Carlos Sainz believes he delivered his most complete weekend for Ferrari at the Russian Grand Prix and is optimistic that it will lead to further progress.
The Spaniard has impressed since joining from McLaren and has now scored three podiums, with his latest result coming after he was promoted to third in Hungary and finished second in Monaco. However, there have also been some expensive crashes – including at the previous race in Monza – and Sainz said his confidence has received a boost from the way he qualified second and finished third in Sochi.
“It is my best weekend with Ferrari, definitely,” Sainz said. “I think I managed to put a very strong weekend from practice, especially into Q3, and then a good start and good pace management in very tricky conditions.
“I’m not going to lie, I’m proud of the weekend. I think the team has also done a very good job with all of the pit stop calls, going into the soft tire at the right time (in qualifying), taking the intermediates at the right time (in the race). Overall, I think it’s been my strongest weekend in Ferrari.
“Perfect? I don’t know, perfect is a very strong word at times. There’s always things when you look back that you can improve, so perfect is not the right word. But my most complete weekend, let’s put it like that, yes, it is. Just obviously to finish P3 after leading a race, it doesn’t taste as good.
“What we need to keep working on as a team is to make sure the next time I am in the position of leading a race, we make it stick and we win the race, and we don’t suffer as much as we suffered with graining, and we were not so vulnerable on the straights and all that. Make sure we keep improving as a team to make it stick next time.”
However, Sainz says there is still more to come despite him moving ahead of Charles Leclerc in the drivers’ championship, pointing to his errors as there still being work to do for him to feel comfortable with the car.
“I think we’ve used our opportunities to score those three podiums,” he said. “I guess you guys have seen it from the outside that I’m not still 100% at home with the car, and I don’t want to bring back the crashes, but I’ve never crashed in my career. I’m a driver that never puts it in the wall, but for some reason, there have been a few crashes that show that I still don’t fully 100% understand the car.
“This weekend, I made a conscious effort also to take it step by step, through free practice, into qualifying, and be fast really when I need to be fast instead of being fast straight away in FP1. And it has worked well, it has given me a good confidence, and I’ve been quick all weekend and I’ve been feeling at home.
“The podiums, as I said, we just maximize the opportunities that we get. It’s a good sign, a sign that when the team is under pressure and in the right moments, we are performing well and we are getting the results whenever the chances are coming.”