Max Verstappen has admitted Carlos Sainz was “so lucky” to not get taken out by Lewis Hamilton during his crash at the Japanese Grand Prix. Sainz spun out on the opening lap of the race after driving over a puddle of standing water.
It was enough to throw the Spaniard off the circuit and into the barrier, bringing out the safety car and eventually the red flags. Verstappen watched the incident back with team-mate Sergio Perez on a TV in the post-race cool-down room.
Verstappen explained: “He was so lucky to not get T-boned.” Perez replied: “By Hamilton?”
Pointing at the screen, Verstappen responded: “Yeah, he can’t see anything, look. Oh my God.” At the time of the accident, Jenson Button also stressed Sainz was “lucky” he was not collected by other cars.
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After hitting the wall, the Ferrari came to a stop on the outside of the racing line making it a potential obstacle in the heavy spray. Speaking over team radio, the Ferrari driver said: “Yeah I crashed, I crashed, I crashed.”
Sainz admitted becoming a sitting duck was the “more scary part” of the shunt as he wasn’t sure if everyone had noticed he had crashed. He explained: “Basically, by the time we started the race we were on inters but the track was nearly into extreme conditions.
“I had no visibility, so I tried to get out of Checo’s slipstream, or Checo’s water curtain, and suddenly I found myself in a puddle and had aquaplaning and lost the car. The more scary part came a bit later when I was stuck in the middle of the track, and I could see cars coming and I knew that they didn’t see I was there.”
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Sky Sports pundit Karun Chandhok defended Sainz, suggesting the spin was not entirely his fault. He commented: “I think he just got caught out with a bit of aquaplaning underneath one of the rivers.
“It’s really really unlucky for him, you’ve seen that lots of times.” A recovery vehicle was then sent out to collect Sainz’s car while the pack was behind the safety car.
However, Pierre Gasly was still travelling at over 150mph after pitting for a fresh wing. The Frenchman was angry at the race stewards for the “unacceptable” decision.
The AlphaTauri star was later hit with a 20-second time penalty for travelling too fast under red flags and was awarded two penalty points on his race licence.