Carlos Sainz has been left in ‘disbelief’ after receiving a 10-place grid penalty for the Las Vegas Grand Prix after a force majeure incident in FP1 which curtailed the session after just eight minutes.

Sainz’s Vegas weekend was immediately thrown off-kilter when he fell victim to a loose drain cover in the opening minutes of FP1. The Ferrari driver ground to a halt seconds after the hit to the underfloor, bringing out the red flags with the session called off after just eight minutes.

After striking the loose cover at 200mph, there were obvious concerns over the Ferrari driver’s health but, thankfully, the Spaniard was uninjured in the encounter.

“I’m okay, thank you,” Sainz told F1TV on his return to the paddock after FP2. “I had a pretty big hit on my neck and my back after the incident that you guys all saw.”

His car which suffered extensive damage in the incident and left the Ferrari mechanics with the task of preparing a new car for an FP2 session delayed by 150 minutes as circuit engineers covered and repaired over 30 drains around the track.

“Unfortunately, obviously the chassis, power unit, battery, even my seat was damaged after the incident which involved a huge effort from the mechanics and team to put together a brand new car for FP2 which allowed me to complete the session.

“It’s a heroic effort by the team and mechanics and I could take part in the session. We managed to do it, recover that time and [now we can] focus on tomorrow.”

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari SF-23.
16.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Las Vegas Grand Prix, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Practice Day.
–, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

As the flag dropped on the extended 90-minute practice session, Sainz wound up second fastest, five-tenths adrift of team-mate Charles Leclerc.

With the Ferrari looking competitive around the streets of Sin City, Saturday night’s race should have presented the marque with the perfect opportunity to narrow the 20-point deficit to Mercedes in the Constructors’ Standings.

“It felt good, you can clearly see this weekend we are relatively competitive as I think the track layout is suiting us more compared to the last few,” he continued. “We seem to be switching the tyres on well over one lap and being competitive so I was quite excited and optimistic.”

But to his disbelief, the five-time pole sitter was handed a ten-place grid penalty after being forced to take a fourth energy store – of three allowed per season – in the earlier repair job.

“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, the team has no fault and obviously this has completely changed my mindset and my opinion on the weekend and how the weekend is going to go from now on,” said a dejected Sainz.

An earlier steward’s decision noted the “highly unusual and unfortunate circumstances” that led to the infringement, however Ferrari’s request for dispensation was rejected as “Article 2.1 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations obliges all officials, including the Stewards, to apply the regulations as they are written.”

“You can obviously [understand] how disappointed and in disbelief I am with the situation, but yeah, you will not see me very happy this weekend,” Sainz said in response.

“Yes, there will be [overtaking] opportunities but as I said right now, I’m too disappointed with the outcome and I don’t want to talk too much about the future because what happened today is a very clear example of how this sport can be improved in so many ways.

“[The] FIA, teams and rules that can clearly be applied as force majeure for me not to take a penalty, but there’s always ways to make the situation worse for an individual and I think this time, it’s my turn to pay the price.”

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