Carlos Sainz admits his pace during practice for the Austrian Grand Prix was bittersweet due to a grid penalty he will take on Sunday.
McLaren has opted to fit an upgraded power unit in Sainz’s car, but as it exceeds the number of components he can use in a season he must start the race from the back of the grid. Coming of a sixth-place at Paul Ricard, Sainz was fifth in FP2 in Austria and said the pace shown by McLaren makes the penalty an especially painful one.
“Thanks for reminding me!” Sainz said of his penalty. “It makes the feeling of today very sour. When you have good pace on Friday without really wanting to be quick because we are preparing the run plan and the car for Sunday, and still when you attempt one push lap suddenly the pace is there, it makes me feel disappointed by the penalty. But it’s a price that we need to pay right now.”
Sainz admitted that he wasn’t expecting to be so quick at the Red Bull Ring, which gives the penalty an additional sting, albeit one that carries some cause for optimism.
“I’m surprised not to be happy about the pace,” he said. “But it could be such a good weekend without the penalty. Disappointed by that, but really proud of how we’re starting to move quickly.
“I think it’s my third consecutive Friday inside the top six, so it just shows that we are doing our homework when we arrive to races very well-prepared. The car is adapting to three different tracks now, and I am happy with that.”
While he stopped short of identifying a specific reason for McLaren’s recent good form, Sainz said he is pleased with the consistency the team is showing as it sits fourth in the constructors’ championship.
“It’s very difficult to tell race-by-race, but for sure every race we are doing we confirm ourselves inside the top 10, and sometimes on a Friday inside the top seven or top eight,” he said. “So we are doing a good job.”