Carlos Sainz said sorry to Sebastian Vettel for his F1 Turkish GP move as Mattia Binotto talk pit error and Charles Leclerc on no regrets.
It was a drive that earned him driver of the day. Sainz states F1 Turkish GP was one of his best and one of his best in Ferrari colours as he set the standard for overtaking around the Istanbul Park in the wet in his climb from P19 to P8.
Teammate Leclerc also had a positive race starting from third and finishing fourth which left Binotto a happy man as the team rolled out of Turkey. A new engine fitted on Sainz’s car proved to be a good step along with the car performing well in Turkey. “The first stint was probably the best as a racing driver, when you have the ability to overtake lap after lap was super cool, I enjoyed it a lot,” said Sainz to TV media.
“It was probably one of the most difficult races to get the points but right from the start, we had a very good pace, very strong pace in the wet and then the track was drying out, we were fairly well in the conditions.” The Spaniard came alive during this first stint and made overtake after overtake look like child’s play and put Daniel Ricciardo, who was also on a recovery drive from P20, to shame, who struggled to make progress.
But on his way through the field there was one overtake which resulted in contact, this the one blot on his record for Sunday – in one of the moves, he almost collided with Sebastian Vettel as he understeered in the left-hander. “I had a lot of overtakes, I did every single overtake on track, I had to send it couple of times,” said Sainz. “With Seb, it was a tricky one, I already said sorry to him, I was a bit over optimistic but these Mercedes engines are difficult to pass, so you have to go for it under braking or you can’t pass them.
“I wanted to keep the recovery going and didn’t want to get stuck behind and it worked, so I am very happy.” He got away with it and kept his momentum going. He pulled off a lot of similar moves prior which gave him the confidence, but an over enthusiastic back end on his Ferrari saw him make contact with the Aston Martin. Both got away scott free, however.
He didn’t get away with a slot stop though. “It was a shame about the pit stop which perhaps cost a potential Top 5 but it is what it is,” said Sainz. “But it is not a day to be disappointed. It is a day to be happy about because it was one of a strong races of mine with Ferrari and we scored good points from the back.”
A slow stop for Sainz stopped him in his tracks as he switched to fresh inters but nevertheless the Spaniard was happy with the result regardless. It’s significant because it proves once again, he is fast in that Ferrari and with the upgraded power unit. But what exactly happened at that pitstop?
“The pit stop itself was finished in what was considered a normal time, then the signal for the lights, which has to be a manual signal once the pit stop is completed, was never received by the system,” explained Binotto. “So, there is something wrong between the manual signal to the system that didn’t go perfectly right. That needs to be fully analysed from our side, and it is a shame because we know that it was properly completed.”
That’s the annoying part, the stop was all good, it was a technological malfunction that cost Sainz all that time, not a lot, but enough to cost him some positions. We have seen in this new pitstop rule, which is where certain elements of the stop now must be completed to a minimum time, in the last few races cause havoc at some stops and it’s provided a lot more unpredictability in the pitlane.
Sainz’s teammate Leclerc, meanwhile, was flirting with a podium all race but found himself in a strategic no mans land towards the end of the race, similar to the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Esteban Ocon. Either risk staying out or come in for inters and go through the graining phase. A rock and a hard place you could say.
Ferrari gambled to start with to keep Leclerc out and for a brief while led the race and it was looking good. But mistakes started to creep in as the tyres got worse and worse and Ferrari pitted the Monegasque to avoid falling off the cliff like Ocon did in the closing stages. “I had all the info I needed at that time, and once Valtteri pitted, I was asking quite a lot on the radio, ‘okay what are the lap times on the new inters?’,” he said.
“For the first five/six laps we were actually more or less in line with the pace. So, for me it was clear that it was not just rolling the dice. We were all quite confident with that choice.” So, at first, staying out seemed the right call and those who did stay out were indeed matching the pace of the guys who pitted as Hamilton was matching Verstappen before the Brit finally came in.
“But it was a bit of a strange race with the new inters for six or seven laps,” said Leclerc. “They had like a graining phase, and once you went through the graining phase then you were finding a lot of pace again. That’s basically exactly what happened. So, no regrets on my side. It would have been very, very difficult without stopping to be honest.” Ocon managed it but lost so much time in the final laps that any benefit was diminished.
The graining phase occurs because the track was too slippery for slicks and not wet enough for inters and the tread on the inters naturally wears away in those conditions and you can really struggle until they resemble the distinctive “slicktermediates” that Turkey has now become renound for thanks to its unique track surface.
But in those final laps before Leclerc finally made his stop, he made those mistakes which lost him time but confirmed to him and the team the decision that needed to be made. “The rear tyres were very difficult to handle in the last four laps before my pit stop, and that’s why we did the pit stop actually,” he said. “I struggled a lot with rear locking and that pushed me to do some mistakes. I don’t think [it could have been] better than where we finished with the pitstop.” So, with what happened during the race, what they tried, what they didn’t try, Leclerc claims fourth was the best result he could have got.
All in all, a very positive weekend for Ferrari. The upgraded power unit looks very strong and will certainly give them a helping hand in the battle for P3 in the constructors against McLaren. Both Sainz and Leclerc did the maximum they could have in a race where their direct rivals struggled to score many points.
The story was written by Ollie Pattas
Here’s Carlos Sainz and Sebastian Vettel’s near collision: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.2021-turkish-grand-prix-sainz-and-vettel-clash.1713236204299594161.html
Here’s Sebastian Vettel on his tyre choice