Carlos Sainz says an explanation of why he struggled in qualifying at the British Grand Prix gave him greater confidence heading into the race as he finished in sixth place.
McLaren has appeared to be the fourth-fastest car over the past three races but Sainz was eliminated in Q2 at Silverstone, qualifying 13th after setting a time 0.3s slower than his Q1 effort. In the race, Sainz rose to sixth place and held off Daniel Ricciardo in the closing laps, and he says he was in a better frame of mind heading into Sunday after McLaren found a potential reason for his qualifying performance.
“We have a first theory and a first indication — quite a clear indication of what happened, which coming into the day relaxed me quite a lot, because it meant that we didn’t get the most out of what we had,” Sainz said. “It made me confident that by changing a few settings on the car, I would be a lot quicker and as soon as I left the pit lane I knew I was going to have fun.
“One of the keys of the whole race was the start, getting the two Alfa Romeo cars out of the way, that was my one and only target for the first three laps. From there on I just let the soft runners go away, degrade the tires, and once they pitted I started doing green sectors, a bit like in Austria.
“It was a bit of the same execution and then we were on a one-stop strategy, the bonus of a one-stop strategy with the safety car. But even without a safety car I think with the one-stop strategy that we were about to do, we were in a very good place.
“Until the end it was tight. We had a lot of pace and I felt like I was flying but suddenly I saw a yellow car in my mirrors — he was flying also, mainly (on) the straights. They were dragging a lot less, which meant they could carry a lot more speed onto the straights, less clipping — we were cutting a lot the battery, which makes defending very difficult. I had to play a lot with the switches, with my lines, everything and in the end we managed to keep him behind.”
Explaining the reasons for the difference between his car’s straight-line speed and Ricciardo’s, Sainz says he was forced to run a compromised setup at Silverstone.
“I must say this weekend the car and myself were not 100 percent. Mainly in low-speed (corners) we felt we were struggling with the rear end…which meant we had to run a bit more wing, which meant we were slower on the straights.
“When the wind changed in the middle of the race and became a headwind, it meant we all of a sudden were slow on the straights. But at the same we made all the right calls on the strategy and we were very fast.”
Their duel came after Sainz got a unique “salute” from Ricciardo before the race…