Jolyon Palmer thinks the investigation into Carlos Sainz’s pit-lane entry speed in Abu Dhabi was triggered by Racing Point out of desperation over the battle to finish P3.
Racing Point, McLaren and Renault were fighting to finish third in the constructors’ World Championship going into the last race of the season at Yas Marina, with every point scored potentially vital in determining the final order.
In the end it was McLaren who came out on top, but only after a post-race investigation into whether one of their drivers, Carlos Sainz, had slowed down too much when entering the pits under the Virtual Safety Car for a double-stack stop after his team-mate Lando Norris.
Running four seconds behind Norris, the Spaniard was suspected of having decelerated to build a bigger gap for a smoother pit-stop and in doing so, held up Lance Stroll behind him in the Racing Point.
Ultimately, the stewards cleared Sainz of any wrongdoing and allowed him to retain sixth position in the race, one place behind Norris, with their combined points haul vaulting McLaren ahead of Racing Point to finish P3 in the standings by a seven-point margin.
Stroll could only finish 10th and his one point was all the ‘Pink Panthers’ added to their total because Sergio Perez had to retire with an engine problem.
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) December 13, 2020
Palmer, in his analysis on the Formula 1 website, thought Racing Point must have reported Sainz as they sensed their third position in the Championship was slipping away.
“Sainz asks on the radio ‘do you need me to create a gap? and they say ‘no, we think we’re okay’,” said Palmer of the incident as the McLaren and Racing Point came into the pits.
“But as a driver, you don’t necessarily trust. You know a four-second gap will be really tight when a pit-stop is two-three seconds. You want to be giving it a little bit more and Sainz does that.
“It didn’t really hinder Stroll too much. He had to blend ever so slightly out of the throttle for Sainz lifting off in the pit lane, but fundamentally he just caught Sainz through that whole phase.
“I can only imagine it was because Racing Point highlighted this to race director Michael Masi in a kind of desperate bid to get Sainz a penalty. They knew they were on the back foot and their main guy was out of the race, so they needed Stroll to beat Sainz.
“It felt like a bit of a desperate move for this one to be investigated.”