Carlos Sainz Jr. took his third podium of the season and the fifth of his Formula 1 career on Sunday, with the decision to pit when he did late on for intermediates paying dividends as he took third place behind Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
Starting on the front row of the grid for the first time in his career, the Scuderia Ferrari driver got a good run on polesitter Lando Norris heading into turn two and swept into the lead, only for the Briton to regain first place as the Spaniard’s tyres began to grain up.
He made an early stop that looked as though would cost him a shot at the podium, but the late race rain shower and his decision to pit early for intermediates gained him a lot of track position and brought him a top three result.
“This was a tricky but positive weekend for me, with a good quali and a strong race where I gave absolutely everything,” said Sainz. “We made a perfect start from the dirty side, braking late into turn 2 and risking it on the outside of Lando to get into the lead. Unfortunately we suffered from graining and couldn’t hold P1 for much longer and had to pit early.
“After the first stop, we had a very good stint, managing the Hard tyre in traffic and then pushing in clean air, on course for a reasonably comfortable P3 before the rain came and made everything a lot trickier.
“With the used Hard it was clear to me we needed to box for Inters and together with the team we made the right decision at the right moment, regaining P3!”
Sainz says he is happy to have finished on the podium, but after leading the early laps, the Spaniard says work needs to be done so that he is less vulnerable from attack when he finds himself in the lead in the future.
“It’s a happy podium but I think as a team we need to keep analysing what we can do better to make sure next time a Ferrari is leading we are less vulnerable,” said the Spaniard. “We’ve got some time before the next race so we will keep pushing.”
“What a disappointing end to an otherwise extremely positive race!” – Charles Leclerc
Team-mate Charles Leclerc was less fortunate when the rain fell, with the Monegasque racer losing out on a certain points finish by gambling on staying out on his slick tyres, a decision that would cost him dearly.
Leclerc had started on the back row of the grid after a grid penalty was applied for a change of engine, but he made up significant ground in the early laps and was on course for a top six finish only for the rain to fall across the final half dozen laps.
He gambled on staying out in the hope that the rain would be brief, but the intensity meant he had to crawl around to the pits with two laps to go, ending his chance of points and leaving him fifteenth at the chequered flag.
“What a disappointing end to an otherwise extremely positive race!” said Leclerc. “I had a good start, gaining a few positions. Everything looked really promising, I made lots of overtakes and my pace was strong.
“Things suddenly changed when it started to rain at the very end of the race. Carlos was ahead and decided to pit for Inters, while I still had some doubts. I tried to do another lap on slicks, hoping that the rain would decrease. But it started pouring down and it was just impossible to go on without pitting with two laps to go. That was basically the end of my race, which is a real shame.
“A good job from the team and Carlos to bring home a third place today.”