Carlos Sainz has hailed his Ferrari team for executing a solid weekend to secure fifth place with the ‘”sixth fastest car” at the Dutch Grand Prix.
The Spaniard lined up sixth on the grid but lost out to team-mate Charles Leclerc after pitting one lap later for the Intermediate tyre amid an early downpour on the opening lap.
But considerable damage to Leclerc’s floor meant Sainz was ushered back past his Ferrari partner and he gained another place when Pierre Gasly was slapped with a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane.
However, the Alpine swooped back past the Ferrari on track later on, relegating Sainz to fifth, where he remained despite coming under huge pressure from Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages after another late downpour had suspended the race.
When asked if there was more on the table, Sainz said: “Well no, for sure not. I know at some point it looked like we could fight for a podium, but the reality is when the race was settled [and] when you look at our pace, we were nowhere in terms of pace.
“But we managed to execute a really good race, we were fighting the whole race with people that were not in our pace, not in our race, fighting a lot quicker cars than us, so have to be happy and proud with a well-executed P5. Obviously not happy with the feeling of the car and how much I struggled out there today.”
Although Sainz admits his side of the garage made the wrong call to stay out on slicks beyond the first lap, he asserts that the team extracted the maximum result possible.
“Honestly today we nailed the calls, and except for the first stop that we should have boxed on the first lap of the race and we stayed out one extra lap, everything else we nailed it and even the pace at the beginning of the race on a new Inter was really good and then as the race settled down and in mixed conditions I was quick, but when the race settled down, we were just back to our normal pace,” he explained.
“No, but a lot of attacking, a lot of defending [and I] had fun out there. But the reality is that we were, once the race settled, we were nowhere.”
Ferrari’s struggles throughout the weekend continued its worrying trend during 2023 of encountering wild performance fluctuations with an intrinsically flawed car concept.
Sainz believes Gasly’s ability to overtake him and pull away in the Alpine demonstrated that Ferrari possessed only the sixth fastest car around the Zandvoort circuit.
“Yeah, I would say after looking at the Alpine, more the sixth fastest car this weekend. We knew going into a race and yesterday’s quali [that] we were just lacking this weekend and we had to focus on maximising a good result or a decent result and we did that today,” Sainz reflected.
“Even in the last stint, you know, when I knew I had a worn set of Inters left to put for the last seven laps and the tires were destroyed from yesterday’s quali, I still managed to keep Hamilton behind and bring home a P5 that was honestly not on the cards I think sometimes today.”
Having managed to resist the threat of Hamilton to seize a top-five finish, Sainz reckons his weekend performance was one of his strongest of the season to date.
“Especially this season, one of the best, top three for sure because, yeah, how tricky it was out there, it was this turn nine and 10, turn one also you saw with Lewis how much he was catching in turn one, no? There’s just something there that we were struggling a lot with.
“But yeah, has to be one of [my] best drives of the season.”
Despite Ferrari experiencing a troubling weekend upon Formula 1’s return from the summer break, Sainz is confident that the Italian marque will enjoy an upturn in fortunes in its home race at Monza.
“At Monza, I think we should be back to a decent place,” the 28-year-old commented.
“I know it sounds positive or optimistic right now, but our performance swings this year is so high that we could also be looking at being back to second or third fastest car in Monza in front of the Tifosi, especially after such a good result in Spa last time out.
“So I’m more optimistic about that and glad that in a tough weekend we still managed to finish in the top five.”