Carlos Sainz has described how he was able to “manage” his soft tyres to hold off Sergio Perez in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix sprint.
The Spaniard made a terrific start, his Ferrari jumping from fifth place to second and even getting past World Championship leader Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.
Verstappen got back past Sainz, but his was the only Red Bull that did because Perez was stuck behind the Ferrari for the vast majority of the 24 laps.
Sainz eventually grabbed the final podium position behind Valtteri Bottas and Verstappen, which means he will start the race at Interlagos from P3.
It had looked as though the 26-year-old’s soft tyres would go off in the closing stages and he expressed such concerns over team radio a couple of times.
But in the end, it was a tribute to Sainz’s tyre management that he was able to frustrate Perez and secure one more World Championship point for himself and his team.
“It was a great start, we were aggressive and we managed to do a good start and good management of the soft tyre to arrive at the end [of the race],” Sainz told Sky Italy.
“I saw already from the beginning that Max had too much pace. And the first laps on the soft tyre are very important to manage it. If you push there, you likely don’t arrive at lap 24.
“I used the laps when Max overtook me to manage the tyres a bit and use them later against Checo.”
🇧🇷 P3! Great sprint race and one of the best starts of the year. After the first few laps it was all about tyre management and zero mistakes. Keeping Checo behind wasn't easy, but now we have an extra point and a good opportunity for tomorrow!
— Carlos Sainz (@Carlossainz55) November 13, 2021
What also particularly pleased Sainz was his start, for this is an area on which he has been putting in plenty of work.
“The start is something I know I still have to improve and I keep working on every weekend with the engineers to improve,” he added.
The sprint was also another indication that Sainz’s level at Ferrari is now very close to, or perhaps even above, that of his team-mate Charles Leclerc, who will start the grand prix three places behind him in sixth. Leclerc used the medium tyres for the sprint.
“Honestly, for the start the soft tyres were for sure a bit better, but then the medium tyre should be the one that goes faster,” said Leclerc. “Instead, I struggled a lot from the start.
“So I have to work and understand because I struggled more than Carlos, who did a great race.”
Additional reporting by Luca Brambilla