Sainz says top-five finish was possible after first no-score for Ferrari

2021 Portuguese Grand Prix

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Carlos Sainz Jnr admitted he was upset with his first point-less finish for Ferrari in a race where he believes a top five result was possible.

“It’s difficult right now to think about positives,” he said on Sunday evening after finishing the Portuguese Grand Prix in 11th place.

“I’m a competitive guy. I know that today it was in our hands and in my hands to score a top five, top six result with a decent race execution and the pace that we’ve shown all weekend.

“So to come out with zero points and only 11th place, it’s difficult talking about the positives.”

Having lined up fifth on the grid, Sainz committed to an early pit stop which left him with a 45-lap stint on medium tyres to complete. However it quickly became clear the team’s car couldn’t make the most out of that rubber. Charles Leclerc switched to medium tyres and finished the race ahead of his team mate.

“Hindsight is a beautiful thing and on hindsight, clearly, the hard today was simply a stronger tyre, particularly on our car,” said Sainz.

“The combination of the medium with our car was just not working well today. In hindsight for sure we would have done things very differently. But with the data we had available before the race was we thought that the soft-medium strategy was going to be okay and it clearly wasn’t.

“So a lot to analyse and a lot to go through now in the next three or four days. I’m sure we will take the right conclusions and improve going forward.”

“The feeling with the car, the pace all weekend, even the race based up until the graining was good,” Sainz added. “I will think more positively tomorrow for sure.

“But today, you guys know how competitive I am and how angry or just upset I am about the situation. So let’s see when everything calms down and I digest this.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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19 comments on “Sainz says top-five finish was possible after first no-score for Ferrari”

  1. Welcome to Ferrari Carlos. A team with Clueless strategists. Just ask Fernando, Seb and Kimi.

    1. A team who are still noobs since their strategists became noobs, since Brazil 2019 and since Vettel left the team!

    2. It’s crazy these keeps happening at Ferrari still, every season. Sainz actually had at least as good a pace as Leclerc. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the Alpines getting by him.

    3. Haha indeed, when they put yellow on Sainz I thought: That’s the Ferrari I know. Some things never change.

    4. @knightameer was it necessarily a completely foolish move?

      When you look at Sainz’s lap times, his lap times improved from lap 23 until lap 60 – in other words, the loss of performance from the tyres was less than the benefits from the reduction in fuel load. Laps 61 and 62 were very similar to that of lap 60 – his lap times only start to noticeably worsen in the last couple of laps.

      It is worth noting that both Norris and Gasly managed to run stints of over 40 laps on the medium tyres – 44 laps and 42 laps respectively – and both of those drivers were still steadily improving their lap times all the way to the end of the race, with Gasly setting his best lap on lap 65 (i.e. on 41 lap old medium tyres). We also saw that Perez’s lap times steadily improved to lap 39, and from that point onwards he could then hold his times consistently within a range of 0.3s until lap 49, when he finally pitted.

      Sainz’s problem was actually a more subtle problem – it wasn’t that he went slower in the latter part of his stint, but rather that the rate at which he could improve his lap times slowed down in the latter part of his stint, whilst other drivers were able to improve their lap times at a similar rate to the earlier part of their stint.

      If you compare with Norris, Sainz’s lap times are fairly similar to that of Norris and their lap times also improved at a very similar rate for the first 20 laps of their stint. It’s only that, after that point, Sainz’s lap times improved much more slowly from there until lap 60, whereas Norris kept up a similar rate of improvement for another 15 laps after that – Gasly, meanwhile, was still improving over 40 laps into his stint, so other drivers showed that strategy was a viable option.

  2. Harsha Vardhan
    3rd May 2021, 15:52

    Well Sainz is getting irritated very early. As per Ferrari standards the driver shouldn’t get annoyed even after their career retirement. 46 laps on Mediums , god did Ferrari forget that they have hard tyres sitting in garage ?

    Reply moderated
  3. someone or something
    3rd May 2021, 15:58

    @knightameer
    No idea what you’re on about. He was on the same strategy as e.g. Norris and Gasly. In fact, Sainz’ pit stop forced Norris to pit as well, and the undercut almost worked. From then on, Sainz’ race was ruined by graining.
    What strategic options did Ferrari have? Perform another tyre change? That would’ve cost him at least 25 seconds – compare that to the 27 seconds he lost to Norris by the end of the race. Doesn’t sound like a good idea, does it? Especially considering that an additional pit stop at any given time would’ve dropped him at least to 14th place, behind the Aston Martins.

    1. The tyre choice is individual to each team in that what suits one will not suit the other. So McLaren worked better than Ferrari on that tyre choice.

      1. someone or something
        3rd May 2021, 17:17

        Yeah, but how does that make their strategists ‘clueless’?
        They every reason to believe that this was a viable strategy – according to Pirelli’s own predictions, Soft – Medium (tyre change between lap 17 and 24, Sainz pitted on lap 21) would’ve been one of the fastest strategy, while the hard tyres were widely expected to be useless, Portimão being a very low-grip, low-deg track, i.e. the opposite of what the C1 is designed for.
        And not only were the teams expecting the Hard tyres to perform poorly, Sainz was also trying to undercut Norris, which was very unlikely to work with tyres that are slow to get up to temperature. Remember how badly Bottas struggled on his first lap out of the pits, losing a position to Verstappen? Putting Sainz on those tyres would’ve defeated the purpose of pitting him early.
        Ferrari’s strategists knew exactly what they were doing, but they did not have a working crystal ball (the laws of physics hate those anyways). Sainz’ graining issues were an unexpected, borderline unpredictable, development. The very same tyre selection may have worked better for McLaren or Alpha Tauri, but that doesn’t mean those teams’ strategists necessarily did a better job. They made the same decision based on the same data and impressions, but it turned out to work differently for different drivers. Not everything that doesn’t work out can be attributed to a mistake, because there is no such thing as perfect information in F1, and emergent properties are a thing. Every decision is based on guesswork, to an extent.

        1. Ferrari performed an early pit stop, and they put Sainz the tires that Leclerc was already complaining about. During the first stint, Leclerc reported early graining on his yellow set. Why that information didn’t flow from one garage to the other? Why they put a set of tires that they already knew that they won’t reach until the end of the race? Do we have two Ferraris or one Ferrari with two drivers? Ferrari should be one team. They took a huge risk, an unacceptable risk, by assuming that Carlos was not going to suffer from graining as Leclerc was already reporting. Adding the fact that the pit stop was too early, as the safety car gave some extra turns to everyone. No need for a crystal ball to take into account the available information from the other driver, and some common sense.

          1. @okif1 Yes it was shocking.

            The weird thing is that Ferrari will use millions to chase hundreds of a second on obscure stuff, but nothing to improve strategy even if that will make a huge difference in points and places.

            In the old days it was Ferrari’s way to axe left, right and center if the results were coming, but now they’ve seem to gone completely the other way where their chief strategist Rueda is still in place, even after constantly making appalling decisions in some wrongly placed ‘team loyalty’ culture.

          2. *if the results were not coming

  4. The latest victim of Ferrari’s master strategy.

  5. Ferrari ruined Sainz’s weekend. He demonstrated that he was on par with Leclerc after 2 races, and this weekend he was 2 rows ahead of his teammate. Carlos has been the only veteran team rookie this year (RIC, ALO, VET, SAI, PER) able to beat his teammate during the qualify of the third weekend.

    Being the first to box was an unacceptable huge risk, and Ferrari should be more conservative, they fighting for third place in the constructors’ championship. They didn’t take into account the effect of stress on tires given the strategy they chose. Bad team choice that will affect the driver. In the future, we all will remember how Charles got a lot more points than Carlos. Sainz is starting to suffer how Ferrari destroys good drivers, as he was constantly beating Norris, and we know how good Norris is.

    1. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
      3rd May 2021, 18:59

      @okif1
      First off, I think your way off base here. Ferrari’s strategy was not an unacceptable huge risk as you say. Reason, is that Norris who finished 5th did the “exact same” strategy as Carlos. Both started on softs and both finished on mediums (note: Norris pitted one lap after Carlos). So no, it was not out of the norm to do what Ferrari did and everyone was expecting that strategy to be the “ideal” strategy. We also know that the under-cut is strong so Ferrari knew they where racing Norris so they went for track position as the pit window just opened at the time for soft runners. However, Gasly was the first of the soft runners to switch to hard’s and I think Ferrari saw the performance from them and decided to alter Charles race as the Medium’s didn’t seem to work as well for most of the others. I think the McLaren car handled the Medium tires better than the Ferrari as Ric started on Mediums and finished on softs (which I assume Charles was expected to do just that as he too started on the mediums). I understand that Ferrari messes up on strategies on a regular basis, but lets not loose all reason either. I think Ferrari’s strategy, overall, was on par with everyone else around them. Strategy was not the issue here… it was simply the Ferrari not getting the most out of these tires over the stints. It happens! I do not blame Carlos, I think the balance of the Ferrari just wasn’t quite there with the tires.

      1. @flyingferrarim,the evolution of the tires in a Ferrari is different from the evolution in a McLaren, RedBull or Alpha Tauri. So, I understand that the tires strategy has a different impact depending on the car. And we know the SF21 is heating tires very well, having eventual problems of high tire temperatures.
        The key aspect in this situation was that Leclerc was already reporting graining on his set of yellow tires before the controversial pit stop. Was that information was available to the strategy team? Was that information available to Sainz? Maybe the problem is the team organization. I can’t understand the decision to bring Sainz to pits so early, with a set of yellow tires that Leclerc already reported, were not going to last long. Why that information didn’t flow from one garage to the other, from one driver to the other one?

  6. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
    3rd May 2021, 19:57

    @okif1
    You are speculating a lot here. Even though they drive the “same” cars, does not necessarily mean both drivers are going to experience the same tire behavior, performance, etc (we see this a lot). We also need to consider the “graining phase” that even Lewis/others had experienced in this race and past races. At the time of the pitting decision, I don’t think Ferrari had enough data to properly gauge if the Mediums will be better or worse for him than Leclerc. I would believe that after the graining phase and with the fuel burning off making the car lighter, they thought this would not be a major issue. There are a lot of variables at play here that need to be considered. Ferrari in the past usually over-react to situations and in more times than not, they usually shoot themselves in the foot. This was probably the first time they mostly stuck to their strategy and unfortunately for them/Carlos, it just didn’t work out. All I’m saying, is that I think this debate is being over-blown here by characterizing Ferrari as being purposefully destroying ones race not named Leclerc (not specifically saying you are, but many are). At that time and moment, I can’t say Ferrari was “absolutely” incorrect with the decision they made. Ferrari makes many strategic errors, but I don’t see this as being one of them.

    I’m not sure what you are getting at with “can’t understand the decision to bring Sainz to pits so early”? I think it’s pretty straightforward with regards to undercutting Norris and it just about worked too. The pit window for softs just opened as expected so its not like he pitted super early. Track position is everything and this track is not known for easy overtaking so Ferrari was probably looking for that track position advantage. I honestly don’t think there is anything to look into her other than that Ferrari need to get a better handle on tire performance as it relates to car and driver. I mean last year the medium was the preferred tire and this year it switched and there isn’t much data on this track other than last year and their running pre-race this year.

    1. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
      3rd May 2021, 20:09

      @okif1
      I also mis-spoke and want to make it right…. Ric actually went from Medium (41 laps) to Hards (25 laps). But he did go 41 laps on mediums which was twice as long as the majority of runners. The Soft runners, on their first stint, went 22 to 25 laps on softs.

  7. Can’t agree that strategist failed. Was a bad strategy, but with available data was what made sense. Undercut Norris with what was thought that was best tire. A bit early, but made sense. Should be enough to finish. Alpine and AT took the risk with hards.

    The hopes on hards was so bad that Mercedes didn’t even bother to save them for race. When Ocon were doing fine all others decided to go to hard. Even Ferrari.

    Stupid were AM with Stroll.

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