Free practice 1 was halted after just nine minutes in Nevada in a farcical start to Formula 1’s return to Sin City, with second practice also delayed.
Ferrari were forced to put a new engine in Sainz’s car and change the chassis after the incident.
And stewards have levied a grid penalty against the Spanish driver, despite a request from the Italian team to not punish their installation of a new engine given the “highly unusual external circumstances”.
Though conceding that Ferrari were not at fault, the race stewards said in a statement that they had to enforce “the regulations as they are written”, and thus punish Sainz.
The statement continued: “Accordingly, the mandatory penalty specified under Article 28.3 of the Sporting Regulations must be applied.
“The Stewards note that if they had the authority to grant a derogation in what they consider in this case to be mitigating, unusual and unfortunate circumstances, they would have done so, however the regulations do not allow such action.”
The action resumed in front of empty stands with spectators sent home after FP2 was delayed.
McLaren CEO Zak Brown admitted he was not expecting Sainz to be penalised. “Yeah for sure [we were surprised by the grid penalty]. That’s force majeure, nothing of their own doing and a very unique incident. I was surprised to see it and I think we need to be a bit more sporting over something like that. I was surprised to see a penalty.
“It’s unfortunate but we know with F1 there’s a lot of self-interest sometimes. I don’t know who it was, maybe someone running in competition with them. But it’s a little unfair.”
Speaking on Sky Sports, expert analyst Karun Chandhok described the punishment for a repairs caused by the circuit as “ridiculous”.
“I don’t think there’s been precedent and therefore there could have been a dispensation signed by all the other teams,” Chandhok said.
Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion, added: “I know it’s a regulation but can not all the teams agree that they [Ferrari] should get a pass?”