The chaos that was the first day of track action in Las Vegas continued well into the early morning. With the second practice session slated to start local time 2am, this was delayed a further half an hour by the FIA as safety checks continued following a drain cover coming loose and wrecking Carlos Sainz Ferrari nine minutes into FP1.
Fans were evicted from the stands as the personnel stewarding the seated areas were unable to continue due to working time regulations. So the session began with the impressive stadium complex which cost over $500m to build deserted with the exception of the team personnel.
Stewards explain Sainz penalty
The curfew on F1 which mandated the road must be returned to public use at 4am was extended to 5am to allow an extra 30 minutes for the drivers to catch up on lost practice time.
However, the damage to Sainz’s Ferrari which was the result of a defect in the circuit build meant the team had to replace his battery unit which was the final one allowed for the season. The extra new unit attracts a grid drop for the Spaniard as the stewards revealed.
“Having received a request from the Competitor requesting a derogation of the Sporting Regulations in order to allow a replacement of the Energy Store from outside the pool, without penalty; and having heard from the team representative, the Director FIA Single Seater Department [Nikolas Tombazis], having viewed video evidence and examined the team’s declaration sheet, the stewards, determine that 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.
Teams could agree penalty be waived
“Accordingly, the mandatory penalty specified under Article 28.3 of the Sporting Regulations must be applied.
“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.”
Of course it was no fault of Ferrari or their driver that the extra battery unit was required and the Sky F1 team debated whether the teams could unanimously agree for the regulation forcing a grid penalty be waived.
Whilst the commentary team consisting of David Croft, Jenson Button and Karen Chandhok unanimously agreed such an exception would surely be agreed by all the teams, information came through that one team had refused to sanction such action from the F1 stewards.
Mercedes block move to reprieve Sainz
It was revealed that it was Mercedes who refused to countenance such a reprieve and the reason given was the close battle between the silver arrows and Ferrari for second in the constructors’ championship. At stake is around $20m difference in prize money awarded to the team finishing the season in second and the one in third place.
Ferrari were expected to perform well in Las Vegas given the configuration of the track requires a similar car setup to the ones circuit in Italy. At this seasons race, Carlos Sainz had claimed pole position and fought valiantly to keep the Red Bull of verstappen at bay until the inevitable occurred.
Clearly Mercedes were concerned that Ferrari may be better suited to the Las Vegas Grand Prix than their own W14 cars driven by Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.
As the practice session got under way, it was clear the Ferrari cars were quick and topped the time sheets with fourteen minutes gone ahead of both Hamilton and Russell.
McLaren boss thinks grid drop unfair
When asked whether he would have supported a move by the teams to have the Sainz penalty waived, McLaren boss Zak Brown whole heartedly agreed:
“Yeah, for sure. You’ve gotta say that’s Force Majeure – nothing of their own doing and very unfortunate unique incident.”
Brown added he was surprised that this had not been agreed
“I was a bit surprised to see that and I think we have to be a bit more sporting when stuff like that happens. So I was a little surprised that and would support them not getting a penalty.”
F1 should be “more sporting”
When pressed on the matter and the fact that one team refused to support such a move, Brown was resigned:
“Its unfortunate, but we know with Formula One that self interest takes over from time to time, but I think something like that is unique.”
“I don’t know who it was – I could guess probably somebody who is running in competition with them – but yeah – a bit unfortunate and unfair.”
Mercedes right to reply
Mercedes claim there was no opportunity for the teams to petition for the penalty to be waived, only that should the rules of the grid drop not been applied, they could protest.
The team did confirm they would have protested a delegation awarded to Sainz by the stewards and it been awarded.
READ MORE…. Angry Wolff responds over “f***ing drain cover”
The script writers of a fictional story about the biggest new F1 race in Formula One history would not have dared to imagine the reality that was to occur as the F1 cars hit the track at the much hyped Las Vegas Grand Prix weekend. With the track lights turning night into day around the famous ‘strip’ the cars finally hit the circuit after days of promotional events and global media attention.
Then nine minutes in, the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz ground to a half causing a red flag given the location of his car in the. Middle of the 1.9km back straight. A minute later the FIA announced the practice session was cancelled and would not resume…. Read more….