Carlos Sainz equalled his best Formula 1 result, and took his first podium in Ferrari colours, but described a “bittersweet feeling” at the outcome of the Monaco Grand Prix.
Sainz scored 20 points across the opening quartet of grands prix in a car that fluctuated between being third- and fourth-best.
But in Monaco Sainz was a front-runner from the outset as Ferrari emerged as a genuine contender for overall honours.
The abundance of slow-speed corners, the SF21’s ability to get its tyres operating well, and the absence of full-throttle sections played into Ferrari’s hands, lifting it into an apparent fight with Red Bull, while Mercedes comparatively struggled for pace.
Monaco, too, has been a profitable circuit for Sainz. He had finished inside the points in each of his previous five visits, which included a charge from the pit lane in his rookie season for Toro Rosso back in 2015.
But despite finishing runner-up to Max Verstappen – his team-mate during that debut year at Toro Rosso – Sainz suggested that an opportunity to win had perhaps been missed, prompting mixed feelings after the chequered flag.
“Probably if you had told me on Wednesday that I would not be 100 per cent happy about P2, I would have not believed it, to be honest, because we are not normally fighting for this position this year,” he said.
“But then, after the pace of Thursday, I genuinely thought we could win.
“I was so comfortable in the car and so fast on Thursday and Saturday morning [during practice], and through qualifying, I genuinely felt like, OK, I can put it on pole and win my first-ever grand prix in Monaco.
“Then, obviously, we all know what happened on Saturday and I had to reset myself. I had to change a bit my expectations.”
Sainz went on to gain two positions from his qualifying position of fourth, one courtesy of Valtteri Bottas’ pit stop dramas – and the other even before the lights went out due to pole-winning team-mate Charles Leclerc being a non-starter owing to a driveshaft issue.
“I think the team deserves to at least get a podium this weekend,” he said.
“But yeah, the bittersweet feeling is still there because I’ve had the pace to put it on pole or at least to win this weekend and the fact that, in the end we didn’t quite manage it is not great.
“Also, I feel for Charles. I feel for the team, that they didn’t manage to start the day from pole. It’s a strange day – but at the same time on a personal level I have to be happy with P2 because it was the maximum that we could achieve.”