Manhole madness: Sainz’s penalty sparks F1 legends’ fury

Las Vegas burst onto the Formula 1 scene to become the epicentre of plenty of heated controversies. Former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher and the increasingly-outspoken Max Verstappen are now expressing their outrage over the penalty imposed on Carlos Sainz.

The incident that sparked the uproar and signalled Vegas’ ignominious start to life on the F1 calendar occurred when Sainz’s Ferrari had an intimate conversation with a manhole cover, effectively writing off his single seater. But it led to Sainz being penalized ten places on the grid for replacing damaged components, a decision that has been widely criticized.

Verstappen was forthright in his criticism of the track’s preparedness. “Sorry, but if you look at those covers, you really don’t need a high IQ to know what would happen if a Formula 1 car drives over them,” he stated emphatically.

Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team boss, was also embroiled in the controversy. He was critical of a journalist who referred to the incident as a “black eye” for the event. Verstappen retorted pointedly. “Toto would talk completely differently if it had been his car,” he asserted. “But I don’t expect anything different from him.”

Sainz himself expressed astonishment at the lack of a ‘force majeure’ clause in the rules, which would have accounted for such unforeseen incidents. He shared his frustration, noting that the sport often fails to handle such situations aptly. “I’m disappointed but at the same time not surprised,” he said, reflecting on the broader issues within F1’s regulatory framework. “There’s been many cases this year that I think the sport has proven that it can do things a lot better,” he said.

The rumor mill suggests that behind-the-scenes dynamics, particularly the rivalry over millions in prize money between Ferrari and Mercedes, played a role in the enforcement of the penalty. Sainz hinted at this, acknowledging the business aspect of the sport: “For sure there were rival teams pushing for that, which surprises me in a way. But I’ve also been in this sport for long enough to understand that it’s business.”

Verstappen, ever the critic of the sport’s politics, concurred, highlighting the self-centered nature of the teams in such situations. “In this political environment we are in, of course, every team thinks about themselves,” he commented.

But Sainz also pointed out the potential impact of such decisions on the fanbase, especially those new to the sport, attracted by the Las Vegas spectacle. “I have people that have never come to a race that are still asking me why I’m getting a penalty for what happened,” he lamented.

Ralf Schumacher, echoing the sentiments of Verstappen and Sainz, expressed his disbelief at the situation. Speaking on Sky Deutschland, he described the lack of a force majeure clause as “unbelievable” and “almost outrageous.”

“As crazy as it sounds, there is no force majeure and I find it unbelievable, almost outrageous, that Sainz is being punished twice like this.”

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