Carlos Sainz says front wing damage stopped him from finishing even higher than eighth in the Austrian Grand Prix, following an excellent recovery from the back of the grid.
McLaren opted to take the updated Renault power unit on Sainz’s car at the Red Bull Ring, resulting in an automatic back of the grid start. Due to George Russell starting from the pit lane, Sainz lined up 19th and pulled off a brilliant drive to climb through the field, reeling in Pierre Gasly in seventh place in the closing stages before damage stopped his progress.
“I’m very, very happy and a bit surprised because we had some serious pace,” Sainz said. “Right from the start I managed the tires instead of overtaking everyone at the beginning. I wanted to create a big tire delta for the last stint, because my race was just going to get better and better with our tire degradation.
“The second stint I was just very, very fast – I did the fastest lap at some point, I think – and from there on it was one car every lap in the midfield, and suddenly I saw myself behind Gasly and Lando (Norris), catching them by half a second per lap. Just as I was about to enter the three-second gap with Gasly, the front wing broke.
“I don’t know how, it was on one of these strange curbs, and I lost a lot of aero balance. I lost the whole flap so I had to nurse P8 home, which I nearly lost to (Kimi) Raikkonen, but the pace was still there.”
Given the pace advantage he enjoyed over the two cars ahead, Sainz believes he had a chance of finishing sixth – where team-mate Norris finished as McLaren strengthened its grip on fourth in the constructors’ championship – but admits the final two positions would have been the hardest to gain.
“I would have caught them. Overtaking them? I was very good at overtaking, but you don’t know,” he said. “The more forward you go the more difficult it is to overtake. But I had some really good pace, I don’t know why. I was running at 1m08.5s, 1m08.6s, and even (Max) Verstappen and (Charles) Leclerc were not able to lap me until very late in the race because I was trying to keep them behind.
“I would have caught them for sure at the rate I was going, but overtake them we will never know.”