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Ferrari’s Vasseur hoping for Sainz reprieve after Australian GP disaster

Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur is hoping that Carlos Sainz’s time penalty for crashing into Fernando Alonso at the chaotic Australian Grand Prix will be revoked as the Scuderia reel from a difficult start to the Formula One season.

Sainz was outraged by the five-second sanction which bumped him down form fourth to 12th in Melbourne, telling reporters afterwards that was “didn’t feel well to speak”.

The decision left Ferrari with zero points from the GP as Sainz’s teammate Charles Leclerc crashed out on the opening lap.

“He was devastated on Sunday. We did petition for the review of the case. We’ve sent it to the FIA,” Vasseur told reporters on Thursday.

Sainz was sanctioned after clipping Alonso and sending him into a spin as they jostled for position, although his compatriot’s race was not hurt by the accident due to a red flag which allowed the veteran Aston Martin driver to finish third.

Ferrari feel Sainz was treated more harshly than Pierre Gasly, who was not penalised for a late collision with his Alpine teammate Esteban Ocon after running across the grass on the first corner.

Gasly would have missed this month’s Azerbaijan GP if he had been given a two-point penalty as he would have reached 12 points in a year which triggers a ban.

“We hope at least to have an open discussion with them (the stewards)… also for the good of the sport to avoid to have this kind of decision where you have three cases on the same corner and not the same decision.

“I don’t want to blame someone on a race incident. I’m doing this job for 33 years, and when you have crash on track you have two versions always with a different feedback and different outcome.

“We had the feeling that the Ocon and Gasly situation was treated a bit differently.”

Morale high

After an awful start to the 2023 campaign, Ferrari trail champions Red Bull by 97 points in the constructors’ standings after three races as Leclerc and Sainz have just 26 points between them.

Ferrari were top after three races last year before reliability issues and calamitous in-race decision-making left the iconic Italian outfit more than 200 points adrift of Red Bull by the end of the season.

That led to Vasseur replacing Mattia Binotto as team principal at the ‘Scuderia’.

Vasseur was previously the team principal at Renault’s Formula One team. From 2017, he held the same position at Ferrari-powered Sauber which was taken over by Alfa Romeo, which has close ties with Ferrari, in 2019. 

The Frenchman denied that Ferrari morale is low under his stewardship despite the tricky start

“The mood in the team is incredibly good for the level of results that we have. Everyone is very motivated and very focussed, the drivers are very supportive with us and the mood in the team is more than good,” said Vasseur. 

“For sure, we don’t have the results that we are expecting but we are all working together to improve the situation.”

Leclerc, who was champion Max Verstappen’s closest challenger last year, is stuck on six points after failing to finish two of this season’s GPs and only taking seventh in Saudi Arabia.

“I have absolutely no doubt about the motivation of Charles. For sure the start of the season is not ideal at all… but for sure the motivation is there,” said Vasseur.

“I have a good relationship with Charles. This won’t affect the mood for sure. For sure the results are not the ones expected but we all know that.”

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