Carlos Sainz says his fifth podium in Formula 1 was particularly sweet after feeling like his race had gone wrong despite leading the Russian Grand Prix early on.
Lando Norris started on pole position but Sainz picked up a slipstream on the run to Turn 2 and took the lead, comfortably holding on for the first 12 laps before Norris overtook him. Sainz then made his first pit stop early and a slow stop saw him stuck in traffic, dropping away from podium contention until Sergio Perez’s own slow pit stop and then late rain gave him a chance to finish third.
“Quite a lot (of pleasure), mainly because at some point in the race it really looked like it was going wrong!” Sainz said. “First, after suffering so much graining with the medium tire after leading the race quite comfortably for the first seven, eight laps, and facing so much degradation and losing the position to Lando. And then being one of the first ones to pit and getting in the queue behind Valtteri (Bottas) and suffering with all that traffic, yeah, at some point I really thought the podium wasn’t happening.
“But I found myself in P3 in front of Perez towards 10 laps to the end and I said, ‘OK, now it’s a good opportunity to keep this position.’ I found my good pace with the hard (tire); I found a good feeling but suddenly I saw the rain coming. It was starting to rain in Turns 5 and 7 and all those of us out there on hards were struggling massively to keep the car on track while people on mediums, they looked to be having a bit more grip — they looked to be with a softer tire managing to keep the car on track, while I was just nowhere.
“So I was at some point considering pitting for a soft tire, just to make it to the end, and in the end we decided to go for inters the last four laps and it worked out beautifully and we ended up third. So good calls, good management, just a bit more obstacles than I was expecting after leading into Turn 2.”
The start had appeared to set Sainz up for a chance of victory as he overtook Norris and then kept him at bay.
“I got the best possible start on the dirty side — I mean, we know here the dirty side has quite a big disadvantage from the clean side, so I think both Lewis (Hamilton) and I got away pretty decently, just I think it was Lando, George (Russell) and Daniel (Ricciardo) who were just flying off the line — everyone on the left-hand side were flying, a bit like last year basically.
“I managed to get side-by-side with George and then we were nearly banging wheels to see who was the one catching Lando’s tow. When Lando drifted a bit to the right, that gave me that extra bit of tow. I managed to get good momentum and brake really late into Turn 2 around the outside and make it stick.
“I think I said yesterday I was going to try, and I had to try today — it worked well. It’s probably one of the first times in my career I can lead a race into Turn 2, and I had to try. It worked well, and then unfortunately the graining came, the fuel saving, the graining, then everything went a bit more complicated than expected but leading into Turn 2 was the target and we achieved it.”