‘I could die’ – Carlos Sainz’s horrific story of appendix scare and emergency surgery

Oliver Harden
A close-up shot of Carlos Sainz looking shocked

Carlos Sainz pictured returning to the F1 paddock to support Ferrari in Jeddah

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz has told the full story of his appendix scare at the F1 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after doctors warned him he could have died without emergency surgery.

Having learned over the winter that he will be replaced by seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton at Ferrari at the end of F1 2024, Sainz made a fine start to the new season by finishing third in the opening race in Bahrain in March.

Carlos Sainz reveals all about Saudi Arabian GP appendix scare

Additional reporting by Pablo Hidalgo

However, the Spaniard was forced to withdraw from the second round in Saudi Arabia just days later after developing appendicitis, with teenager Oliver Bearman deputising for Sainz at the Jeddah street circuit.

Having missed his media commitments with an unspecified illness on Wednesday in Saudi Arabia, Sainz participated in both practice sessions on Thursday and was classified sixth and seventh in FP1 and FP2 respectively.

With his condition worsening, Ferrari announced shortly before final practice on Friday that Sainz would not participate in the remainder of the weekend with Bearman – who had set pole position for the F2 support race the previous evening – taking his place alongside Charles Leclerc.

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After surgery to remove his troublesome appendix, Sainz was present at the circuit for the race on Saturday to witness Leclerc finishing third – claiming Ferrari’s second podium finish of the F1 2024 – and Bearman finishing ahead of fellow Brits Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton to claim seventh on his F1 debut.

Despite still suffering some discomfort, Sainz would return to the cockpit a fortnight later at the Australian Grand Prix where he claimed his third career victory.

Appearing on the Nude Project podcast, Sainz has detailed how his condition worsened before he took the decision to go to hospital, where doctors told him he was “crazy” for wanting to race in Jeddah.

He said: “I don’t have very good memories of it.

“I arrived in Jeddah after finishing third in Bahrain. I had started the season very well.

“And on Thursday morning, which is when we have meetings with the press, meetings with the engineers, events with the sponsors, I start to feel terrible.

“I have a high fever and I can’t stop going to the bathroom. I’ve been very sick for 24 hours.

“On Friday I had to get in the car for free practice and I started to take everything to calm the diarrhoea and the fever.

“I managed to get it down a bit and I thought that if I could match the pills with the low fever and not feel like going to the toilet before driving, I could get into the F1 car.

“I was exhausted because I didn’t eat, I had no energy, I was sweating more than usual – it was the hardest two practice sessions of my whole career.

“Also, Jeddah is a very demanding circuit for the physique because of the fast corners and it was very hot. I suffered a lot.

“I did the free practice, but I thought that if this keeps up I can’t do the race and in qualifying I was going to suffer a lot.

“The next day it was still the same at 6am and I thought it couldn’t be a virus. I was more f*cked up than two days ago, so I decide to go to the hospital.

“I get to the hospital, they do tests and they confirm: ‘You have appendicitis.’

“And I say: ‘We have to operate, don’t we?’

“They say ‘yes’ and ask me: ‘How long have you been like this?’

“I told them two days and they said: ‘You’re crazy, because if the appendix bursts you risk dying and the operation is three times as long.’

“But I was still only thinking about F1 and I wanted to race and I said: ‘If you give me something strong so I can do the race and come tomorrow for the operation?

“They said no because something very serious could happen and I could die if my appendix burst.

“I said: ‘OK, operate on me, but I have the Australian race in two weeks. Will I be ready for Australia?’

“They told me it would be very tight and that I shouldn’t think about it and we would see how I felt after the operation.

“The recovery I was told would be about 10-14 days without physical exercise, so I had emergency surgery.

“I missed the Jeddah race, which hurt me a lot in the Championship because I lost 12-15 points for sure – and from then on I thought about coming back to Australia to race.”

Sainz was the second F1 driver to go down with appendicitis in recent years, with Williams driver Alex Albon forced to withdraw from the Italian Grand Prix of 2022 after developing the condition.

Albon suffered respiratory failure and was moved to intensive care after complications following the removal of his appendix, but returned at the next race in Singapore three weeks later.

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