Ferrari found the cause of the defect at Sebastian Vettel in Sochi: “We had a problem on the hybrid side of the power unit,” says team boss Mattia Binotto. “We lost the isolation in the car. And for safety reasons we had to stop the car immediately”.
That means that Vettel’s car was under power. Normally this doesn’t pose any danger to the drivers, but when getting out there is a risk of an electric shock if the driver touches the car and the ground at the same time. That’s why Vettel jumped out of the car instead of getting out normally.
It wouldn’t have been far to the pit lane, but Vettel should park his car as soon as possible. This brought him to a standstill in the exit zone and triggered the virtual safety car, which screwed up Ferrari’s race. “It’s a shame,” says Binotto, “but it was the safest thing we could have done for Seb. Safety first”.
“We didn’t know exactly what the condition of the car was,” continues the team boss.
Vettel himself was still able to laugh despite the end, because when asked about the possible consequences of the defect he imitated electric shock noises – much to the amusement of the journalists present.
But Ferrari was probably not a laughing stock due to the consequences. And theoretically a defect in the engine often has further consequences, because parts have to be changed prematurely and penalties are imminent.
But Binotto can take this fear away before the race in Japan: “The control unit for the power electronics probably broke down, but we still have one of them,” says the Italian. A penalty is therefore “not expected. We simply use the other one.”