Explained: Why Ferrari did not retire Sainz’s damaged car for 23 laps

Thomas Maher
Ferrari's Carlos Sainz at the Belgian Grand Prix. Spa-Francorchamps, July 2023.

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz at the Belgian Grand Prix. Spa-Francorchamps, July 2023.

Fred Vasseur has explained why Ferrari didn’t immediately withdraw Carlos Sainz from the Belgian Grand Prix, despite extensive damage.

Sainz was caught up in a first-corner incident at the Belgian Grand Prix, as he moved across to avoid hitting Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes on the run into La Source.

But his move squeezed McLaren’s Oscar Piastri into the inside wall at the corner, resulting in the pair making heavy contact – the damage eliminating the Australian driver almost immediately as he failed to get back to the pits.

Fred Vasseur: Ferrari were hoping for a red flag

With Sainz fighting a losing battle with his damaged car, he pitted at the end of Lap 7 to take on a fresh set of tyres, but had made little impression on the race by the time he was withdrawn on Lap 23 – Ferrari saying his car was too badly damaged to bother continuing.

Speaking to the media afterward, team boss Fred Vasseur explained that Sainz was losing “a lot” of laptime, due to the extent of the damage to the right-hand side of his car.

“Laptime, no, because it’s quite difficult because you’re losing downforce,” he said, in response to a question from PlanetF1.com about the estimated lap time loss.

“But it’s not just the downforce, it is the balance of the car. We never did the calculation of a potential lap time with [the affected] points of downforce and [affected] balance. But it was a lot.”

Vasseur explained that leaving Sainz out had been a desperate gamble on a red flag scenario, which would have afforded Ferrari the time to fix it.

“We were just expecting a red flag at one stage to be able to fix it,” he said.

“But with the first [rain] shower… when the shower came without the red flag, we decided to stop it.”

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Carlos Sainz and Oscar Piastri see incident differently

Carlos Sainz explained the clash from his perspective as he spoke to the media afterward, pointing the finger of blame at Piastri for failing to back off.

“I was on the attack with Lewis and I pretty much had the move down into Turn 1 – I hit the apex cleanly and everything but, unfortunately, I think Oscar was trying to do a bit of an optimistic move on me,” he said.

“It’s a bit of a shame because, when you review the past races at Spa, what has been the typical Turn 1 instance is exactly that.

“Everyone who tries the inside lane into Turn 1 and tries to really make it around there normally generates an incident or a crash and, this time, it was my turn.”

Put to him that he had locked up and presented an opportunity to Piastri, the Spaniard said he hadn’t left the door open.

“I made the apex and passed Lewis,” he said.

“If you look at my onboard, yes, I do lock up, but I didn’t go deep into the corner.”

Sainz admitted to knowing the McLaren was on his inside, but said he had no interest in rolling out the red carpet to wave the Australian by.

“At some point, someone needs to back out, and he’s the guy who is alongside my rear-right,” he said.

I think he needs to back off and not me and let him pass me into Turn 1, especially when I pretty much had my move done with Lewis.”

Having fallen down through the order in the aftermath of the collision, Sainz said the car had been exceptionally difficult to race.

“It was undriveable, pretty much, but we kept it going and didn’t give up in case there was a red flag,” he said.

“Then, when the rain passed, and there was no red flag, we retired.”

Piastri, coming back down to earth with a bang after his ‘podium’ finish in the Sprint race on Saturday, was reluctant to point the finger of blame at his rival, but said both could have handled the situation better.

“I think it is quite firmly in the category of a lap one, turn one incident,” Piastri told media, including PlanetF1.com after his retirement.

“I got a good start and got my nose alongside, and then when we got to the braking zone. Carlos moves a bit to the right and locked up and I also had to try avoid that a bit.

“And then from there to the apex, my options were quite limited and where I could go.

“I’ll look back over it more and see if there was more I could have done but it’s just a shame that we’re standing here and not still on track.”

Asked by PlanetF1.com if he was surprised that the FIA did not investigate the incident with Sainz, Piastri said: “I think we both could have done things a bit differently.

“It’s a very tight turn one and Carlos also didn’t have many options from where Lewis [Hamilton] was either.”

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