Carlos Sainz’s incident with a manhole cover has highlighted the need for a rules tweak, says Martin Brundle.
Sainz found himself slapped with a 10-place grid penalty for Sunday’s Las Vegas Grand Prix, after requiring a new engine following the damage picked up in practice when a loose manhole cover tore his Ferrari apart.
Despite the desire of the stewards to try finding a way to grant dispensation, given Sainz and Ferrari were innocent of any wrongdoing as the circuit wasn’t ready for use, the Spaniard had to take the penalty as the rulebook didn’t allow for any such leniency.
Speaking in his post-race column for Sky F1, former F1 driver Martin Brundle addressed the situation and said, by rights, some sort of leniency needs to be allowable in the rulebook to ensure such a situation can’t happen again.
“Carlos Sainz’s car had been wrecked by the errant access cover in first practice in a pretty scary way,” he said.
“He needed many new parts including a battery pack which would hand him a 10-place grid penalty.
“He was controlled but clearly beyond angry, as were his team who thought the penalty unfair in the circumstances. They also wanted to know who was going to pay for the damage.
“There are hundreds of pages of rules in the International Sporting Code and the specific F1 Sporting and Technical regulations, but nothing which can allow the Stewards to legally turn a blind eye if something just doesn’t seem fair.
“We really must add some wording, with due checks and balances, which can be applied without fear of ensuing legal actions, or teams using it to advantage in other scenarios.
Of course, such an addition to the rulebook would also lead to the possibility of teams trying to find sneaky ways to gain a free power unit/parts change. After all, Sainz was equipped with a fresher power unit – one that he got to use in Las Vegas, and now for the finale in Abu Dhabi.
Brundle acknowledged that finding the key wording to introduce a ‘blind eye’ clause would be difficult.
“It’s perilous to write a clause and create a precedent where the Stewards can unilaterally ignore regulations in the name of common sense and fairness in force majeure situations,” he said.
“Even if every team and others key bodies agree.”