Carlos Sainz Jr. says the competitive short run pace he displayed on Friday for the Austrian Grand Prix only made his grid penalty feel more painful, as the Spaniard will start Sunday’s race from the back of the grid.
The Spanish driver placed the seventh and fifth best time in a hectic Friday practice sessions, which saw multiple front wings and cars from the front end of the field spinning and crashing out. Free Practice 2 proved to be a chaotic session which saw Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel all spin off track, with Verstappen and Bottas hitting the barriers and ending their sessions on the spot.
The two cars crashing out of the session allowed more drivers in the field to step up on the timing screens, which Sainz did with a 1m05.545s to go fifth overall in the afternoon session. His fastest time of the day however came in Free Practice 1 where he placed 1m05.502s.
Despite the strong pace with his short runs, Sainz feels that the competitive nature of his MCL34 only makes his grid penalty worse, as he will start from the back of the grid for exceeding number of power unit components.
“Another good Friday. It’s always good news to finish again in the top 10 – today top seven – cars, even though it is only practice,” said Sainz.
“My run plan has been more race-biased than normal today, as obviously we’re trying to prepare for the race knowing that I’m going to take a penalty for Sunday.
“Even so, the only short run I did looked competitive, which I guess today only makes the penalty feel a bit more painful. However, it is what it is, and there’s no point losing energy on that.
“My focus is on the race and our long runs also looked decent, so I prefer to look on the bright side and keep preparing for Sunday.”
Sainz’s team-mate Lando Norris focused on long runs throughout the day and produced the tenth fastest times in both Friday sessions. The British rookie enjoyed a clean session completing over 75 laps between the two sessions.
Norris focused on producing long-runs, something which he wasn’t able to do at the last round at the Circuit Paul Ricard. The Brit says McLaren have a good understanding where they are strong and what they need to improve going into Saturday.
“On the whole, a reasonable Friday. It could’ve been a little better, and it wasn’t the cleanest of days with a few red flags here and there which changed everything around a bit,” commented Norris.
“But we got a good understanding of the car: where it’s weak, where it’s strong, areas we need to improve. Overall, that’s the main thing.
“I focused a bit more on long running today, something I didn’t really do at Paul Ricard, and that helped me to get an understanding of the race balance for Sunday. We’re going to have look over things tonight and see how to improve the car for tomorrow.”
McLaren’s Performance Director Andrea Stella said that the hot and windy conditions that occurred within the Styrian mountains were extreme throughout the day, but McLaren were able to completed their practice programmes with the delays of accidents that happened over the course of the day.
“We had a busy couple of sessions, at what is a very interesting and challenging track, with a mix of aerodynamic set-ups and tyre tests to go through,” said Stella.
“Despite some delays during the sessions, we completed our programme. Ambient temperatures are quite extreme this weekend, causing a hot track and an intense and gusty wind, which made driving quite challenging as we saw today with yellow and red flags.
“Carlos’ run plan was oriented towards race preparation, as we have to start from the back of the grid for the PU penalty. Lando’s run plan was more normal. Hot conditions are likely to continue and we will review what we’ve learnt today, optimise the package and finalise our preparation for qualifying and the race. We expect another very tight midfield fight.”