Carlos Sainz hints at foul play as nightmare Abu Dhabi GP continues

Oliver Harden
Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari garage at the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari garage.

Carlos Sainz was the shock driver to fall in Q1 in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – and seemed to hint at foul play tactics from his rivals over team radio.

Sainz found himself in the drop zone in the closing seconds of Q1 and could only improve to 15th place on his final lap of the session.

Red Bull driver Sergio Perez then came through to improve his own time, knocking the Ferrari man back down to 16th. Sainz complained of “so much traffic” on his final lap over team radio, admitting he was “not surprised” to be knocked out.

Carlos Sainz: ‘I see people giving a bit of third gear on purpose’

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

In a separate transmission, Sainz appeared to accuse his rivals of blocking him “on purpose” with replays showing Alpine driver Pierre Gasly moving out of the Ferrari driver’s way on the run to the Turn 5 hairpin on his final lap.

“Clearly the pace all weekend hasn’t been the strongest and we needed a perfect Q1 and Q2, given how tight the field is, and we had a very scrappy Q1,” Sainz reflected to media including after the session.

“We went out very late into the last run, we had a problem with the front wing, sent as the last car out and once I opened my last lap, I found myself in a load of traffic in sector one and two, and I lost a couple of tenths there that probably cost me the spot in Q2.”

Oscar Piastri was summoned to the stewards for possibly impeding Pierre Gasly during the session, and it has been a topic of conversation throughout the season for the drivers in Q1 in particular when all 20 are on track.

But as a driver himself, Sainz feels there were cars slowing “on purpose” to try and cost others time as part of the gamesmanship of being on track. recommends

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“Between us drivers, we know that if you do a corner two seconds in front of another car, you’re going to make me lose a tenth or two in the corner,” he stated.

“When it’s tight in Q1 and Q2, I see people giving a bit of third gear on purpose in some corners to maybe make the others lose some time in corners, which we don’t consider impeding because it’s not like you need to lift, but you’re giving him dirty air and you’re giving him a bad run in that corner.

“So by going out last, I made everything basically [in] all sector one and two very close to all the cars in front and I found myself losing a tenth or two.”

The loss of Sainz so early into qualifying comes as a bitter blow to Ferrari, who entered the final race of the season aiming to overhaul the four-point deficit to second-placed Mercedes in the Constructors’ Championship.

Sainz found himself on the back foot in Abu Dhabi after crashing at Turn 3 just 10 minutes into the second practice session on Friday, causing a delay of almost 30 minutes.

The accident came seven days after a costly incident in Vegas, where Sainz was forced to serve a 10-place grid penalty after hitting a manhole cover in the early minutes of Friday practice at F1’s newest venue.

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