Ferrari in “defense mode” against Mercedes - Sainz

Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

Ferrari in “defense mode” against Mercedes - Sainz

Formula 1

Ferrari in “defense mode” against Mercedes - Sainz

By

Carlos Sainz admits Ferrari is in “defense mode” against Mercedes as the pair fight over second place in the constructors’ championship at the final round of the Formula 1 season in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

Mercedes started the season comfortably adrift of Ferrari and Red Bull, who traded wins early on before Red Bull pulled clear. Ferrari will still end the season with the most pole positions of any team, but Mercedes’ first win of the year – a one-two in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix – has left it just 19 points adrift in the constructors’ battle.

“We’re clearly on a bit of a defense mode, because Merc were untouchable (in Brazil),” Sainz said. “They were just simply the quickest car, quicker than the Red Bull, quicker than us. I think it’s been a few weekends like this, like that. So in Abu Dhabi, we need to expect them to win. And we need to either do damage limitation or go for the win ourselves.”

While Ferrari needs to be defensive, Sainz is encouraged by his own recent form that he believes has brought him a level of consistency that he has been seeking for much of the season.

“I think the level that I am now is the level I should have been at the beginning of the season, so it’s not that suddenly I’m good, it’s just simply that I just got to understand the car,” he said. “We put a lot of effort with my engineers to get me comfortable with it, and I’ve had to change obviously a lot of the driving things to be competitive with this car.

“But the good thing is that it gives me a lot of confidence going into next year, and that I’m finally driving at the level that I know I’m capable of.”

The Spaniard rates his podium on Sunday as one of the best of his career, after having dealt with a grid penalty and brake issue at Interlagos.

“Especially because I think it’s been a very solid weekend with a few setbacks, like the penalty and that tear-off stuck on my on my brake duct that nearly caused me to retire and I had a brake on fire, which I thought it was pretty much over,” he said.

“Also, having to commit to a three-stop so early. I thought this is not probably the right strategy. But for me, from that point onwards, it felt like I had to just forget about everything and push flat-out to the end and see where this takes me. And the good thing is that we managed to recover a lot of pace.

“We were very fast. We were going to be challenging Checo (Perez) towards the end, even without (the safety car), and to finally get the podium was a really good feeling.”

More RACER