F1’s flagship Vegas race weekend endured a turbulent start after the first practice session was red-flagged eight minutes in and then FP2 was delayed by 2hrs30mins as steps were taken to cement 30 water valve covers in place after one was lifted by Esteban Ocon and then ran over by Sainz.
The major impact on the underside of the SF-23 resulted in Ferrari needing to build a new chassis and swap the internal combustion engine, energy store and control electronics.
Sainz has revealed that hitting the object also damaged his seat as he sustained an impact on his neck and back. The Spaniard said: “I’m OK. I had a pretty big hit on my back and my neck after the incident.
“Unfortunately, obviously a chassis, the power unit, the battery, even my seat was damaged after the incident, which involved a 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, which was, in my opinion, a heroic effort.”
Since Ferrari was required to fit a third control electronics package of the season to exceed the permitted two, he has been automatically hit with a 10-place grid penalty for the Saturday night race.
Photo by: Motorsport Images
Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari
The stewards, who are believed to have spent over two hours navigating the rules to look for an escape route, wanted to clear the team of any wrongdoing.
Their verdict noted: “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.”
Sainz reckoned this inability of the sporting regulations to compensate for “force majeure” situations proves that F1 and the FIA still can be improved in “so many ways”.
He continued: “I was quite excited and optimistic. Unfortunately, as the session finished the team communicated with me that I was taking a 10-place grid penalty for something that I had no fault in.
“Obviously, this has changed completely my mindset and my opinion on how the weekend is going to go from now on. You can image how disappointed and in disbelief I am with the situation.
“You will not see me very happy this weekend.
“What happened today for me is a very clear example of how this sport can be improved in so many ways. FIA, teams, rules – this could clearly be applied as force majeure for me not to take a penalty.