The McLaren F1 Team‘s sporting director Gil de Ferran says that his side comes away from the Bahrain Grand Prix with mixed emotions on a weekend where McLaren showed good pace.
With both drivers starting in the top 10, Lando Norris managed to take his first points finish in Formula 1, but team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr. retired in the late stages of the race after an early collision with Red Bull Racing‘s Max Verstappen left him at the tail of the field.
Sainz Jr. suffered right front corner damage, including a puncture after an unsuccessful move on Verstappen at Turn 4 on lap four of 57.
However, the Spaniard told Motorsport.com afterwards that a gearbox problem would have ended his race prematurely and in a “more dramatic” way.
Norris profited from a double retirement for the Renault F1 Team with just three laps to go at the Bahrain International Circuit to claim sixth place – equalling fellow Brit Jenson Button‘s finish for Williams Racing at his second Grand Prix in Brazil, 19 years ago.
2003 Indianapolis 500 winner de Ferran sympathised with Sainz Jr.’s misfortune and heaped praised on Norris.
“On one hand we are elated but on the other are left wondering what could have been,” said de Ferran.
“What happened to Carlos, who showed very strong pace early on and throughout the race, was a real shame – the contact ruined his chances of a good result.
Meanwhile Lando was nothing short of spectacular today,” de Ferran continued.
“After getting tangled up early in the race and losing some positions, his drive to sixth place was perfectly judged with the right blend of determination, aggression, pace and tyre management.”
De Ferran said that the tricky and blustery conditions made finding the optimal strategy with McLaren using a two-stop strategy with Norris, starting and ending on soft tyres with a 24-lap long middle stint on the medium compound.
Taking an overall look at the weekend, the Brazilian said that McLaren leaves Bahrain “encouraged” with a first points finish of the season, but aware that there is plenty of work ahead to reach the top of the close midfield.
“Today’s race was certainly exciting and a difficult one to determine the best strategy for, as the conditions really played a part in the behaviour of the tyres, not to mention how close the competition was,” added de Ferran.
“We managed to execute good pit-stops and strategy, so we leave Bahrain pleased and encouraged with our result, while at the same time remaining totally focused – there still is a lot of work ahead.”