LAS VEGAS–Carlos Sainz said he paid the price for Formula One’s shortcomings after a loose drain cover destroyed his Ferrari and caused him to lose 10 positions on the grid at Friday’s Las Vegas Grand Prix.
Thursday’s first practice session lasted just eight minutes before Sainz’s car hit the metal guard in a storm of sparks. The second session finally started on Friday at 02:30 local time, after a security check.
Race officials rejected the Italian team’s request for a penalty-free repair because they said they were obliged to apply the regulations as written.
“The justices note that if they had the authority to grant a waiver under the circumstances they consider in this case to be extenuating, unusual and unfortunate, they would do so,” they said.
“However, the regulations do not allow such actions.”
The Ferrari’s survival cell, engine, energy storage and control electronics were damaged beyond repair.
Drivers are entitled to two energy storage units per season, and Spaniard Sainz will now use the third, resulting in an automatic 10-place penalty.
Sainz took part in second practice, finishing second behind teammate Charles Leclerc, and praised his mechanics for their “heroic” effort.
His joy at being back on the track evaporated when the team told him about the penalty.
“I was very excited and optimistic,” he told reporters.
“Unfortunately, after the session, the team told me that I would be penalized 10 places on the grid for something that was neither me nor the team’s fault, and of course that completely changed my mindset and my opinion about the weekend and its mileage from now on.
“You won’t see me very happy this weekend,” he added.
The Spaniard said there would be opportunities to overtake, but was too nervous to talk about what might happen.
“What happened today is, to me, a very clear example of how this sport can be improved in so many ways,” he said.
“The FIA, the teams, the rules – it can clearly be seen as force majeure for me not to take the penalty, but somehow there are always people, there are always ways to make a person worse off and I think in this case it’s my turn to pay the price “
Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur said the incident was “unacceptable”.
“I think it’s hard for the team to come to Vegas and have to deal with an incident like this,” he said.
After the first training session, Vasseur told reporters that the incident would cost his team a fortune.
“I’m definitely frustrated. I’m also afraid because Carlos hit a metal part at 320 km/h and it could have been much worse,” added the Frenchman.
McLaren boss Zak Brown sympathized with Ferrari and said he would support a waiver.
“You have to admit it’s force majeure and it’s not their fault,” he told Sky Sports. “A very unfortunate and exceptional case. I was a little surprised when I saw this.
“I think we need to be more supportive if something like this happens. I would support them not receiving punishment.