Sainz hit with 10-place grid drop after loose drain cover incident

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Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz has been hit with a ten-place grid drip penalty after his team was forced to make changes to his car following the practice incident in Las Vegas.

The opening session at the Las Vegas Grand Prix was red-flagged after just eight minutes of running when Carlos Sainz came to a halt. While it was first believed that he encountered a power unit-related issue, it quickly became obvious that a loose drain cover caused the damage to the Spaniard’s SF23.

Ferrari’s investigation showed that the car has sustained excessive damage, with the survival cell, internal combustion engine, energy store and control electronics having been “damaged beyond repair following an impact with a foreign object.”

As a result of it, Ferrari needed to rebuild Sainz’s car and fit a fresh engine, energy store and control electronics. It appears that Ferrari equipped the SF23 with a previously used internal combustion engine and control electronics.

However, there was no other usable energy store in Sainz’ pool which meant that he has been forced to use a completely new one, exceeding his pool. The change has triggered a ten-place grid penalty, which the Spaniard will serve on Sunday.

For obvious reasons, Ferrari requested dispensation from the stewards in order to carry out the required repairs without incurring the usual grid penalties but were denied.

The FIA's statement read: “The stewards determine that notwithstanding the fact that the damage was caused by highly unusual external circumstances, Article 2.1 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations obliges all officials, including the Stewards, to apply the regulations as they are written,” read the document.

“Accordingly, the mandatory penalty specified under Article 28.3 of the Sporting Regulations must be applied.

“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.”

With Ferrari suffering a huge financial and sporting blow for an incident that was out of their control, it was no surprise to see Team Principal Fred Vasseur angry following the stewards' weird decision.

"Sure, I went there, and I discussed with them," the Frenchman said when asked if he'd tried to get dispensation. "It's a strange feeling for us, because first, I don't think that we did something wrong.

"We have to pay a mega price for this. And on the top, you have the penalty when you know that we are fighting for the championship, and 10 places is a huge hit. OK, we that we have to try to avoid thinking about it, to do the job that we can come back. We have a good pace, we have to be focused on the quali, and then to do a good race. We don't have time to discuss this."

Commenting his opening day at Las Vegas, two-time F1 race winner Sainz said: "An eventful day for us after the problem in FP1 with the manhole cover. Our guys however did an amazing job. They basically had to rebuild the entire car ahead of FP2 and thanks to them we managed to complete our programme in the second session, so a big thank you to all the mechanics.

"We seem to be on the competitive side this weekend and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. On the negative side, we have been given a 10-place penalty for Sunday after the manhole cover damaged, amongst other things, my battery and we had to replace it. I honestly cannot understand it and I think an exemption to the rule should have been considered given what happened, but we’ll have to deal with it."

Speaking of the stewards' decision, the Spaniard added: "“What happened today for me is a very clear example of how the sport can be improved in so many ways,” he said.

“The FIA, teams, rules that – this could clearly be applied as force majeure for me not to take a penalty, but some way there’s always people, always ways to make this situation worse for an individual. And I think in this case it’s my turn to pay the price.”"