he also nearly lost control of his car at that point on the track. Sainz said “it nearly caught me out in FP1” too.

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“I changed a few things in the set-up and in the line trying to get rid of it. And then for some reason, again, in that lap, it surprised me. It must have been an angle or exactly a way that I took the bump and it made me just be a passenger from there on.”

Isack Hadjar, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2023
Gallery: 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix practice in pictures
Sainz believes the new technical regulations introduced last year, which allow teams to generate significant levels of downforce from their floors, have made them more susceptible to losing downforce in high-speed corners when they encounter bumps.

“We’ve seen before with this generation of cars,” he said, “that any of these small bumps can really make you spin, make you have a pretty heavy crash. So it’s not ideal but it’s what it is. We will try and make it better tomorrow.”

Despite the extensive damage to his car, Sainz is confident his team will be able to avoid having to replace any parts which might incur penalties, as happened to him in Las Vegas last week.

Daniel Ricciardo said Sainz’s shunt was similar to Lando Norris’ crash during the Las Vegas Grand Prix, and also believes it is partly a consequence of the current generation of cars.

“It looked like they were probably just running the car too low, because it looked like he was already starting to kind of hit [the floor],” said Ricciardo. “It’s kind of what happened with Lando in the last race.

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“I say it’s strange because turns two and three, we should be able to do with our eyes closed. They’re fast corners but they’re easy-flat. So that’s why I say strange, [like] I look back at my Monaco crash last year in the Swimming Pool.

“That’s the only thing with these cars, you have to run them so low at the rear to get the downforce out of them and you end up going into a place that becomes pretty sketchy. And obviously it gets the most sketchy at high-speed when the car is fully loaded and low.

“So you can get incidents like that, which obviously aren’t nice to see and you can’t do anything, you can’t react. You saw Carlos, he’s turning and then all of a sudden, he’s Mr Passenger. So I’m happy to hear he was all right.

“Obviously then Lando’s does last week, I didn’t want to go too hard on red flag situations, this and that, but maybe there’s a few talking points tonight in the drivers briefing.”

Nico Hulkenberg also crashed during today’s practice session, at the exit of turn one, which he said was “just a mistake from my side.”

“A driver error,” he continued. “I just wanted a bit too much too soon. I lost the car. Not a big impact but it was the end of the session.”

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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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11 comments on “Current cars make drivers a passenger in high-speed crashes, Sainz and Ricciardo say”

  1. LOL, that’s exactly what everyone with any knowledge of ground effect cars said would happen … but these clowns in F1 don’t listen.
    Once that ‘suction’ holding the car to the deck is broken by necessary front-on airflow under the car at speed being interrupted, cars go from huge downforce to zero downforce.

  2. I thought F1 cars had always had an instability issue, I remember cars over the years spinning out of control because they’d touched a white line, cars brushing walls and causing the suspension to collapse, and I’m sure the phrase “the driver was a passenger, all the way to the scene of the accident” was used back when Murray Walker was commentating. I also remeber from back then, an ex driver talking about how drivers were encouraged to let go of the steering wheel once they’d got into an accident in prograss, so they didn’t break thumbs or wrists. So little changes.

    What does worry me though is that floors were raised after Senna’s accident because as soon as cars lost the floor effect downforce, they’d turn into unstable low flying aircraft with no hope of slowing down. I fear they’ve forgotten the lessons of the past.

  3. The safety level he mentioned makes it even more of a joke that we can’t continue to run a race with a car pulled off somewhere it’d take doing a three point turn before a driver could it hit.

    The speed of car recovery versus just less than ten years ago has become a joke too.

  4. Billy Rae Flop
    24th November 2023, 23:26

    Except they aren’t saying loss of suction is the issue. They’re saying to get the most of he car you have to run it low and when doing so it’ll get unsettled by bumps more easily. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood but reading the article did make me think is Senna’s crash in 94 and in fact maybe his issues prior that season with the car. Also landos crash last weekend. They really are losing the cars at sections that should be comfortable flat out. Why though is it seemingly more of an issue now? Last I remember this being an issue was Lewis nearly losing it in the race through the flat out kinks on the Baku main straight

  5. Coventry Climax
    25th November 2023, 0:18

    These are the kind of incidents that got the ground effect banned last time. So far, the consequences haven’t been extremely serious. I sincerely hope there’s a difference somehow, that ensures we won’t get to see anything in said extremely serious category.
    When the GE is disrupted/broken, that’s similar to a ‘normal’ car losing both its wings.

    If the FiA want to stick with GE cars, they should mandate every track surface to be checked for bumps of certain dimensions, and deal with these bumps if they do exceed those dimensions.
    That’s a safety issue. The FiA claims that’s their top priority, but I got the feeling they’re quite selective about it. Especially when there’s ‘show’ at stake. Drain covers being a recent example.

  6. yeah, if F1 wants to run ground effects than they should offset the cost of resurfacing the whole track, every year.

    1. With all the money they made from Vegas privacy screens, they can now afford to do this.

      Or rather, take down the privacy barriers at next year’s vegas race and give us poor fans a chance.

  7. Why can’t the teams setup the cars just a fraction higher and not bottoming out? Why do all the commentators seem to blame “F1” and want “FIA” to do something, while the teams have it in their own hands?

    1. Because some teams can’t be trusted to sacrifice car performance in favour of driver wellbeing. That hands an unfair advantage to those teams that are prepared to put their drivers at greater risk. We saw it last year when some teams were struggling with porpoising – some (e.g. McLaren) chose to raise their cars and go a bit slower to avoid the problem, while others (e.g. Mercedes) kept their ride heights low and chose instead to loudly complain about the porpoising instead, as though it wasn’t within their gift to solve. Eventually the FIA caved.

      1. The FIA ‘caved’ because of which teams were involved.
        If the big teams weren’t having those issues, there would almost certainly have been no changes. But when 2 of the Big 3 are having these issues, it’s suddenly not acceptable…

    2. They can, and that is the obvious solution. But it sacrifices performance, and because F1 had made the shortsighted decision to put all their eggs in the chassis basket, and banned all performance differentiation on engines and tyres, it is very hard to convince the teams to raise ride height.

      Also, this ill-conceived car formula has made underbody downforce critically important. It’s also why 2023 is already significantly worse than 2022 (thanks Mercedes). Raising the ride height again is going to further dilute the effects they were going for and make following other cars more difficult still. It’s not just a case of ground effect or not. Cars in 2021 also got a large part of their downforce from the underbody.

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