Carlos Sainz insists he planned to attack Mercedes and Ferrari at the start of the Russian Grand Prix after securing another top six finish for McLaren.
Sainz started from fifth after an impressive qualifying performance was boosted by grid penalties demoting Max Verstappen from fourth place on the grid. Ferrari played out a choreographed start to get Sebastian Vettel ahead of Lewis Hamilton, and Sainz used the Ferraris to pick up a slipstream that allowed him to jump Valtteri Bottas and momentarily pass Hamilton on the run to Turn 2.
“I’ve been getting really good starts the whole season so I knew if I got a good start again – a good 0-100 – then maybe I could get the tow of Vettel, of a very fast Ferrari, down the straight and have a shot at fighting with the Mercedes and the Ferraris into Turn 2, which was my target,” Sainz said. “We managed it, which was nice to see because at least you give yourself a shot at being there.
“It didn’t last very long though! Unfortunately we came back to reality, the Mercedes passed us and it was all about controlling the race, which I think we did really well. Very good pace all the way through, and best of the rest which I think this weekend is the maximum we could do.”
Verstappen moved into fifth place in the first part of the race and Sainz then dropped behind Alexander Albon – who was recovering from a pit lane start – late on, but says he had to pick his battles as he was wary of the threat of Sergio Perez in the closing stages.
“The Safety Car obviously didn’t help, but at the same time that Red Bull on the softer tire, a much quicker car this weekend, was very difficult to keep behind,” he said.
“With eight laps to the end, and Perez three seconds behind him in a super-quick Racing Point, I thought about giving (Albon) an eight-lap defense, but in the end if Perez comes from behind and gets in our DRS, the Racing Point is so quick on the straights it’s very easy to lose that P6 that you had ensured yourself after such a tough weekend for the team, and such a strong race for us. I think it made sense to give it a go, to see if I could keep him behind, but then no!”