Rival team remind Ferrari of ‘paranoia’ behind blocked force majeure clause

Michelle Foster
Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz looking at the damaged floor on his SF-23.

Carlos Sainz's Ferrari needed a new chassis, floor, battery and engine.

Disappointed by the lack of force majeure in the penalty rules, AlphaTauri CEO Peter Bayer has reminded Ferrari that “it was the F1 teams” who blocked such a clause.

After Sainz’s Ferrari was wrecked by a loose water value cover during Thursday’s opening practice for the Las Vegas Grand Prix, Ferrari asked the stewards for an exemption to his pending 10-place grid penalty.

The team had to replace his SF-23’s battery and as that was outside his season’s allotment, the rules stating that’s an automatic 10-place grid penalty.

‘Which is why they said, ‘let’s not open Pandora’s box”

The stewards denied Ferrari’s request, saying it was out of their hands as the regulations made it clear there could be no force majeure exemption.

“Notwithstanding the fact that the damage was caused by highly unusual external circumstances, Article 2.1 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations obliges all officials, including the stewards, to apply the regulations as they are written,” read the statement from the stewards.

“Accordingly, the mandatory penalty specified under Article 28.3 of the Sporting Regulations must be applied.”

The stewards added that if they “had the authority to grant a derogation in what they consider in this case to be mitigating, unusual and unfortunate circumstances, they would have done so, however, the regulations do not allow such action.”

Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur was fuming, calling it “unacceptable” in a spiky press conference while Carlos Sainz said:

“I think I’m surprised that the governing body does have the power to, in cases of force majeure, let’s say, overrule a bit in this kind of situation where it’s so clear that is something that is completely out of the team’s control and completely out of the driver’s control.”

However, AlphaTauri’s Bayer has reminded Ferrari it was the teams who opposed any such clause being added to the regulations for fear of “Pandora’s box” being opened.

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“Having been on the other side we had plenty of discussion on whether should we have that sort of force majeure clause,” Bayer told Motorsport.com.

“And, in fact, it was the F1 teams in their drive to perfection and but also their absolute maximised paranoia that they thought that if somebody would be able to trigger force majeure, that person will have a lot of power because a lot of people would probably claim force majeure on many occasions.

“Which is why they said, ‘Let’s not open Pandora’s box’. But having said that, honestly, in this case, if we would have been asked as a team, we would have supported Ferrari. It’s really not their fault.”

The matter is likely to be on the table at the upcoming F1 Commission meeting in Abu Dhabi.

It has been suggested in cases such as Sainz that the penalty be put to a team vote. However, the Spaniard reckons there’ll always be one team that blocks it as there is a lot at stake.

“For some reason, there will be rival teams pushing for me to get a penalty which surprises me in a way,” he said. “In others, I’ve been in the sport for too long to understand that it’s business.

“There’s too much money involved in the finishing position in the Constructors’ or whatever for a team not to threaten to apply for a penalty for me.

“At the same time, as I said, not surprised. I’m extremely disappointed and honestly very upset with the whole situation, with the sport. I’m very upset, is the right word, and in a bad mood because I just expected more.”

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