Ferrari’s Fred Vasseur has defended Carlos Sainz after a comparatively poor weekend at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Sainz finished a distant fifth on the streets of Baku, coming home 24 seconds behind teammate Charles Leclerc as Ferrari claimed their first podium finish of the 2023 season.
The Spaniard had struggled for pace all weekend, fully admitting to feeling uncomfortable with the car after failing to nail down his setup during the sole practice session on Friday before parc ferme conditions came into force.
Having started off on the wrong foot, Sainz was in for a weekend of struggle – he finished fifth in the Sprint race before repeating the result in the Grand Prix, after being caught out by an opportunistic move from Fernando Alonso early on.
Having had a lonely race on Sunday, Vasseur said Sainz had done fine considering his struggles with the setup.
“It was a tough weekend for him but, in the end, he was ahead of Mercedes,” Vasseur told media, as quoted by Formu1a.uno.
“This must be emphasised. He brought home some good points and finished with a P5.
“There are ups and downs in sport. In Melbourne, he did better than Charles and, here, he suffered more, but I think he did a good job in the end.”
Carlos Sainz: It was a weekend of damage limitation
Explaining his struggles during the race, Sainz said: “This has been a very difficult weekend. P5 brings home some points but I must put my hand up and admit I lacked confidence under braking and the pace was not there. On the Medium tyre I could push a bit more, but with the harder compound I simply didn’t feel the car.”
Speaking to the official Formula 1 website, the Spaniard said that, now the weekend is over, there’s time to fully explore the car setup and figure out where things had gone wrong.
“It was [damage limitation] all weekend,” he said.
“I had to focus on controlling Lewis and making it to the finish line in P5 without mistakes because I had no confidence to push in the car and get close to the walls. When you feel the car very loose around Baku, it is what it is.
“But we will now focus on what happened. We will finally have a bit of time to settle down and analyse what might have been.
“I think, if you look in detail at our race pace compared to the Aston Martin and Red Bull, they still have a much better race pace than qualifying pace compared to us. This is very high on our list of things that we want to understand why and keep improving because the points are on Sunday and that’s where you want to be quicker.”