The Australian Grand Prix ended in a double DNF for Ferrari. Charles Leclerc’s accident at turn 3 was deemed a racing incident, while Carlos Sainz finished outside the points after receiving a 5-second penalty at the end of the race.
Sainz was penalized after making contact with Fernando Alonso in the late-race red flag restart, which cemented a disastrous weekend for the Italian squad.
The drivers finished the Australian GP with a lap behind the Safety Car, unable to overtake up to the line. As a result, an otherwise minimal 5-second penalty became a disaster for Sainz – putting him last of the classified drivers.
The Scuderia immediately expressed their opposition to the FIA’s decision, with Carlos Sainz pleading on team radio that the penalty was “unfair and too severe”. For this reason, Ferrari has appealed to the FIA and asked them to review the decision.
Ferrari asks for the ‘right of review’ to overturn the decision of the Melbourne commissioners.
During a video conference held by Frederic Vasseur with some selected journalists, the team principal revealed that the Melbourne GP was not officially over for the Scuderia.
“We have lodged an appeal directly with the FIA to review the decision. We had 14 days to present the ‘right of review’, and now it will be up to the FIA to decide whether to proceed with the second appeal and listen to Carlos and us,” explained the Ferrari team principal.
Immediately after the race, Laurent Mekies (Ferrari’s Race Director) discussed the incident with the stewards.
Ferrari is now preparing to defend itself to try and give Carlos back the crucial points he lost after the penalty, but also discuss the work of the FIA.
The Frenchman didn’t want to comment too much on the matter – out of respect for the FIA and aware of the dynamic that now exists between the FIA and Ferrari – given that discussions are going on in this period.
“It is four weeks from here to Baku. My hope is that a decision will be made before we get to the next Grand Prix,” Vasseur said. The former Renault and Alfa Romeo team principal explained what the Scuderia expects from this appeal.
“At least we would like to be heard and have a constructive discussion. We certainly go there to reverse the decision, but we also want to speak for the good of the sport and to try to eliminate this inconsistency. In the same corner, there were three accidents (Sainz-Alonso, Gasly-Ocon, Sargeant-De Vries) judged differently.”
One of the points Fred Vasseur raised was made by Carlos Sainz himself on team radio during the race:
” What most displeases Carlos is that they didn’t even listen to him. True, we always ask for penalties during the race and not after, but this was a particular situation with red flags and restarts, and the race was over.
“It was a case that could have been treated differently,” explained the Frenchman whilst trying to be selective with his words and avoid criticizing the stewards, stating diplomatically that “the feeling is that one could do something better.”
And so, Ferrari, without being too critical in public, will try to reverse Australia’s decision. They now await a response from the FIA, who will first have to accept or reject the Scuderia’s request for a right to review.
Inconsistency of the FIA: Why was only Carlos Sainz penalised?
The finale of the Melbourne GP was a subject of heated discussion amongst fans. The FIA has faced a lot of criticism for how it managed the race, with some suggesting that decisions were made to promote red-flag restarts and create more of a spectacle.
Similar concerns were raised after Jeddah when a Safety Car was brought out after Lance Stroll parked his Aston Martin next to an escape route. The official justification for this was that the FIA could not clearly see the position of Stroll’s car.
There was also controversy about the handling of Fernando Alonso’s podium finish, which became very heavily contested.
In Melbourne, the first main incident was between Charles Leclerc and Lance Stroll. The FIA quickly determined the collision was a racing accident, which was generally applauded by fans.
However, the late-race red flag restart saw various incidents – including one between Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard missed his braking point and hit his fellow Spaniard in turn 1.
Gasly also found himself in trouble after a turn one mistake, rejoining the track with dirty tires and no grip, which then saw him lose the rear end and push his teammate Esteban Ocon into the wall.
Furthermore, at the back of the grid, Logan Sargeant made a mess of turn one and slammed into the rear of Nyck De Vries, sending both drivers into the gravel and out of the race.
Carlos Sainz’s accident was noted and – quite quickly – deemed worthy of a 5-second penalty. The Spaniard disagreed with this decision, expressing his frustration on team radio:
“Please, tell them to wait – They have to talk to me and let me explain. It’s so unfair. It’s too severe a decision,” he said in a voice of desperation-aware his race would be undone.
The FIA’s decision to finish the race behind a Safety Car eliminated any chance for Carlos Sainz to minimize the damage from this penalty. Every classified driver ended up ahead of Sainz, highlighting the severity of an otherwise small 5-second penalty.
Other teams were aware of Sainz’s vulnerability, with Aston Martin asking Alonso to distance himself from Lewis Hamilton and prevent the Ferrari driver from securing any points.
Amongst all of this, the FIA ’noted’ the incident between Gasly and his teammate Ocon. It was then decided that – with Alpine looking to avoid a penalty for either driver – no further action would be taken.
Worse still, the incident between Sargeant and De Vries was not even investigated. The incongruence between Sainz’s penalty and the other incidents on the grid was a point of contention in F1 circles, with Fernando Alonso giving his thoughts on his fellow Spaniard’s penalties:
“I didn’t see the replay, but anything can happen on the first lap. It’s the world of F1. For me, it’s too severe a penalty.”
Carlos Sainz, who was visibly livid post-race, described the 5-seconds as “the most unjust penalty I’ve seen in my entire life.“
Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang