Carlos Sainz Jr. enjoyed the opening few laps of Sunday’s Portuguese Grand Prix as he made the most of the damp conditions to take the lead, but the Spaniard knew that when the track dried up, he would fall back through the pack.
The McLaren F1 Team driver made the most of his soft tyres to jump from seventh on the grid to hit the front of the field by lap two, but once the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team drivers found their rhythm, he found himself shuffled back through the pack. He ultimately fell down the order to be running seventh towards the end of the race at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve.
Sainz was able to gain one position with just a couple of laps remaining as he overtook Sergio Pérez for sixth, but he was at least able to enjoy his moment at the front of the field before reality set in.
“Quite an interesting race for us,” said Sainz. “Obviously I was very happy with the start and the first laps in the rain and the mixed conditions, managing to get up to P1 and leading the race for a few laps.
“It was good fun and I always enjoy those tricky conditions. I knew as soon as the track dried that it was going to be impossible to maintain the lead, but until that moment I hope the fans at home enjoyed it as much as I did!
“Unfortunately, in dry conditions we struggled with graining, which meant we went backwards through the field, and only towards the end we managed to recover some well-fought positions and finish in a good P6. It’s been a very tough race, but in the end, we scored good points which are important for the championship.
“Congratulations to Lewis for that impressive record.”
“I just got unlucky with Stroll – I’m not sure what he was thinking” – Lando Norris
Team-mate Lando Norris was much less fortunate, although is early laps were also impressive as he rose as high as fourth before, he too, began to slide back through the field.
Unfortunately for Norris, he was side-swiped by BWT Racing Point Formula One Team’s Lance Stroll heading into turn one which damaged his front wing, and from there on he was struggling towards the back of the midfield and ultimately finished thirteenth.
Norris says he will take the positives from the race at Portimão into next weekend’s race at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Italy as he bids to return to the points for the first time since the Tuscan Grand Prix.
“I had a really good start with Carlos,” said Norris. “We risked a lot on the first lap and it paid off. We were first and fourth and it was looking really good, but then we started to suffer with graining on the Softs.
“Then I just got unlucky with Stroll – I’m not sure what he was thinking – and that caused us front wing damage. I had to box, have a front wing change and it put me a lot further down the order. So, a tough race that didn’t go our way, but we made a good start, had good pace and we were quicker than our close rivals before the incident. We’ll keep pushing and go again in Imola next week.
“Finally, congratulations to Lewis on achieving a record 92 wins, it’s a great achievement.”
“Compliments to the team here at the track and back home at the factory” – Andreas Seidl
Andreas Seidl, the Team Principal at McLaren, says it was positive for the team to outscore both Racing Point and the Renault DP World F1 Team in Portugal, particularly with how close the three teams are in the Constructors’ Championship.
Racing Point currently hold a two-point advantage over McLaren in the battle for third place in the standings, while Renault are a further four points adrift in fifth with just five races of the season remaining.
Seidl was pleased with how Sainz performed during the race, but he bemoaned the collision Norris had with Stroll that ruined his chances of a top ten finish.
“It’s obviously a positive that we outscored both Racing Point and Renault today in our Constructors’ Championship battle, thanks to a great drive from Carlos that resulted in P6 and eight very important points,” said Seidl. “It was a shame losing Lando on lap 18, after Lance collided with him, destroying his chances of also having a good result.
“Compliments to the team here at the track and back home at the factory who put a competitive car on track, and to the drivers who delivered all weekend. We confirmed we have a car that can keep alive the battle for P3 in the Constructors’ Championship.
“Congratulations also, to Lewis on his record. A truly incredible achievement.”