Mercedes have denied claims that they would’ve been against the FIA not penalising Ferrari, following Carlos Sainz’s massively unfortunate incident in the opening minutes of Free Practice 1 at the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
Sainz came to a halt on the circuit just eight minutes into FP1, after driving over a loose manhole cover at high-speed.
The manhole cover ripped a hole through Sainz’s chassis, to the point that he could reportedly see the circuit through the floor of his cockpit.
Unsurprisingly, Sainz’s car suffered extensive damage, with a new energy store having been required.
However, this resulted in Sainz going over his legal number of energy stores, which has led to him being slapped with a 10-place grid penalty.
Ferrari argued to the FIA that they shouldn’t receive a penalty given that they were forced to change parts because of a problem with the circuit, rather than a flaw with their technology.
The stewards did have considerable sympathy towards Ferrari and Sainz, to the extent that they spent several hours looking through the rulebook to try and find something to give them the power to not penalise the Spanish driver.
However, nothing was discovered, resulting in a grid penalty, which has demoted Sainz from second to P12.
McLaren CEO Zak Brown really felt for Sainz and for Ferrari, with him having been a “bit surprised” to see the driver receive a 10-place grid penalty.
“Yeah, for sure,” Brown told Sky Sports F1. “You’ve got to say that’s force majeure, nothing of their own doing, a very unfortunate, unique incident. I was a bit surprised to see that. A little bit unfair.”
The situation was discussed by Sky Sports F1 commentator David Croft, who revealed live on air that he’d heard rumours that Mercedes would’ve potentially been against the FIA not penalising Sainz.
Mercedes are, of course, battling Ferrari for second in the Constructors’ Championship, with the Silver Arrows arguably being on the back foot despite having a 20-point lead over the Italians.
To see if what Croft had heard was correct, veteran Sky F1 reporter Ted Kravitz asked Mercedes if they would’ve “objected” the FIA not penalising Sainz.
Kravitz revealed to Croft that Mercedes stressed the rumour was “purely speculative” and that they would’ve only had a problem if the rules were “incorrectly applied”.
“I’ve reached out to Mercedes [to ask] is it the case that you would have or could have objected to a Sainz derogation for that penalty?” Kravitz said.
“They said, ‘No, absolutely not, purely speculative. The precedent is that even when it’s not the driver or team’s fault, you carry the penalty and the rules don’t allow for discretion to be applied’, as the steward explained. Mercedes’ point was that they would not have been in a position to object to any derogation.
“Their only position would have been if the rules had been incorrectly applied and some derogation or allowance would have been made for Sainz.
“Then, I think Mercedes would have objected to that and probably some other teams as well, because you can’t have the rules being incorrectly applied, can you?”