The controversial manhole
In Las Vegas during the first free practice session, a manhole severely damaged the Alpine of Esteban Ocon and the Ferrari SF-23 car of Carlos Sainz. The first free practice session for the Las Vegas Grand Prix was interrupted and never resumed due to this ‘discovery’ – the manholes were not adequately sealed, and the cars were capable of ‘sucking them out’ from their position by passing over them – with FP2 taking place with significant delay.
The damage to the SF-23 car, number #55, forced the men of the Scuderia in Maranello to change the power unit, triggering a ten-place grid penalty for using a third battery unit in 2023, exceeding the two allowed by the regulations.
What happened to Carlos Sainz will be a subject of reflection in future F1 Commission meetings. The crux of the matter is when it is possible to allow replacements without incurring penalties for force majeure. Toto Wolff, who in Las Vegas did not give the green light to the change without penalties since Ferrari and Mercedes were in a neck-and-neck battle for the second place in the Constructors’ standings eventually secured by Mercedes, acknowledged that Carlos Sainz suffered an injustice but, as a team principal, could not act differently.
“Putting myself in the shoes of the driver, Carlos Sainz has certainly suffered an injustice,” Toto Wolff explained, as recently reported by PlanetF1 – “but the concept of force majeure is difficult to define. If you run over a kerb and wreck the car, is it force majeure? If another driver misjudges and causes an accident that crashes into your driver, wrecking the car, is it force majeure? If a bird hits you and damages the car, is it force majeure? The regulations do not cover these scenarios, and we certainly need to think about it. I put myself in Carlos Sainz’s shoes, and I know he suffered an injustice, but I don’t think the same was done for me. As a team principal, I have the responsibility for the 2500 employees and their bonuses, which change significantly between second and third place in the Constructors’ standings. They have mortgages, taxes, and school fees for their children to pay. Any team principal in my position would have done the same because if you have the opportunity to penalize an opponent’s car, you must do it.” – the Mercedes boss concluded.
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