There was no shortage of incident or controversy at the Las Vegas Grand Prix and Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz was at the very heart of it. The opening practice session was only nine minutes old when the Spaniard ran into a spot of bother that would have huge ramifications for not only himself but the race itself.
Sparks flew out of the back of Sainz’s car when he hit a raised manhole cover on the Nevada street circuit, badly damaging the underside of his vehicle. It caused the entire session to be called off whilst race organisers tried to fix the track problem and by the time another session could resume it was 2.30am local time.
The two-and-half-hour delay meant that Ferarri had time to fix Sainz’s car, replacing his energy store with a new component. Given that the damage was caused by a circuit defect and was out of their control, the Italian outfit asked the stewards if the changes made to the car could be completed without incurring a penalty.
But after discussions between FIA’s single-seater director Nikolas Tombazis and Ferrari, the stewards were not accommodating of the request and insisted that Sainz must take the standard penalty.
A statement from the stewards read: “The stewards note that 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.”
Returning the to track in his rebuilt car, Sainz finished second only to team-mate Charles LeClerc in the session as the Ferraris looked in good shape on the streets of Las Vegas.
But the 29-year-old’s positive mood was short-lived as he soon learned that he was to be slapped with a 10-grid place penalty for the work that had been done on his car after the first session incident.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Sainz said: “We seem to be switching on the tyres well over one lap and being competitive, so I was quite excited and optimistic. 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 have no fault.
“That changed completely my mindset and my opinion on the weekend and how it’s going to go from now on. I’m disappointed and in disbelief with the situation. You will not see me very happy this weekend.”
A poll of Express Sport readers confirms that F1 fans are in total agreement with Sainz and could not believe that he was handed such a harsh penalty for his unfortunate incident.
A total of 1,588 readers took part in the online poll with an emphatic 89 per cent agreeing that the Las Vegas Grand Prix practice session chaos was a bad look for F1. Only 11 per cent disagreed.
When asked if the stewards were wrong to penalise Sainz for the rebuild of his car, 88 per cent agreed with only 12 per cent believing it to be the correct decision.
As a result of his grid penalty, Sainz started the race in 12th position but managed to carve his way through the field to claim a respectable sixth-placed finish.