After another poor qualifying at the Red Bull Ring for both Scuderia Ferrari drivers, Carlos Sainz Jr put in a strong performance to finish in fifth place at the Austrian Grand Prix after working together with his team-mate Charles Leclerc who finished eighth.
It was a very similar performance to the one he put in at the Styrian Grand Prix with virtually the same strategy in use. The team decided to start Sainz on the hard compound tyres and run as deep as possible into the race. By the time Sainz eventually stopped for a set of the yellow C4 medium tyres, the Spaniard was able to push as much as he wanted, whilst those around were running much slower to preserve their older tyres.
It didn’t take long for Sainz to get onto the back of the top ten train, where with the help of his team-mate he managed to work his way up to sixth place. At the flag however Sainz was promoted to fifth after Sergio Pérez who crossed the line in fifth, was awarded two separate five-second penalties, resulting in ten seconds being added to his finishing time dropping him down to sixth and Sainz up to fifth.
Sainz proved yet again just how good his pace and racecraft is in the SF21, the Spaniard just has his one-lap pace to improve on.
“I’m leaving Austria feeling confident about the work we are doing weekend after weekend. Today we executed a smooth race with a good strategy, great tyre management and teamwork. We chose to start on Hards, which we knew would make us struggle in the first few laps. That cost me a couple of positions at the start due to the lack of grip but I knew my race was not about lap 1.
“The target was to extend the first stint as much as possible and I managed to maintain a very solid pace saving my tyres. I actually went very long before stopping for the Mediums and from there it was flat out until the chequered flag. I caught up quickly to the cars ahead after passing Yuki (Tsunoda) and then thanks to our teamwork with Charles and a good overtake on Daniel (Ricciardo) I managed to cross the line less than 10 seconds behind Checo (Perez) for P5.
“We’ve had two good Sundays here in Austria but we are still far from where we want to be. The ambition and motivation is high, so we’ll keep pushing hard to improve for the upcoming races.”
“He knows he was a little bit over the limit” – Charles Leclerc
Charles Leclerc had a very eventful race, it was in fact because of two incidents involving Leclerc that Pérez was awarded the penalties which moved Sainz up to fifth.
Leclerc who also failed to make it into final qualifying started the race on the medium tyres, the Ferrari driver looked fast throughout but got caught in a midfield DRS train behind Daniel Ricciardo. Leclerc then moved onto the hard tyres and was behind Pérez who was running the same strategy. Leclerc looked several times to overtake the Mexican but it wasn’t until lap forty-one where the first incident struck.
Leclerc tried to go around the outside of Pérez at turn four but went off into the gravel with nowhere to go, Pérez was awarded a five-second time penalty for being deemed to have forced Leclerc off the track. Pérez was awarded the same penalty again only six laps later, this time at turn six with Leclerc again ending up in the gravel whilst trying to go around the outside.
In the end despite Pérez’s penalties, Leclerc still finished behind the Red Bull Racing driver, with the Mexican going over the limit in Leclerc’s opinion.
“It was a frustrating race for me, as I felt I could have got an even better result. Splitting the strategy between me and Carlos paid off for the team in the end. I was struggling to fight my way ahead of Daniel on the Hards in the closing laps of the race and so I let Carlos by to give it a shot, which worked out well for us. Anytime I saw a gap I tried to take the opportunity. There were two close ones with Checo and I think he knows he was a little bit over the limit.
“We have already spoken and cleared the air and, in the end, it’s all part of the game. A 5th and 8th place is not what we want, but I think that we did a solid job today. We’ve been working extremely hard, and every step forward is important. We have to stay consistent and continue like this and hopefully we can confirm out strong race pace in the next few races”.