Steward opens up on ‘hard work’ to avoid Carlos Sainz Las Vegas penalty

Michelle Foster
Spanish driver Carlos Sainz walks away from his stricken Ferrari SF-23.

Carlos Sainz was fortunate not to be seriously hurt when he hit a manhole cover.

Handing Carlos Sainz a 10-place grid penalty when his SF-23’s battery was destroyed by a manhole cover in Las Vegas, F1 steward Derek Warwick says that was the “wrong” call but the stewards’ hands were tied.

Sainz and Ferrari were furious when the Spaniard’s car suffered extensive damage when the concrete surrounding a water valve cover was eroded as the cars drove over it in the opening practice hour.

As a result, when Sainz drove over it, the suction pulled it out of the ground and it slammed into his floor.

‘It felt wrong, it was wrong’

Photographs on social media showed his shattered floor with reports claiming it punched a hole that Sainz could see the ground as he sat in the car.

His seat was broken along with several engine components, however, it was the energy store that caused the controversy as he required a new part.

As that was outside of his pool for the season, the driver was slapped with a 10-place grid penalty.

The stewards admitted it was out of their hands, saying in a statement: “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.

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

They added: “The stewards note 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.

Sainz was “disappointed and in disbelief” while Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur was later warned by the FIA about his antics having used foul language during the night’s team boss press conference. recommends

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Former F1 driver turned race steward Warwick admits it was the “wrong” call but says there was nothing else the stewards, of which he was one, could do.

“It’s a difficult job for a steward, the same as a referee, and we’ve got to be impartial, we’ve got to be strict and we’ve got to be hard sometimes even when it hurts us,” he told Reuters.

“The penalty we had to give Sainz in Vegas, it felt wrong, it was wrong, we worked very hard for it not to happen but they’re the rules.”

What that hard work was Warwick didn’t say, but it was reported on the weekend that one team said no to allowing Sainz a get-out-of-jail-free card. Mercedes denied that it was them.

It did lead to suggestions Formula 1 should include a force majeure clause. However, AlphaTauri CEO Peter Bayer says the teams all voted against that in the past.

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

“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.”

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