How Sainz proved he is the perfect man for Ferrari


October 12, 2021

by Will Knight 

Carlos Sainz started P19 in yesterday's Turkish Grand Prix, moving through the field in difficult conditions to take home four points in eighth at the end of the race. However, it was not just his race, but his whole weekend which proved he is the perfect driver for Scuderia Ferrari. 

Sainz moved to Ferrari at the beginning of 2021 after a two-year stint at their rivals McLaren Racing, partnering Charles Leclerc on a deal that has him placed at the Italian team until the end of 2022. 

Despite his impressive two years at McLaren, many saw him as nothing but a stop-gap as Ferrari waits for Mick Schumacher to develop with Haas at the back of the grid. 

Over the course of 2021, Sainz has proved his doubters wrong, scoring consistent points and taking home three podiums at the Monaco, Hungarian and Russian Grands Prix.Sainz no helmet.jpg (265 KB)

Although these were impressive performances, the Spaniard has perhaps had his best weekend as a Ferrari driver at last weekend's Turkish Grand Prix at Istanbul Park, proving he is the right man to partner Leclerc on a long-term basis.

Long before the weekend started, Sainz was confirmed to be starting at the back of the grid due to component changes, as Ferrari brought an upgraded power unit which was debuted on his teammate's car in Russia. 

Despite this, Sainz remained upbeat and adamant that he would still be able to score a good result whilst the team adapted his running throughout Practice to match his race strategy rather than pointlessly attempting to look at Qualifying. 

This is where the cunning nature of Ferrari and Sainz was first seen in the weekend, however. In Q1, Sainz had nothing to gain by running in the session, but the team opted to send him out for a flying lap. 

This subsequently knocked McLaren driver and rival Daniel Ricciardo out in Q1, with the Australian going to the back of the grid after taking a new power unit, placing him behind Sainz on the starting grid. 

After this, many assumed that his job for the day was done but the 55 car was still seen out on track at the end of Q2. By running on the circuit at just the right time, Sainz was able to give Leclerc a slipstream that was vital in giving the Monegasque a place in Q3, where he would go on to take third after Lewis Hamilton's penalties. 

21036-turkish-gp-2021-quali-report.jpeg (1.30 MB)From this Qualifying session, Sainz not only proved both his and Ferrari's awareness of the title fight, but also his ability to become a team player when his own race was compromised. 

The race that followed was impressive, making the rest of the grid seem like playthings as he charged through the pack to the top ten. 

His race was not entirely perfect, after a move on Sebastian Vettel on lap 14 saw Sainz go into the corner a bit too quickly.

He touched curb on the inside of turn 12 causing the rear end of his SF21 to become destabilised. The two made contact, with Vettel's team radio making it clear he was not happy with the collision. 

"He drove straight into me there," the four-time world champion said to his race engineer, Tim Wright.

Luckily for Ferrari, Race Director Michael Masi took no action and Sainz was now promoted into the points. As Ocon attempted a no-stop strategy and Yuki Tsunoda was knocked out of the points, Sainz was free to race to eighth by the chequered flag. 

Although his teammate scored a fourth-place finish and 12 points in their fight against McLaren, Sainz's strong push through the field to eighth could result in vital points given the close nature of the fight for third. 

On reflection of the race, it was clear Sainz was happy with the overall result of the weekend.

"This was one of my best races, and probably my strongest with Ferrari," he said. "That first stint in those tricky conditions was very intense but good fun. I overtook at different parts of the track and using all kinds of lines, so I really enjoyed myself. 

However, he was still critical of elements in the Grand Prix, showing his willingness to improve.

Sainz pitstop.jpg (515 KB)"It was a pity we had a problem during the stop because the pit stop itself was fast, but we need to analyse why it took so long to release the car," Sainz added.

"Instead of coming out behind Ocon I would have come out closer to Lando, and during the last ten laps I was one of the fastest on track, so I feel we could have finished the race further up. Anyway, these things can happen and I definitely have a lot of positives to take from today."

However, there are still elements of his driving which he needs to work on if he hopes to be the most complete driver for Ferrari. Incidents during Practice sessions at Monza and Zandvoort were not critical to his weekend, but the new budget cap in F1 means consistency for drivers is vital. 

The 27-year-old seems to have already begun working on this. As he and the team approach the twilight of the 2021 season and their title fight for McLaren, the two teams are separated by just seven and a half points with six races remaining. 

In the inter-team fight, Sainz sits on 116.5 points whilst Leclerc has collected 116, the closest margin between points-scoring drivers in the championship at just half a point as they head to the next round at the United States Grand Prix. 

Image credit: Scuderia Ferrari

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