Carlos Sainz says he views the quick turnaround to the next Formula 1 round in Miami as a positive after enduring a tough weekend in Azerbaijan.
The Spaniard ended up over half a second behind team-mate Charles Leclerc in both qualifying sessions in Baku, finishing two places and over a whole pit stop worth of time behind the sister Ferrari by the time Sunday’s race concluded.
Sainz conceded a place from his starting berth of fourth in the main race when he was caught napping at Turn 6 by Fernando Alonso on the lap following a Safety Car.
However, the Ferrari driver concedes his lack of pace in the second stint on the hard tyre shows that it would have been hard for him to beat the Aston Martin regardless.
Having admitted after the Sprint on Saturday he was continuously battling rear-end instability with his SF-23 car, Sainz also revealed that his time in the cockpit was a mentally taxing experience as he always felt right on the brink of crashing.
“Seeing where Fernando finished, I think he was always going to finish ahead of me today,” Sainz explained to Autosport about his difficult race in Baku.
“But yeah, nothing new. Really, the first stint on the medium, I looked like I found a bit of pace back.
“And then as soon as I put the hard on, my struggles of the weekend appeared again, and I just had to bring home a P5, always very on the limit of crashing, or feeling like I was losing the car.
“So [it was] a pretty long race and mentally stressful after the struggle of the weekend. But I brought home the P5. I’m sure we will find out why this happened this weekend. And I’m sure in Miami, we’ll be back on form.”
Sainz attributed some of his troubles to the interruption of the Sprint schedule which meant the drivers were only allocated one hour of practice before their set-up choices were locked in for the weekend.
The one-time F1 race winner remarked that he was pleased the next round in Miami was taking place only a week after Baku with a return to the traditional weekend format.
“No, because we haven’t had time to sit down and analyse,” he said when asked if he had an explanation for his struggles.
“We’ve had to very quickly go into the next session to fine-tune the car with the front wing, and the switches, to put it in a bit of a better place.
“But we haven’t dug deep into the data to see what could have happened this weekend. But yeah, I’m sure together with my engineers we will find out.
“And we will work be back on form in Miami. It’s obviously a shame to have such a frustrating long weekend here in Baku.
“In a way, I find it positive that the next race is coming quickly because I can get this one behind me very quickly.
“I think I need a bit of a normal weekend to get back with a feeling with the car, and if the feeling is the same as here, then I will have a few sessions to experiment with setup.”
Despite Leclerc bagging Ferrari’s first podium and holding off Max Verstappen for second in the Sprint, Sainz underlined that Ferrari still has room for improvement when it comes to the Scuderia’s race pace.
“I think we still have a lot of work to do in the race,” he professed. “When you see how much quicker we were compared to the Astons in quali, and the Astons being on the tail of Charles all the race, just proves that the car still has a fundamental weakness in race pace.
“So I expect us to make sure that we keep making small steps in the right direction. At least our qualifying pace looks like we’ve unlocked a bit. But points are on Sunday, and we will work hard on that.”