Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2021

Rivals’ “much better top speed” made it hard to gain ground in Spain – Sainz

2021 F1 Season

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Carlos Sainz Jnr says that although the Ferrari were quicker over a lap than McLaren or Alpine at Barcelona, a top speed deficit limited their overtaking opportunities.

After qualifying sixth for the Spanish Grand Prix Sainz finished seventh, behind Daniel Ricciardo, who passed him at the start. He also lost a place to Sergio Perez but was able to pass Esteban Ocon’s Alpine.

“Unfortunately for me, it was all about playing catch-up after a poor start,” Sainz explained. “We had the pace to finish ahead of all the cars that I’ve been fighting – ahead of Esteban, ahead of Daniel.

“We were just quicker than them, but it was very difficult for us to overtake. They had a much better top speed than us and I just couldn’t make the moves. It’s what happens in Barcelona when you don’t have the best of starts, you are not finishing where you want.”

Sainz lost two places at the start, which he blamed partly on his unfamiliarity with the car. “The start itself wasn’t bad but it was just the way I was boxed in, into turn one,” said Sainz.

“What is clear is that I still need to get better and a bit more confident with the start system and the way we operate and get that perfect launch and the perfect first 100 metres, although I don’t think that was the main limitation.

“The main limitation was the positioning of the lap, getting in and out of the slipstream and then being boxed in behind Ocon into turn one and losing quite a lot of positions to the cars around the outside.”

Sainz said team mate Charles Leclerc had the right combination of experience with the car and having put himself in the best starting position for a “perfect result.”

“You need to, first of all, put the weekend completely together and it comes from a good qualifying, to make the lap in Q3,” said Sainz. “I could maybe have started further ahead and then there wouldn’t have been that issue at making the start.

“This is what I was particularly good at at McLaren, putting the whole weekend together and this is what I need to keep improving as a races go on with this team to be performing at the highest level.”

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Author information

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...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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7 comments on “Rivals’ “much better top speed” made it hard to gain ground in Spain – Sainz”

  1. I saw an analysis comparing straight line acceleration between Alpine, Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes in (iir) Portimao and Imola.

    Indeed it showed Alpine have found something that gives them incredible acceleration up to 280km/h and also quite efficient (or running low downforce) with highest top speed.

    The other three seemed pretty much on par.

    Only Red Bull a little bit slower from 220 to 250km/s. Probably because running higher downforce. While actually ending up faster on top speed in the end. Probably due to their bendy rear wing shedding some of the drag from that higher downforce.

    1. Power modes? Downforce levels? tyre? DRS? With top speed charts, we might not know the drag but at least we know that figure is the best that car could manage. Mercedes are always sandbagging, only when it matters that we see just how powerful their engine is, Ham or Bot can have a bad start and almost make up for it down the straight, they can breeze by on DRS, they can gain a load of time from Q session to Q session, and they always top the charts.

      1. @peartree Ostrich much?

        Anyway, these were not “top speed charts”, but “acceleration analysis on the straights” and also for fastest quali laps so certainly no sandbagging was inolved.

        Also lets just ignore that Verstappen out dragged Hamilton twice already. Even without DRS and a lot of wheelspin.

        And lets also just pretend that a Red Bull on tyres that are 2 seconds slower is overtaken because of their innate straight line speed. And then\ ignore that Hamilton overtook Bottas a few times already in similar fashion. Yeah it’s just the straight line speed and sand bagging that does it all.

        1. @f1osaurus …facepalm. I’m arguing top speed charts are more representative than your source’s acceleration analysis. I’m questioning their data on the basis of the questions I put up above. By the way don’t put words in my mouth I didn’t say anything you are implying besides the part where Max happened to get a better start at Imola yet Hamilton almost recovered it by t1.

          1. @peartree Yeah, I answered your questions. Stop playing dumb.

        2. Outdrag during start is more driver and the relative cold tyre which Mercedes is know to have problems with!

  2. Considering the relative lack of experience in the team and car, Sainz is doing okay. It’s nothing amazing, but it’s probably still a bit better than expected. He’s already been quite close to Leclerc, and on occasion even matched him. If he can keep finding little bits to improve then Sainz will be well on his way to doing what Ferrari hired him to do.

    Ferrari not having enough top speed is sadly nothing new, and unfortunately for them that’s still the main way overtakes are done when people are on similar strategies. If you can’t fly past on the straight, there’s very little that can be done. All the more so at a track like Barcelona.

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