Teams expect Sainz’s F1 China qualifying incident to be cleared up

Aston Martin protested against the qualifying result in Shanghai after Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz rejoined Q2 after spinning off the track.

Sainz was stationary for 77 seconds after tapping the wall coming out of the final corner, but the Spaniard managed to get going again and advanced to Q3 at the expense of Aston driver Lance Stroll.

As its driver was eliminated, Aston decided to protest the results based on article 39.6 of the F1 sporting regulations, which states that «any driver whose car stops on the track during the qualifying session or the sprint qualifying session shootout will not be permitted to take any further part in that session.”

The stewards dismissed the protest as it had been clear from previous instances that the rule is only intended for cars that re-join a qualifying session after having received outside assistance from marshals or recovery vehicles, while Sainz continued under his own power.

But the incident re-opened a discussion about tidying up the rulebook, as previously it was agreed that the outside assistance element should be added to 39.6, though the amendment didn’t make it into the 2024 sporting regulations.

«It’s just clarifying things and, in the end, a lot of discussion with the stewards and you’ve got to respect the decisions they’ve come to,» Aston Martin’s performance director Tom McCullough explained.

«But hopefully it’ll get tidied up and be less ambiguous going forward because it’s pretty clearly stated in the messaging system that the car stopped.

«That article says that that car shouldn’t take part further in qualifying. So, that’ll get tidied up going forward.»

Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur agreed that an explicit clarification is welcome to avoid further confusion, pointing out that F1’s sporting regulations have become ever more complex.

«I don’t know if it’s clear, but for sure we need to have some understanding of what happened,» Vasseur said.

«We asked the race director if we could restart, he said yes, and it was the end of the story. We have to define the situation exactly.

«But what is true is that the regulations are more and more complicated. When I started the job, the sporting regulation was 20 pages, today it’s 75.

«We are all trying to find a loophole and the regulations are now more and more complicated, but on this one, we will find an easy clarification.»

McCullough revealed Aston’s long-time sporting director Andy Stevenson immediately called out the potential rules breach once Sainz’s car had stopped on track.

«Andy sits next to me on the pit wall and he knows that rulebook inside out, he is like an encyclopaedia. He’s been here for so long,» McCullough said.

«The minute it came up on the official messaging system that a car had stopped, he went — bang — ‘Article 39.6, he can’t [rejoin].’

«We were a little bit surprised, which is why [we protested].»

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