Carlos Sainz Jr. admitted that the tyre management he was forced to do during the Qatar Grand Prix on Sunday made for a less than interesting evening behind the wheel, but he was rewarded with a seventh-place finish at the Losail International Circuit.
Sainz finished a place behind where he started, mostly due to the late punctures suffered by Valtteri Bottas and Lando Norris, with the Spaniard having been jumped by Max Verstappen, Sergio Pérez, Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll during the race.
Despite this, when the Scuderia Ferrari driver was let off the leash in the final few laps, he was able to close down on the battle for fifth place between Ocon and Stroll, although being in the drag reduction system (DRS) train made it impossible for him to make any place gains.
“It wasn’t the most entertaining race today for us due to the amount of tyre management we had to do,” said Sainz. “However, we did a good job and managed to finish on the one-stop strategy, despite the doubts we had prior to the race.
“As expected, the race start on the Medium tyre was tough for me and I struggled to fight with the cars around me. From there I just focused on extending the first stint to the maximum and then taking care of the Hard tyre during the first laps of the second stint.
“When I was told we were safe to push to the end I finally had some fun, catching Ocon and Stroll ahead of me. However, being stuck in a DRS train made it impossible to overtake so that was it.”
Sainz says the triple-header in Mexico City, São Paulo and Qatar was a positive one for Ferrari as they have secured a big lead over the McLaren F1 Team in the Constructors’ Championship heading into the final two races.
McLaren scored only four points across the three races, while Ferrari managed forty-five in the same period, meaning they head to Saudi Arabia thirty-nine and a half points ahead of their rivals.
“Overall it’s been a positive triple-header, where I’ve felt confident and fast in the car in every session and race,” said Sainz. “We have also increased our lead over McLaren so we can be happy about that.
“Before tackling the last two races of the season a bit of rest is much needed, especially for the mechanics and every member of the race team. Thanks for all the effort guys! Finally, congratulations to Fernando [Alonso] today! Great to see him back on the podium.”
“I was happy to see my pace return” – Charles Leclerc
Team-mate Charles Leclerc recovered from his poor Qualifying that left him a lowly thirteenth on the grid to finish eighth, with the Monegasque racer feeling much better behind the wheel of the car after an overnight chassis change.
After Saturday’s Qualifying session, the team identified a crack in his chassis, with the damage enough to see Leclerc struggle for pace, but the speed returned on Sunday evening under the floodlights in Qatar as he was able to recover to score four points for eighth place.
“As a team, we ended the weekend on a positive note,” said Leclerc. “Personally, I was happy to see my pace return after quite a frustrating qualifying. I would like to thank our mechanics for the incredible job they did in changing my chassis yesterday.
“From the first few laps of the race, the feeling I had in the car was already much better and I knew that I could push. In terms of the overall result, there is nothing to be excited about when you only finish in P8.
“But considering that I started from a long way back and looking at the strong pace I had, especially in the second stint on the Hard tyres, I think we made a really good recovery. We will now do everything we can to carry this momentum into the final two races of the season.”