The Las Vegas GP was thrilling, with Charles Leclerc battling the Red Bull duo for victory. Were it not for Safety Car timing, the 26-year-old might have secured a second Ferrari win in 2023. However, the penultimate weekend of the season made headlines for different reasons.
Carlos Sainz was the victim of a drain hole cover in FP1, which was cancelled almost immediately after issues with the track. Inspections were rushed in Formula 1’s haste to prepare the Vegas circuit and paddock.
This resulted in a drain cover damaging the SF-23 of Carlos Sainz, as the downforce generated by his F1 car ripped the cover from the ground. Alpine’s Esteban Ocon also suffered damage to his chassis.
Ferrari’s team principal was understandably outraged at the situation. The Italian outfit lost millions in damage costs, and Carlos Sainz received a 10-place penalty for changing his battery.
In hindsight, the Spanish driver could have dramatically increased Ferrari’s chances of victory on Sunday. Had he started from the P2 he earned in qualifying, Red Bull’s afternoon would have been even more difficult.
Speaking after the race, Vasseur spoke candidly about the situation:
“It’s not an easy one to give a set of tyres or an engine – because it’s a game of performance,” he told formu1a.uno and other members of the media.
“We had a couple of millions of damage. The mechanics worked like hell to come back… so far, it’s included in the budget cap.”
When asked about whether adjustments will be made to write off the costs from the budget cap, Vasseur said the following:
“There will be discussions, but decisions are another thing.”
“We can’t repair the chassis, even the seat was damaged. Yeah, we have a lot of extra costs – the battery was damaged, and the engine is dead.
“We have a lot of consequences on the financial side and the sporting side, on the stock of spare parts and on the budget side. For sure, it’s not an easy one.”
Whilst Vegas eventually proved a fantastic event, it wasn’t without its scrutiny. F1 must navigate the balance between “the show” and the sport itself.
On this occasion, Ferrari and Sainz are concerned with the sporting cost. However, the incident was hazardous and could have had far worse consequences.
Whether Ferrari can secure an exception for the damages remains to be seen. For now, though, the team will focus on beating Mercedes for P2 in the standings at Abu Dhabi.