Carlos Sainz: Tractor on track is ‘worthless’, ‘it’s over’ if you hit it

Jon Wilde
Carlos Sainz on Japanese GP formation lap. Suzuka October 2022.

Carlos Sainz's Ferrari on Japanese Grand Prix formation lap. Suzuka October 2022.

Carlos Sainz has hit out at the decision to deploy a tractor to recover his stricken Ferrari from the Suzuka circuit, putting other drivers at risk.

The Spaniard took a wet standing start to the Japanese Grand Prix in third position and was passed by fourth-placed Sergio Perez in the opening stages.

With the whole field on intermediate tyres, which were arguably unsuited to the treacherous conditions, as lap one progressed Sainz aquaplaned and spun off into the barriers.

A recovery vehicle quickly arrived and did so before Pierre Gasly had arrived at the scene, the AlphaTauri driver playing catch-up on the field having started from the pit lane.

Gasly was furious to see the tractor, obviously mindful of the tragedy that had occurred on the same track eight years ago which led to the death of driver Jules Bianchi.

Describing the conditions as “pretty much impossible”, Sainz took the view that a tractor should not have been on the circuit until the cars had been back in the pits with the race having been red-flagged.

“I don’t know if people understand but even behind the Safety Car, and we are going at 100-150kph, still at those speeds we see nothing,” said the 28-year-old.

“So if one driver decides to get a bit out of the racing line, or has a small aquaplaning, or has to change a switch on the steering wheel and gets a bit out of line and hits a tractor, it’s over.

“I still don’t know why we keep in these conditions risking having a tractor on track because it’s just worthless. You were going to red-flag it anyway, so why risk it?”

Regarding his accident, Sainz felt he had little to berate himself about due to the difficulty of the conditions following a start granted by Race Control that had perhaps been too ambitious in the circumstances.

“To be honest, I’m not too worried,” said the British Grand Prix winner. “Obviously disappointed for crashing the car and for the team, but at the same time the conditions were pretty much impossible with the visibility and (with) the intermediate tyres, the aquaplaning was crazy.

“I tried to get out of Checo’s slipstream to see something, but as soon as I got out of the slipstream I had more water in the tyres and I go into aquaplaning, which sent me into a spin.

“Then you’re down to luck because you know everyone coming behind you doesn’t see you, they don’t know where you are and you’re in the middle of the track, so you’re kind of praying for anyone not to hit you.”

Asked what decision should have been made, Sainz said: “Maybe the best would have been a rolling start on extremes – but anyway it was going to get worse – just to avoid any dangerous situation.

“Then if we have a rolling start on extremes, everyone complains that Formula 1 doesn’t race in the wet. But when you see the situation, basically we are driving without visibility, so how can you drive a Formula 1 car at 300kph without visibility?”

Read more: Pierre Gasly summoned before stewards over alleged red flag infringement