Seething Ferrari to act over Vegas injustice. Bernie Ecclestone was a crafty old dog and he often used the Formula One scheduling to move the conversation on from what may be a public relations nightmare. The first Grand Prix in Baku faced controversy because the government had been locking up journalists advocating free speech in the year before the race was to be held.
The Baku race was incredibly scheduled to begin its media day just over three days following the chequered flag at the 2016 Canadian Grand Prix. With no direct flights from Canada to Azerbaijan this restricted the opportunity for F1 journalists to go digging to find human rights abuse stories.
F1 scheduling saves further F1 blushes
Further, the race was bizarrely designated as “The European Grand Prix” despite Baku being the wrong side of the Ural Mountains the historic boundary of Europe to the east.
As F1 Fanatic wrote at the time: “It’s not hard to see why an undemocratic and highly corrupt regime which suppresses freedom of speech and imprisons and tortures its critics would wish to adopt a title which by implication associates itself with countries to which the same does not apply.”
Of course the takeover from Bernie by Liberty Media has seen a less clandestine approach to all things Formula One, but thats not to say the new commercial rights owners have got everything right.
The undue delay in their response the FIA approval of Andretti as the 11th F1 team is pathetic given the 18 months notice they’ve since Andretti requested to join the sport. FOM could have been ready to deal with the issue, but clearly feel by delaying the matter it will prevent Andretti from being registered for the 2025 season by next June.
Ferrari keep seething anger under wraps
As in 2016, the F1 circus must now make a mad dash across continents – from Pacific Coast time, 12 hours forward to Abu Dhabi for the closing weekend of the 2023 season. Of course this will delight F1’s owners given again the journalists will mostly be in transit and unable to deal properly with the chaos that was the start of the Las Vegas weekend.
Having suffered multi millions of pounds worth of damage to one of the Scuderia cars from the poorly prepared vegas circuit, Ferrari would have been within their rights to cause a song and dance throughout the entire weekend. Particularly given the effect it had on their ability to maximise pain on Mercedes and move into second place in the constructors’ championship.
Yet throughout the weekend, the Ferrari boss refused to be drawn into lambasting the Vegas F1 organisation telling reporters this was for ‘another time’.
Asked if Ferrari would seek compensation for the Vegas incident, Vasseur said: “This will be a private discussion that I will have with the stakeholders of this.”
F1 will be forced to pay Ferrari condensation
“There is no provision into the budget or cost cap, for excluding the crashes,” said Vasseur. “For sure you have a lot of extra costs. The loom was damaged, the gearbox was damaged, the battery was damaged, the engine is dead,” he revealed.
“We have a lot of consequences on the financial side, on the sporting side, and even on the stock of spare parts, and on the budget side for sure it’s not an easy one.”
Clearly Ferrari will take action to ensure F1 recompenses them for the damage they suffered in Las Vegas and there is precedent for the sport to respond appropriately.
During practice two at the 2016 Malaysia Grand Prix the session was red flagged after Grosjean crashed heavily at turn 14. Bottas and Raikkonen ahead of the Haas car had dislodged a drain cover embedded in the track at the apex of turn 13 and Romain being the next driver through hit the metal object which sliced through his rear wheel causing the frenchman to lose control and hit the barrier.
Mercedes ‘lucked in’ with stewards decision
Haas were successful in striking a financial agreement with F1 and though the extent of Ferrari’s claim will be much more significant. Vasseur established late in the Vegas weekend that Ferrari “can’t repair the chassis”, with the team back at its Maranello base already in the process of assembling a new one for the Abu Dhabi GP.
Of course there is no mechanism for Ferrari to have their cost cap increased by the amount of damaged, regardless of whether F1 recompenses them for the cost. But more importantly is the ramifications for Ferrari in the constructors’ championship as they close in on Mercedes for second place – a difference of tens of millions of dollars in prize money.
Mercedes were shocking in Las Vegas with Hamilton and Russell finishing in P7 and P8, collecting just 10 points between them. Ferrari meanwhile claimed 18 points from Leclerc’s second place and 8 from a remarkable recovery drive by Carlos Sainz to finish an adjusted P6 after George Russell’s penalty was applied.
This leaves Mercedes just four points ahead of Ferrari in the battle of the teams and the importance of this duel was evident from the rare interventions during the Vegas race from Toto Wolff urging Russell onwards.
Sainz damage cost Ferrari P2
However, Ferrari were robbed of so much more and should almost definitely have overtaken Mercedes with one race to go. Both their cars were quicker than Verstappen in practice and were set for a 1-2 grid start before Sainz was penalised for using one too many battery units for the season.
Sainz then started the race in P12 but had both Ferrari’s started ahead of Verstappen they could have split the tyre strategies to cope with the less dominant RB19 on the ice rink that was the Vegas track.
Regardless, even had Verstappen won, Ferrari would have collected P2 and P3 meaning the score against their Mercedes rivals would be 395-392 in favour of the Italian team.
This wrong will not be corrected whatever happens with Ferrari’s claim for financial recompense. The decision to award a grid drop to Sainz of course sits with the FIA, though they are likely to be forced into reconsidering these circumstances in future.
Verstappen backs F1 rule change
Almost to a man the calls from the media, drivers, other team bosses and uncle Tom Cobbley was that the Sainz penalty should be rescinded by the stewards before the race.
“The rules have to change for that,” snorted Max Verstapen when asked for his opinion on the Spaniards penalty.
“It’s the same if you get taken out and you have a big accident.”
The media savvy Max is never one to miss an opportunity to right a wrong he feels he has suffered and his latter comment clearly refers to the 2021 incident between himself and Hamilton at the British Grand Prix.
Memories of Hamilton damage to Max’s car
Hamilton tagged Verstappen at high speed and sent him hurtling into the barrier. The stewards found Lewis at fault for the incident.
“You can lose parts of the engine, energy store, all these kinds of things. So, first of all, that needs to change. These things can be taken into consideration, that if you can take a free, let’s say, penalty or not and it will not be counted.”
The word in the paddock was that even were there wriggle room for the stewards to remind Sainz penalty due to unanimous agreement by the teams, Mercedes would have objected and so the penalty would have stood.
F1 gods may intervene in Abu Dhabi
Max addressed this matter too: “And besides that, I think the teams should not be allowed to have a say in these kind of things. Because for sure they’re going to vote against that.
“Personally, I do think it’s very harsh on Carlos, but in this political environment that we are in, of course every team thinks about themselves and they, of course, are going to say no, he has to take the penalty.”
The F1 gods may right the injustice suffered by Ferrari and Sainz in a few days in Abu Dhabi. The cooler evening temperatures during the sunset race may well play into Ferrari’s tyre management capabilities and not to those of Mercedes.