Sainz was placed under investigation for a suspected pit-lane infringement when he came in for a tyre change while the race had been neutralised following Sergio Perez’s retirement.
The Spaniard’s pit-lane entry speed was examined as he had appeared to hold up Lance Stroll in the Racing Point – who were McLaren’s main rivals for P3 in the constructors’ standings.
Racing Point had just experienced the jolting disappointment of last week’s Sakhir Grand Prix winner Perez parking up by the side of the Yas Marina circuit with a transmission problem, which triggered the Virtual Safety Car followed by the actual Safety Car.
The stewards announced that Sainz’s potential indiscretion would be investigated after the race, when more evidence could be taken into account, thus leaving the final standings undecided until after their enquiry had been concluded.
Let’s go!! Third in the @F1 Constructors’ World Championship! What an incredible achievement and I couldn’t be prouder of every single person in this awesome team. Both @landonorris & @carlossainz55 finished the season with mega drives coming P5 and P6. #F1 #McLaren #AbuDhabiGP pic.twitter.com/KTvcfdyADF
— Zak Brown (@ZBrownCEO) December 13, 2020
The stewards declared that “Car 55 [Sainz] was advised by its team that it was 2.4 seconds in front of Car 18 [Stroll approaching the pit entry. There was no instruction by the team to slow down.
“On approaching the start of the pit lane, [Sainz] accelerated then, as per normal practice, braked briefly to less than 80kmh just prior to the line and then accelerated up to 80. This was exactly the same as car 5 [Sebastian Vettel]. (Car 18 also braked to below 80 prior to the line then accelerated up to 80 as it crossed the line).
“Within the pit lane, [Sainz] was at 80 kmh for all but approximately five seconds when he dropped to no less than 70 km/h. We estimate this resulted in [Sainz] arriving at the pit stop around 0.6 second later than if it had maintained a speed of 80 km/h.
“Therefore, we are not of the view that this action in any way resulted in the team avoiding a ‘double stack’ situation as Car 5 was well clear of the pit stop at this time.
“We also accept the explanation of the driver of Car 55 that he was exercising a degree of caution as video evidence confirms the presence of a lot of other teams’ personnel in the pit lane at the time.
“[Stroll] was able to maintain a speed of 80 km/h in the pit lane except for a very short period of time (approximately 1 second) and therefore we do not consider he was materially impacted by the actions of the driver of Car 55.
“We also checked the relative speeds of the cars after leaving their pit-stops and can see no evidence of [Sainz] driving unnecessarily slowly.”
Sainz was therefore allowed to keep sixth position, one place behind his team-mate Lando Norris, which vaulted McLaren above Racing Point to finish third with 10 points to spare.