Sainz fumes over ‘unacceptable, too severe’ penalty


Carlos Sainz was fuming almost as much as George Russell's flammable power unit after the chaotic, confusing and controversial finish to today's Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne's Albert Park Circuit.

Sainz had been running in fourth place during the opening laps but lost out when he pitted under an early safety car only for the race to be red flagged shortly afterwards.

However he successfully battled his way back from that setback, and on lap 25 successfully passed Pierre Gasly to retake his position in fourth behind Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso.

Crash involving Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari SF-23 and Fernando Alonso (ESP) Aston Martin F1 Team AMR23 at the second restart of the race. 02.04.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images

The pair went on to line up alongside each other for a restart following a late red flag for Kevin Magnussen's hitting the barrier on lap 53, which had left debris scattered across the track.

When the race got back underway, Sainz inadvertently made contact with the back of Alonso's car, sending the Aston spinning off and sparking a cascade of collisions behind them.

Race control handed Sainz a five second penalty for causing the collision, which because of the way all the cars had been packed together by the red flag meant that Sainz dropped from fourth to 12th in the final standings.

“No, it cannot be, Ricky! This will put me out of the points,” Sainz wailed over the radio to his race engineer Ricky Adami. "It’s unacceptable! Tell them it is unacceptable!

"Tell them they need to wait until the race is finished and discuss with me," he added in growing despair. “Ask them please, please, please, please, please, to wait and discuss with me.

"Clearly the penalty is not deserved, it’s too severe," he insisted. Unfortunately his pleas went unheeded and he was duly classified out of the top ten when the race results were finally published.

His anger had not dissipated by the time he was out of the car and back in the paddock after the chequered flag.

“Yeah, I prefer not to talk right now honestly,” Sainz told Sky Sports F1 when the media did manage to catch up with him. “I’m too disappointed, I’m going to say bad things.

"It’s the most unfair penalty I’ve seen in my life," he insisted. "I prefer to go to the stewards now, have a conversation with them, and then come back and talk to you guys, because now I cannot do it.”

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari SF-23 in the pits while the race is stopped. 02.04.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

For his part, Alonso agreed that Sainz' penalty had been too much. “Probably the penalty is too harsh, because on lap 1 it’s very difficult always to judge what the grip level is and I think we don’t go intentionally into another car.

“We know that we also risk our car and our final position, so sometimes you end up in places that you wish you weren’t in that moment and it’s just part of racing, but I didn’t see the replay properly, but for me it feels too harsh.”

However the race stewards remained resolute in their decision, and gave a fuller explanation in a statement released after the end of the release.

They wrote that “the stewards reviewed positioning/marshalling system data, video, timing, telemetry, team radio and in-car video evidence" of the collision.

"[They] determined that Car 55 [Sainz] was wholly to blame for the collision.

"Car 14 [Alonso] was significantly ahead of Car 55 at the first corner and nevertheless Car 55 drove into Car 14, causing it to spin and leave the track.
We accordingly imposed a five-second penalty on Car 55.

“For avoidance of doubt, we took into account the fact that this collision took place at the first lap of the restart, when, by convention, the stewards would typically take a more lenient view of incidents.

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF-23 retired from the race. 02.04.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Charniaux / XPB Images

“However, in this particular case, notwithstanding the fact that it was the equivalent of a first lap incident, we considered that there was sufficient gap for Car 55 to take steps to avoid the collision and failed to do so.”

Sainz and Ferrari still have the option of appealing the penalty if they wish to, with a busy night already in prospect for the stewards

The penalty had been a double blow for Ferrari, which had earlier seen Charles Leclerc spin out on lap 9. It means Leclerc has retired from two of the first three races, which he described as his "worst ever start of the season".

Between them, Leclerc and Sainz have managed to pick up just 26 points so far, putting them in fourth place in the constructors championship behind Red Bull, Aston Martin and Mercedes.

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