2023 Dakar Rally: FIA clears Carlos Sainz Jr. for closing father’s door

Racing might be a family affair for many, but Carlos Sainz Jr.‘s enthusiasm for his father during Stage #3 of the Dakar Rally only led to the elder Sainz nearly getting in trouble. On Thursday, the FIA completed its investigation into the Sainzs potentially violating Cross-Country Rally Sporting Regulations when Sainz Jr. helped close the door on Sainz Sr.’s Audi during a pit stop.

Late in the stage, Sainz Sr. came to a stop to fix a left-rear brake problem that ultimately lost him the overall lead. His son, wearing a bright yellow media jacket, watched from a distance until Sainz and co-driver Lucas Cruz entered their car. Sainz Jr. moved to close the left-side gull-wing door, pushing against it multiple times before it was fully secured. He then gave a thumbs up before Sainz drove off.

While certainly a nice family moment, the action raised concerns about it being a violation of Article 49.2.1 of FIA regulations which states, “The presence of team personnel or any team conveyance (including helicopters) is prohibited within 1 kilometre of its competing vehicle” with exceptions being in non-competition areas or if the stage takes place on roads used by teams.

However, Sainz Jr.’s case was more complex as he is not an employee of Team Audi Sport and merely a guest.

“The Competitor and the driver explained that the driver’s son seen in the Sporting delegate report is not a member of the team,” commented the FIA stewards’ final report. “He is a guest at the event. But this is not an initiative of the team. This is not an initiative of the driver. And the appearance of a son, being near a competitor’s car and helping to close the door is not an initiative of the team or the driver. Since this was not done on the initiative of a competitor or a driver, it cannot be recognized as a violation of the regulations.”

Although this clears Sainz Jr. of any wrongdoing, his status as a world-renowned Formula One driver amplifies the matter. As such, the FIA explained, his actions and the ensuing investigation should be an example for all unrelated personnel to avoid potentially entrapping situations.

“The Stewards note that the behavior of all members of the motorsport community should not raise any doubts,” continued the report. “Of particular importance is the fact that very well-known people in motorsport set an example for everyone else.

“It should be noted that Dakar 2023 is the round of the FIA World Championship. Honest pursuit of the result, adherence to sports principles is especially important. And it is important to follow not only written rules. It is also important to avoid situations that may raise doubts.

“For the relationship between father and son would be very difficult to see as completely unrelated. Can there be doubts about situations if, when the son participates in competition, the father stays in places where it is forbidden to members of the team, and vice versa?

“The art. 49.2.1 of the FIA 2023 CCRSR says that the presence of team personnel or any team conveyance is prohibited within 1 kilometre of its competing vehicle. Such a requirement is connected not only with the provision of possible illegal technical assistance / illegal service, but also with the fact that even verbal communication (verbal communication of the available information to the crew members) can create a situation that, due to the knowledge of such information, helps to gain an advantage over other competitors. Since crew members cannot have any means of communication at that time. And the rules are the same for everyone.

“In the Steward’s view, a very good example of avoiding questionable situations is when competitors participating in the FIA Championships ask even completely unrelated people not to approach the crew members or the car of that crew, if this may raise doubts about the possible acquisition of an unfair advantage.

“The Stewards decide that in this case there is no evidence confirming a violation of the regulations in a legal sense. But draws attention to the fact that in the name of popularizing motorsport, raising prestige, competitors are encouraged to avoid any situations that may raise doubts.”

After five stages, Sainz Sr. is currently fourth in the overall T1 standings. He won Stage #1 with his son watching.