Carlos Sainz was forced out of the Formula 1 Qatar Grand Prix before it had even begun when Ferrari identified a fuel leak on his car on Sunday evening.
Sainz was set to start the race from 12th after missing out on Q3 by 0.031s on Friday.
In the run-up to the race, Ferrari mechanics worked hurriedly to try and repair an issue with the SF-23’s fuel system. However, one hour before the start of the race the Scuderia announced that the Spaniard would not make it to the grid.
Sainz confirmed that a fuel leak had led to his absence and that until race day, the team had not run high enough fuel levels to spot the problem sooner.
“Would’ve been nice to take part for sure and see what could’ve happened because it’s a different race to what we are used to normally,” Sainz said.
“Impossible to have seen it before with the fuel levels that we have run this week. It’s a pity.
“[It’s] obviously pretty depressing to find out two hours before the race that you’re not even going to be able to take part after all the preparation that goes into an F1 weekend.
“Motorsport is cruel sometimes and today we got to taste the worst part of it. That’s how it is and we focus on the next five [races].”
The Ferrari SF-23 of race non-starter Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP), out with a fuel system issue.
08.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 18, Qatar Grand Prix, Doha, Qatar, Race Day.
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With the knowledge that he could have recovered to a solid points position in the race, Sainz is aware of the championship consequences that may come in the final rounds.
“It’s not a great situation for sure. Today we will lose a big amount of points and opportunities,” Sainz said moments before the race start.
“But at the same time there are still five races left so we will focus on that.”
Fortunately for Ferrari, the ramifications were softened when
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell came to blows at Turn 1.
The Mercedes pair had occupied second and third on the grid, but contact between them on the opening lap sent Hamilton out of the race, and Russell tumbled down the running order.
Russell managed to recover to fourth, ahead of the sole remaining Ferrari of Charles Leclerc to bring Mercedes’ tally for the weekend to 21 points.
Ferrari leave Qatar with just 13 points to its name as a time penalty for Leclerc for track limits in the Sprint saw the Monegasque driver fall out of the points.
As a result, Mercedes extended the buffer to second in the Constructors’ Championship to 28 points.