Verstappen: Sainz “said he couldn’t feel his legs for a few seconds” after scary Las Vegas incident

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Co-author Ewout Albrecht

It’s been an extraordinary and controversial weekend at the Las Vegas Grand Prix so far, and three-time World Champion Max Verstappen — never shy in giving a direct opinion — has had plenty to say about it when speaking to various Dutch media outlets after qualifying.

On Thursday, Carlos Sainz had a scary incident in first practice as he hit a loose water valve cover that destroyed many parts of his SF-23. The session was ended as the track was ultimately in an unsafe conditions and changes needed to be made.

Photo credit: Red Bull Content Pool

The Dutchman completely understands why Fred Vasseur and Sainz felt so angry about it.

“Well, we would have been angry for sure, just like Ferrari. The entire car is f***ed, everything: chassis, engine, battery.”

Verstappen also revealed a scary detail as he said his former Toro Rosso teammate lost feeling in his legs for a few seconds. That can lead to paralysis — but luckily Sainz was all okay quite quickly.

“Carlos also said he couldn’t feel his legs for a few seconds, so it could have been much worse. The part of course completely penetrated the chassis.

“If the drainage cover gets loose and hits the car square, then you really have a big impact.”

Much to the anger and frustration of many, a 10-place grid drop for Sainz will see him start P12 on Saturday night because of a fresh energy store that is outside his components limit.

The 26-year-old wants teams to stop having so much control and for common sense to be applied in such situations when the fault doesn’t lie with the driver or team.

“The rules have to change for that. It’s the same if you get taken out and you have a big accident. You can lose parts of engine, energy store, all these kinds of things.

“So, first of all, that needs to change. These things can be taken into consideration, that if you can take a free, let’s say, penalty or not and it will not be counted.

“And besides that, I think the teams should not be allowed to have a say in these kind of things. Because for sure they’re going to vote against that.

“Personally, I do think it’s very harsh on Carlos, but in this political environment that we are in, of course every team thinks about themselves and they, of course, are going to say no, he has to take the penalty.”

A loose cover is not a first for Formula 1. Juan Pablo Montoya was the unlucky victim at the 2005 Chinese Grand Prix and had to retire. It has happened a few times since then, too.

However, Verstappen believes this is something the people who inspect the track should be fully aware of in advance.

“Of course this has happened before, but you should learn from that. When you come to a street track you know these things can give issues, so you have to be prepared.

“Especially during such a new event. You’re in the spotlight, so you should be on top of it. It’s like telling us drivers ‘s*** happens’ when we casually crash the car. Of course you can’t dismiss it like that, it just sucks.

“If you saw the state of the tarmac, you should have know that it would come loose if an F1 car drives over it. That’s not something that requires a high IQ.”

Told about Wolff’s comments that it was only a cover coming up and that it didn’t matter after the effort made to get the race on in Vegas, Verstappen didn’t hold back on his thoughts.

“If it was one of his cars he would have said something else. But that’s just how I know him.”

Verstappen was also informed of fans only getting a $200 gift card for the Las Vegas store after getting ejected from the track before FP2 that started at 2:30 am. It meant some patrons only got to see a few minutes of running this weekend.

His response was as direct as you would expect.

“So they also make money off this too. Awesome! If I were a fan I would have trashed the place. This can’t be true, right?”

Asked for his opinion about Steve Hill’s comments stating he was maybe feeling nervous about the event after his remarks in Brazil about the Las Vegas race, F1’s winningest driver in a single season says what happened on Thursday was proof that this weekend is 99% about the show.

“He knows me very well then.

“Let them figure it out. Those people live in their own world. They’re good for nothing.

“It did help me that something went wrong during the first practice. Good luck with it.”

The Red Bull driver and 52-time Grand Prix winner also delivered a brutal assessment on the Las Vegas track, stating it to be miles off somewhere like Monaco. He even used a football reference for it.

“Personally I’m not a fan of street tracks, that is known. But for example Monaco, there is history. That is the Champions League, whereas Las Vegas is the Eredivisie (Dutch Premier Division). Nothing wrong with that, but everyone wants to win the Champions League.”

He also questions F1 and Liberty’s revolution of the sport, wondering whether this will be a success in the long-term.

“Now everything is new and popular everyone shows up, but it remains to be seen whether that will be the case in 10 to 15 years. The world changes, but does that require the sport to change along with it? Maybe you can do your own thing and take a different approach.”

Lastly, Verstappen was asked if Red Bull’s communications team are trying to get him to tone it down.

“I can say what I want, right? Everyone has the right to their own opinion. And if someone is not happy with that — tough luck.”