Fred Vasseur insists Ferrari are still pursuing financial compensation from the FIA, Formula 1 or the Las Vegas Grand Prix after a circuit failure meant Carlos Sainz‘s SF-23 was extensively damaged by a loose manhole cover just nine minutes into FP1 on The Strip Circuit.
The Ferrari team principal was furious in Las Vegas when it transpired Sainz would earn a ten-place grid penalty for replacing engine components broken in the incident as he went over his limit for the year, Ferrari appealed and the stewards even admitted it was harsh but said they had no mechanism in the rules to waive the penalty.
With the cost of repairing the incident also coming out of the budget cap, at the time Ferrari indicated they’d look to be compensated as the incident was due to a circuit malfunction, and after the end of the season Vasseur doubled down on that intent.
“The discussions with the insurance company always take an eternity. We all know that,” Vasseur said at Ferrari‘s Christmas lunch. “It’s the same everywhere, even in Formula 1.”
It’s not an unprecedented situation, as the costs of Romain Grosjean‘s damage thanks to a similar incident at the 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix were covered by the Sepang International Circuit.
The safety inspection at Las Vegas was under time pressure due to the much-maligned opening ceremony, and though a spectacular grand prix helped fog the memory of Sainz‘s incident to fans, it’s clear the Spaniard hasn’t moved on quite so quickly.
“I have a lot of bitterness about what happened that weekend,” Sainz said at an Estrella Galicia sponsor’s event. “Every time I think about it, it makes me very angry, from starting on the front row, to starting in the middle of the grid, and from being able to fight for a win with Charles or a podium with the Red Bulls, to having to come from the back, there’s a big difference.
“I’m sure it affected my championship as well as Ferrari’s championship a lot. It is something to analyse during this winter, to see if some way or other it would have been possible to fight something more or to come to some agreement.
“But if the regulations don’t let you, Ferrari can fight and debate all they want, but if a team lodges a protest there’s no way to win it.”
Sainz: Vegas 100 percent changed my season
Sainz had a 22-point lead over Charles Leclerc in the drivers’ championship ahead of the 2023 Las Vegas GP, but after qualifying on the front row his grid penalty limited the Spaniard to a sixth-place finish while Leclerc came second having fought for the win all race.
Sainz would almost certainly have been in that lead battle had he had a clean Friday, but things got even worse in Abu Dhabi when front wing issues contributed to his first Q1 elimination since the 2019 Brazilian GP.
While Leclerc picked up another second-place to become the lead Ferrari in the drivers’ standings, Sainz failed to finish after running a risky strategy and finished six points behind his teammate.
“In the test the week after Abu Dhabi I was able to run with another engine and another car, and there were things that I know were not 100%,” Sainz added. “Everything comes from Las Vegas, which would have made the end of the season different.
“I could see that there were things that were not 100% and that affected my performance, but it’s in the past, and it’s no use letting the mind go there. I’m not going to let those two races tarnish a season that has been quite good for me.
“Above all, I will learn from the bad moments, from those two races that could have been done differently with the team.”