Australian GP | Sainz says penalty “the biggest disgrace I’ve seen in the sport for many years”

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Photo: Scuderia Ferrari

Dear, oh dear. 2023 is not looking like Ferrari’s year is it? The team is leaving Melbourne after scoring zero points and now trail Red Bull in the constructors championship by 97 points. It is of course early days in the season yet, but if things continue in this vein the Scuderia may be fighting for third place in the constructors standings rather than challenging 2022 rivals Red Bull for the championship.

Charles Leclerc was out of the Grand Prix before completing a lap of Albert Park, beached in the gravel at Turn 3 after being tagged by the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll, and thus scoring 0 points for the second race out of the three we have had so far.

Teammate Carlos Sainz also saw things go against him. An early red flag following a nasty crash for Alex Albon meant the Spaniard was in the second half of the field for the standing restart. He had pitted – along with race leader George Russell – under Safety Conditions. But that would eventually be upgraded to a red flag.

Photo: Scuderia Ferrari

For the first of three restarts this saw the 28-year-old line up P11 on the grid but a great recovery through the field saw him rise to P4 by lap 24 where he stayed until the penultimate restart of the race as he wasn’t able to get his SF-23 past the AMR23 of fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso.

However on the chaotic lap 57, the 2 countrymen made contact, seeing Alonso spin and tumble down the order, leaving the Ferrari in the final podium place. The race stewards had other ideas though, and Sainz was handed a 5 second penalty during the final red flag, dropping him to P12 and out of the points.

TV viewers witnessed him receive the news sitting in the cockpit of his SF-23 in the pit lane awaiting the race to resume and the team radio clip played on the live TV feed left us in no doubt of his feelings on the matter: “No. It cannot be, Ricky (his race engineer Riccardo Adami). Do I deserve to be out of the points? No. No!” Sainz pleaded further, emotion clear in his voice: “Please, ask them, please, please, please to wait, to wait and discuss with me.”

Photo: Scuderia Ferrari

Post-race, the still fuming Sainz made his feelings on the matter quite clear in the media pen: “It is the biggest disgrace I’ve seen in the sport for many years,” he told ViaPlay after initially declining to speak to Sky Sports because he will “say bad things”.

He did eventually offer his summary of the race to the media however:

“I had a good start and felt confident on the medium tyre but we were unlucky, pitting just before they brought out the first red flag and I dropped down to P11. From there I managed to pull off a good comeback with nice overtakes and solid pace, so for that I’m happy….It was a good race overall but the penalty ruined all the effort and I don’t agree with it. The frustration I feel right now will be difficult to digest, but I will try to think only of the positives from today and focus on the next race.”

Emotions can often be quite high and fuelled by adrenaline in the midst of a Grand Prix and while I think this is one driver who won’t forget this penalty in a hurry, both he and the team will need to move past it before the arrive to Baku at the end of the month and try and get their season back on track.