Sainz F1 grid penalty after Vegas incident ‘huge blow’ for Ferrari

Sainz’s car was seriously damaged after it ran over a water valve cover early in the opening session of testing.

The team had to rebuild the car around the spare chassis, as well as swap out the power unit and gearbox.

Unfortunately for the Spaniard, one of the items affected was the energy reserve, and taking the third example of the season, a grid penalty was automatically imposed.

Vasseur tried to argue with the stewards that it was force majeure but to no avail.

“Sure, I went there, I discussed with them,” he said when asked if he had tried to get an exemption. “It’s a strange feeling for us, because firstly, I don’t think we did anything wrong.

“We have to pay a big price for that. And at the top, you have a penalty when you know we are fighting for the championship, and to get 10 places is a big blow.

“Well, we have to try to avoid thinking about it, to do the job that we can get back to. We have a good pace, we have to focus on qualifying, and then do a good race. We are not doing that. “I don’t have time to discuss this.”

Asked if other teams could support his cause, he said: “I don’t think it can be a decision of the teams, to say we allow them to do this or that. Now tomorrow if someone pushes the other direction, it’s another story.”

Photography: Simon Galloway / Motorsport pictures

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

As with the Alpine car with Esteban Ocon’s damaged car, the team had no problem getting around the rule that restricts a driver to using one chassis per day.

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“That was a good joke, too,” Vasseur said. “You’re not allowed to change your car’s bodywork during the day. But they told us it’s past midnight, so that means it’s not the same day anymore!”

Vasseur stressed that the rebuilding between sessions was made possible by the two-and-a-half-hour delay to the start of FP2.

“We’re not trying to get a record on this,” he said. “But it was definitely big, because we had to change the chassis, engine, battery and gearbox to build a new one. It was good work by the mechanics.”

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On a more positive note, Charles Leclerc topped the second free practice session for Ferrari, while Sainz came in second place.

“We know it’s a bit like Monaco or Baku, it’s a long weekend and we have to step up over the weekend,” Vasseur said. “It’s not just important to be fast in pole position, it’s even better to be fast in pole position.

“We know it’s down to the grain, but so far, so good. The track will improve a lot more than the normal track, and that means you have to anticipate what the condition track will be like for Saturday.”

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