Carlos Sainz admits he was left disappointed by a missed opportunity to win his first Formula 1 race and had to tell himself to be happy with second in the Italian Grand Prix.
McLaren was competitive throughout the weekend at Monza and Sainz started from third after equaling his best ever qualifying performance on Saturday. A good start saw him running a comfortable second with Valtteri Bottas dropping back and struggling to recover, but then a red flag period and penalty for race leader Lewis Hamilton opened the race up.
Pierre Gasly took the lead when racing restarted and Sainz climbed back into second place but couldn’t quite catch the AlphaTauri, falling 0.4s short at the line in a dramatic finish.
“It’s incredible to be halfway disappointed with P2,” Sainz said. “I wouldn’t have believed I would have a chance to fight for victory but we were very, very close. Honestly, in a normal race we would have finished P2 behind Lewis, because we had good pace. We’ve got what we deserved but Pierre there, in front, is like, ‘How could that happen?’
“I guess we had a bit of bad luck with the safety car but we did a good job to recover. Very happy with P2 — we’ve been super quick all weekend, I felt like I could dominate the midfield pretty easy; I’ve got to be happy with that.
“I think, especially, getting back from P6 to P2 and chasing Pierre and managing to finish three or four tenths behind him, we need to be proud of that, we need to be proud of the car. Without the red flag, I think we would have finished behind Lewis today, but it is what it is.”
Sainz says McLaren clearly had the pace to win based on his first stint, but once he got close to Gasly — after making progress on the restart and erasing a five-second deficit — he struggled in dirty air.
“The pace we had today was incredible. Honestly, the gap that I managed to open with the rest of the midfield in the first stint and after that, managing to go through the whole five cars I had in front to end up chasing Pierre. Definitely felt really nice and felt like I had a good shot for victory.
“Then once I got to 1.5s I got stuck. The tow, as we see with these cars and the dirty air, starts affecting you a lot in traction, in braking. Mini lock-ups, oversteers and I think we were both rallying for a bit because we were both struggling with tires.
“Obviously disappointed to not get the win, because today we had a lot of pace and we felt that without that red flag it would have been a different story because I know I was the virtual race leader with Hamilton’s penalty. But that red flag came, and I managed to recover my positions and made it nearly to Pierre — which would have been nice but I think he deserves it and congrats.”