Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur has hit out at the FIA after Carlos Sainz was slammed with a five-second penalty at the Australian Grand Prix, one that dropped him fourth to 12th.
Sainz put in a solid drive around the Albert Park circuit on Sunday and found himself in a position to fight for what would’ve been Ferrari’s first podium of this season as the drivers lined up on the grid for a two-lap shootout following a red flag.
But the Ferrari driver got it wrong as he tried to pass Alonso up the inside at Turn 1, instead making contact with the Aston Martin and pitching him into a spin.
It was the catalyst for a multi-car collision that resulted in a five-second penalty for Sainz as the stewards ruled he was “wholly to blame” as he “drove into Car 14”.
Informed of the penalty, an anguished Sainz pleaded: “No, it cannot be, Ricky [Adami, race engineer], this will put me out of the points.
“No, it’s unacceptable. Tell them it is unacceptable, tell them they need to wait until the race is finished and discuss with me.
“Ask them please, please, please, please, please, to wait and discuss with me, clearly the penalty is not deserved, it’s too severe.”
The penalty meant Sainz fell from fourth to 12th given the field was bunched up for a final restart that wasn’t really a restart, rolling across the line as the chequered flag waved.
Vasseur wasn’t impressed, especially as one race prior it took the race stewards 30 laps to notice that Alonso’s car had been touched when he came in to serve a penalty for being out of position on the grid.
The penalty was only confirmed shortly after the podium celebration, and three hours later it was rescinded.
“My job is to take the positive and the negative,” Vasseur told Channel 4, “but just like this, it’s more the negative because I think we did overall a good job.
“Carlos had a very good recovery after the unlucky pit stop just before the red flag, and to get penalised like this at the end is very harsh. For sure you are emotional in this kind of situation because you are not far away from the podium, you are P4, coming from nowhere when all the others got a pit stop for free. He did a mega good job.
“I think we can discuss [for] hours about the penalty if it’s harsh or not. Depending on the position of your team, the analysis will be different, but I think what is a shame for me is that considering it was not impacting the podium, at least the stewards could’ve listened and had a look at the data.
“I think this is a bit of a shame. Last week we changed the regulations two times in 10 minutes about the pit stop for Alonso and they could have done the same today, [or] at least discussed it.”
He added: “Last week they took 30 laps to decide if Alonso was into the box or not. Today took five seconds.”
Asked if Ferrari would consider appealing the penalty, he replied: “I’m not a big fan of that. It’s an incident on track, but with an incident on track you always have two cars in the incident and you have two ways of seeing the incident.
“Coming from Ferrari and being the team principal of Carlos my position is not the same as some other guys in the paddock but I think in this kind of situation we could take five minutes to discuss and to have a look at the data.”
Even Alonso, the driver who was spun, feels Sainz’s penalty was “too harsh.”
“I think because on lap one it is very difficult always to judge what the grip level [is] and I think we don’t go intentionally into another car, you know,” the Aston Martin driver explained.
“Because we know that we risk also our car and our final position, so sometimes you end up in places that you wish you were not there in that moment.”