Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur deplored the Australian Grand Prix stewards’ decision to punish Carlos Sainz for his run-in with Fernando Alonso in the race without first hearing from the Spaniard.
Sainz was hit with a 5-second penalty without further discussion for colliding with Alonso at Turn 1 shortly after the race’s second restart and sending the Aston Martin driver into a spin.
During the red flag period, race control informed Ferrari of the sanction which deprived its driver of a fourth-place finish. Sainz implored his team to request a hearing with the stewards, but to no avail as the latter remained indifferent to the Spaniard’s case.
“Carlos had a very good recovery after the unlucky pit stop, just before the red flag, and to get penalised like this at the end it’s very harsh,” Vasseur told Channel 4 on Sunday.
“For sure you are emotional in this kind of situation because you are not far away of the podium, you are P4 coming from nowhere when we all the others get the pit stop for free. He did a mega good job.
“Now, I think that you can discuss hours about the penalty, if it’s harsh or not. For sure that depending of your position, your team and so on the analysis will be different.”
Vasseur referenced a recent sanction against Alonso in Saudi Arabia that was eventually overturned as a precedent that justified Sainz being heard by the officials.
“I think what is a shame for me is that considering that it was not impacting the podium, at least the stewards, they could have listened to them and to have a look on the data. And I think this is a is a bit of a shame.
“Last week we changed the regulation two times in 10 minutes about the pit stop for Alonso and we could do the same today, at least to discuss.”
Read also: Sainz fumes over ‘unacceptable, too severe’ penalty
Despite the tough call, Ferrari opted not to appeal the decision, but Vasseur noted the difference in how the two cases had been treated.
“They took 30 laps before to decide if Alonso was into the box or not and today took five seconds,” he said.
Vasseur’s disappointment was reflected in the Italian media on Monday morning, with outlets properly indicting FIA race director Niels Wittich.
“Niels Wittich gets a zero from us,” wrote Corriere della Sera. “He, like his predecessor Michael Masi, did everything wrong. He seems to want to cover himself on all fronts, so as not to be held liable.
“The FIA also gets a zero, because they show no flexibility at all when applying the rules. In fact, the rules are not properly applied at all. They must fire Wittich immediately.”
However, the Corriere dello Sport also apportioned blame on Ferrari’s drivers.
“Ferrari is losing patience with the far too nervous drivers,” it wrote. “Leclerc immediately went KO, while Sainz had a chance to win a podium, but ruined everything himself.”
“Leclerc was furious and needs to calm down. Of course, he can’t help Ferrari being too slow, but losing this way only makes everything worse.”
“The podium was deserved for Ferrari, but Sainz threw everything away by hitting Alonso.”