Carlos Sainz was understandably not a happy bunny following the Austrian Grand Prix, where what looked like a certain podium turned into a disappointing P6 finish.
Sainz smelt an opportunity from P3 on the grid in Austria, he and Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc, starting one place ahead, set to team up in an effort to take the fight to F1 2023’s dominant force Max Verstappen in the Red Bull.
Even with that two-on-one advantage, Ferrari still could not trouble Verstappen, though Sainz felt his cause was done very few favours by his team.
Carlos Sainz played the “team game” and seemingly lost
During the opening stint Sainz appeared to have a clear pace advantage over his team-mate, but as Sainz asked Ferrari to clear Leclerc to allow him to push on up the road and perhaps make life difficult for Verstappen, Ferrari made it clear that Sainz was to hold position and not attack.
He obliged, but this turned out to be the start of a frustrating race ahead for the Spaniard, who post-race was demoted from P4 to P6 due to a 10-second penalty for track limits violations.
Asked if he was frustrated not to finish on the podium, Sainz told F1.com: “Yeah, obviously frustrated with the final outcome after having such a strong pace on the mediums, feeling also like I was playing the team game and not getting rewarded with a good result, which obviously leaves you always with a sour feeling.
“I’ve been very strong today, very quick, very fast. Good overtaking, good defending, but in the end P4 is not what I want.”
Then a questionable pit stop under VSC conditions for Sainz
When the Virtual Safety Car was deployed on Lap 14 to cover Nico Hulkenberg’s retirement, Ferrari were among those looking to take advantage of the reduced time loss by pitting under those conditions.
They would in fact double stack their drivers, but did so on their lap after the VSC was deployed. The stops for Leclerc and Sainz were both on the slow side, and resulted in Sainz losing places to Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris as the track returned to green.
If that opening block on battling Leclerc had not done the trick to annoy Sainz, this certainly did, the Spaniard voicing his frustrations over team radio, though he was quickly able to re-pass Norris and Hamilton.
A further setback was to come in the form of a five-second time penalty for track limits breaches.
Asked by Sky F1 if a better result was possible should be have been allowed to pass Leclerc, Sainz replied: “Yeah, well the gap went from four-tenths because I was in his gearbox the whole stint to six, seven seconds and three positions lost in that first pit stop.
“Obviously I felt like I did the team game, I played the team game staying behind and be penalised the way I was penalised with a pit stop, losing a lot of time, and losing the three positions and six seconds with a VSC ending, when we would have maybe done something different.
“It frustrated me, lost a lot of time, and then trying to recover which I did pretty quickly the gap and the time, got the track limits and from there my race was quite compromised.”
It was then pointed out to Sainz that he was coming through the penultimate corner when the VSC was deployed, so he was asked whether it could have been possible to peel off into the pit lane on that lap?
“No, by the time my dash showed VSC I was already in the middle of Turn 9 and I wasn’t committed to the pit entry, so it was the right call to stay out,” Sainz replied.
“Was it the right call to come in the next lap when the VSC was ending is what we need to analyse.”
Do Ferrari owe Carlos Sainz next time?
Sainz went on to play the team game once more later in the race, engaging in a multi-lap battle with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, who was making his way back through the field.
Although Perez eventually made the move stick, by that point he was 13 seconds behind Leclerc in P2, meaning Perez would run out of laps to trouble the lead Ferrari.
Sainz did not want to agree with this belief that Ferrari owe him one after that race, but rather talked up his confidence at the wheel of the SF-23 right now.
Asked if the team owe him for the next race, that being the British Grand Prix, Sainz said: “I don’t know. I don’t really want to say, I just do the best job I can.
“I’m in a very good moment personally with the car, I’m driving very well. I’m very fast every race weekend putting together some good laps in qualy, but also especially in the race pace where we’ve been very quick.
“Doing some good overtaking today out there, some good defending, and that’s why I’m frustrated that the result wasn’t better today.”
The result did allow Ferrari to regain crucial ground in the Constructors’ standings. They remain P4, but are now only 24 points behind Mercedes in P2.