Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz in ‘disbelief’ over grid penalty for Las Vegas Grand Prix

Sainz is being punished after a manhole cover damaged his car.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz in ‘disbelief’ over grid penalty for Las Vegas Grand Prix
F1 Grand Prix of Las Vegas - Practice
Carlos Sainz will start the Las Vegas GP no higher than 11th (Photo: Getty)

Carlos Sainz says he is ‘disappointed and in disbelief’ after receiving a grid penalty for the Las Vegas Grand Prix after a manhole cover damaged his Ferrari.

Just eight minutes into first practice for the F1 first race in Sin City in over 40 years, a loose manhole cover struck the underside of Sainz’s car as he approached 200mph on the Las Vegas Boulevard.

The session was immediately red-flagged and the called-of as the track inspectors were forced to check every manhole on the street circuit to ensure the incident did not repeat itself.

That in turn delayed second practice by two-and-a-half hours, with spectators forced to leave the grandstands early in farcical scenes.

But it was not just fans who were incensed, as the incident damaged Sainz’s chassis and power unit, parts of which needed to be replaced.

This usually incurs a penalty, but given that the damage was out of the driver and team’s control, Ferrari asked the stewards for an exemption, but the FIA have shown no sympathy to their situation.

‘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,’ the stewards said.

Manhole That Caused Carlos Sainz Incident At The Las Vegas Grand Prix at Las Vegas Strip Circuit on 17/11/2023, in Las Vegas, United States. Photo by Francois Tremblay/Motorsport Images. * Editorial use only to German and UK newspapers and non-motor racing or automotive publications or digital platforms. * Pictured: GV,General View Ref: SPL10002294 171123 NON-EXCLUSIVE Picture by: Motorsport Images / Splash News and Pictures USA: 310-525-5808 UK: 020 8126 1009 Germany Rights, United Kingdom Rights
The manhole that damaged Sainz’s car (Photo: Motorsport Images)

As such, Sainz has been handed a 10-place grid penalty, meaning he will start the race no higher than 11th, a great shame given that Ferrari are showing strong pace this weekend.

Scuderia boss Frederic Vasseur called the situation ‘unacceptable’ with the Spanish driver adding: ‘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.

‘There will be opportunities [in the race]. But right now I am just too disappointed with the outcome and I don’t want to talk too much about the future because what happened today, for me, was 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 someway there is always people or ways to make the situation worse for an individual and in this case it’s my turn to pay the price.’

Sainz had finished the second practice session second-fastest, though was over half-a-second slower than his teammate Charles Leclerc.

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