McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella focuses on safety following the incident involving Carlos Sainz: “Standards must be higher “
McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella says the incident involving Carlos Sainz in the first Formula 1 practice session in Las Vegas underlines the need for an “absolutely safe” approach to objects such as manhole covers.
Sainz’s car was badly damaged when he drove over a manhole cover at the start of the first practice session on the new track, while Esteban Ocon also drove over one, causing serious damage to his underbody and chassis.
Both drivers had to switch to a replacement chassis for the second practice session, while Sainz also received a ten-place grid penalty for having to install an additional energy storage unit that exceeded the permitted quota.
For Stella, the incident was a reminder that safety on the track is paramount: “Every time you have a problem with manhole covers, it’s very annoying,” he says. “You saw that with Williams in Baku.” Back then, George Russell drove over such a cover.
“I think Jenson [Button] hit a manhole cover in Monaco, which immediately destroyed the front wing. And in that case it was at low speeds because he was coming out of the first corner in Monaco.”
“I think after this incident, there is a heightened awareness that the standards for this potential risk simply have to be higher. And basically, it has to be absolutely safe,” emphasizes the Italian.
Praise for solving the problem
Stella admits that he was relieved that the FIA was able to hold the second practice session after all, after the track had to be thoroughly checked.
“I think we’ve seen with new tracks and street circuits that problems like this can occur,” he says. “To be fair, when I saw these kinds of problems, I was a bit worried that it might be difficult to solve them. “
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“That’s why I want to praise the fact that all the technicians, engineers and also the FIA reacted well,” he emphasizes. “We had a session and it was good that everyone understood that we had to be flexible with the tire return, for example.”
“It’s just a shame that the spectators haven’t seen any cars on the track yet because they had to leave,” the team boss continued.
Moderate practice for McLaren
McLaren finished the extended second practice session with Lando Norris eleventh and Oscar Piastri three places behind.
Stella admits that it was not an easy session for the team from Woking: “No, we had a few problems here and there with cooling the car properly, but we got that under control. “
“But when we went out on track, we realized that we still had work to do, because the car wasn’t working as well as in the last few races,” he says. “We looked at the car and I would say that there is no easy answer at this point.”
Stella continued, “Like all the teams, we understood the specifics of this event, which are not only the location, but also the behavior of the tires and the layout of the track.”
“So it will be an interesting race. And I think we’ll see that the pecking order can change quite dramatically as well.”