F1 steward Derek Warwick has publicly admitted that penalizing Carlos Sainz with a grid penalty at the Las Vegas Grand Prix was a regrettable mistake. This revelation casts a new perspective on the contentious decision that held significant ramifications in the constructors’ championship.
During the Las Vegas Grand Prix, Carlos Sainz, fiercely contending for Ferrari’s Constructor Championship spot, encountered an unfortunate incident. In the opening practice session in Las Vegas, his car collided with a loose drain hole cover, causing substantial damage to the underside.
Reuters reported Derek Warwick’s revelation that the steward team had initially recommended against imposing a penalty on Sainz. Warwick expressed:
“It’s a difficult job for a steward, the same as a referee, and we’ve got to be impartial, we’ve got to be strict and we’ve got to be hard sometimes even when it hurts us.
“The penalty we had to give Sainz in Vegas, it felt wrong, it was wrong, we worked very hard for it not to happen but they’re the rules.”
In response to the damage incurred, Ferrari had to take the drastic step of changing Sainz’s chassis and installing new engine components, ultimately resulting in a 10-place grid penalty. Ferrari had hoped to avoid this penalty, as it was not a consequence of Sainz’s error or any reliability issues within the team. Nevertheless, the FIA insisted on enforcing the grid drop, severely affecting Sainz’s starting position in the race and indirectly influencing the battle for second place in the constructors’ championship.
During an interview with RacingNews365, Wolff emphasized the significance of adhering to regulations and underscored the responsibility he bears toward Mercedes’ 2,500 team members. He elucidated:
“As a team principal for a rival team that is fighting for P2, I need to look at the regulations and at the full scope of possible actions of ourselves in order to finish P2 in the championship.
“If the regulation says so, I need to act for the benefit of the team and 2,500 people. If we lost the championship by five points because I have acted in sporting fairness, and the rules would have allowed me to actually penalise the car, I need to do this. Every other team principal will do it as much as it’s unfair.
“I need to decide, is it unfair for a rival driver? It is. But I have 2,500 people that I’m literally responsible for – that pay mortgages and school fees. So, it’s a no-brainer.”
Across the paddock, Mercedes CEO and team principal Toto Wolff staunchly defended his decision to veto any waiver of the penalty for Ferrari, further intensifying the controversy surrounding the incident.
This incident underscores the intricate and occasionally contentious decisions that permeate the realm of Formula 1, where regulations, sportsmanship, and strategic interests frequently intertwine.