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Formula 1

Sainz hits out at FIA over penalty – and he has a point

by Matt Beer
3 min read

Carlos Sainz has issued a strongly-worded statement calling for officiating improvements in Formula 1 after Ferrari’s request to have his Australian Grand Prix penalty reviewed was rejected.

Sainz was given a five-second time penalty for punting Fernando Alonso into a spin at the chaotic late standing restart in Melbourne.

Once the debris from the multiple crashes was cleared, the field was then reset to its pre-restart order for a final lap to the chequered flag behind the safety car, and the application of Sainz’s penalty after that meant he dropped from fourth to 12th because the pack was so tightly bunched.

On Tuesday the F1 stewards rejected Ferrari’s bid to have the decision reviewed on the grounds that nothing in the new evidence it submitted – the car’s telemetry and statements from both Sainz and Alonso – met the criteria for triggering the review process.

“I’m very disappointed that the FIA did not grant us a right to review,” Sainz wrote on social media.

“Two weeks later, I still think the penalty is too disproportionate and I believe it should have at least been reviewed on the basis of the evidence and reasoning we have presented.

“We have to continue working together to improve certain things for the future. The consistency and decision-making process has been a hot topic for many seasons now and we need to be clearer for the sake of our sport.”

The Race’s view on Sainz’s penalty

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The question of whether Ferrari had enough new evidence to trigger the F1 review process is in some ways separate to whether the penalty was proportionate – as the review system is based solely around whether fresh information has come to light, rather than whether a stewards’ decision could be considered too harsh or lenient in itself.

When our F1 writers debated the original penalty on the post-Australian GP edition of The Race F1 Podcast, they leaned towards feeling Sainz was treated harshly given both the usual leniency given to first-lap incidents and the fact no penalties were given for the other collisions at the restart including the destructive shunt between Alpine team-mates Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon.

Mark Hughes: “I think it was harsh because it was effectively a first-lap and there’s normally a lot of leeway given with incidents on the first lap. It’s very, very easy with cold brakes and a compressed field to accidentally snag a car.”

Scott Mitchell-Malm: “They did say that they considered the usual leniency that would be considered for first-lap incidents, but felt that Sainz was so in the wrong that it wasn’t relevant – which I thought was quite an interesting interpretation. But the Alpines came off a lot worse and no further action was taken there, which felt a little bit like a case of ‘you’re team-mates, you can deal with this internally, you don’t need us to penalise you’.”

Alonso supported Sainz

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This was also an unusual case of the victim of an incident arguing that the aggressor had been treated too harshly.

With the caveats that Alonso and Sainz are long-standing friends and that the incident ultimately didn’t cost Alonso a podium so he could afford to be sanguine, the Aston Martin driver argued immediately after the race that Sainz had been treated disproportionately.

“Probably the penalty is too harsh because on lap one it is always very difficult to judge what the grip level is,” said Alonso.

“We don’t go intentionally into another car because we know that we also risk our car and our final position.

“So sometimes you ended up in places where you wish you were not there in that moment. And it’s just part of racing. I didn’t see the replay properly, but for me it feels too harsh.”

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