Carlos Sainz was furious to be handed a ten place grid penalty in Las Vegas for taking new engine components following an incident that was absolutely not his fault in Thursday night's practice.
The underfloor of his Ferrari was wrecked by a water valve cover just minutes into the first practice session. FP1 was abandoned and the start of FP2 delayed for track repairs, allowing Ferrari to build up a new car for Sainz.
Sainz confirmed that he was unhurt after the terrifying incident. “I had a pretty big hit on my back and on my neck after the incident that you guys all saw,” he said.
“Unfortunately, obviously the chassis, the power unit, the battery, even my seat was damaged after the incident," he continued, adding his praise for the work undertaken by the Ferrari mechanics.
"[It was a] huge effort from all the mechanics and the team to put together a completely brand new car for FP2 that allowed me to complete the session," he said. “It was in my opinion a heroic effort."
Ferrari boss Frederic Vasseur said that Ferrari would "pay a mega price" for this but was determined to move on from the setback. "We have to try to avoid thinking about it, to do the job that we came to."
Ferrari went on to dominate FP2 with Charles Leclerc quickest and Sainz himself finishing P2 in the rebuilt car. “You can clearly see this weekend we are relatively competitive," Sainz commented.
That makes the penalty for new engine parts due to circumstances beyond his control so frustrating. "The team communicated to me that I was taking a ten-place grid penalty for something that I have no fault, and the team has no fault.
“This has changed completely my mindset, and obviously my opinion on the weekend and how the weekend is going to go from now on," he said. “You can imagine how disappointed I am, in disbelief with the situation. You will not see me very happy this weekend.
“What happened today for me is a very clear example of how the sport can be improved in so many ways," he complained. "The FIA, teams, rules - this could clearly be applied as force majeure for me not to take a penalty.
"But there's always some way people always make this situation worse for an individual, and I think in this case it’s my turn to pay the price.
"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."
Leclerc is unaffected by Sainz' accident and penalty and remains in a good position to claim pole position in Friday night's qualifying session.
“It looks good for now," he agreed. "I like the track, it’s fun to drive. I always liked street tracks but this one is a good one," he said after the end of FP2.
“We look quite strong for now. It’s difficult to understand exactly where we are in race pace, but in quali pace we seem strong. We still have to work and try to do a step forward for tomorrow, but it’s a good start.”
As to whether he can realistically challenge Max Verstappen and Red Bull, Leclerc added: “I don’t know. I think in qualifying as always we’ll be there, but in race pace I think they’re still too strong.
"Qualifying tomorrow, we’ll be close," he predicted.