Carlos Sainz Jr, Ferrari, Paul Ricard, 2022

“We need to decide now”: Inside Sainz and Ferrari’s French GP strategy dilemma

2022 French GP team radio transcript

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Ferrari’s decision to bring Carlos Sainz Jnr in for a second pit stop moments after he’d made a pass for third position was hotly debated after the French Grand Prix.

Ferrari’s decision appeared to have cost Sainz a podium finish. It didn’t help matters that the presentation of the discussion on the radio gave the impression they called Sainz in at the exact moment he was overtaking Sergio Perez, which was not the case.

However that moment came amid several laps of discussion between Sainz and the Ferrari pit wall over whether he should come in. The driver told them as early as lap 38 they needed to make a decision on their strategy “now”, but he didn’t come in until four laps later. Whether or not the decision was correct, the hesitation clearly cost them.

Carlos Sainz Jnr’s radio messages during the French Grand Prix

Having lined up 19th on the grid, Sainz was immediately passed by Kevin Magnussen, the only driver who started behind him. Sainz had to get his set of hard tyres into their operating window while the majority of his rivals began the race on mediums.

Lap: 1 Position: 18 Lap time: 1’55.014
AdamiK2 off.
Lap: 2 Position: 16 Lap time: 1’41.355
AdamiThink about mode X. Think about mode X, it’s available.
Lap: 3 Position: 15 Lap time: 1’39.779
AdamiGood job there. DRS enabled. Currently P15.
AdamiCar behind 1.1 second.
Lap: 4 Position: 14 Lap time: 1’40.095
Sainz started his day on the back row of the grid

By the fifth lap he had already moved ahead Yuki Tsunoda (who was hit by Esteban Ocon on the first lap), Zhou Guanyu, Nicholas Latifi, Valtteri Bottas, Pierre Gasly, Mick Schumacher and Alexander Albon. But having got his tyres up to temperature they were soon getting too hot.

Lap: 5 Position: 13 Lap time: 1’40.063
AdamiGood progress these. P13. Magnussen 1.8 in front.
Lap: 6 Position: 13 Lap time: 1’39.942
AdamiThink about FS1 if it makes sense for turn 10.
Lap: 7 Position: 13 Lap time: 1’40.380
AdamiMagnussen car in front, one second in front, Magnussen lap time 40.3.
SainzI don’t have grip.
AdamiCopy that. Diff mid plus one.
SainzEveryone on medium quick.
AdamiTemperature-wise, tyres are ready.
SainzYeah but they’re overheating already.
AdamiBrake shape plus one, brake shape plus one.
AdamiTry to let them down cool down, increase [lift and coast] if you can.
The Ferrari passed a string of cars in the opening laps

Haas chose a two-stop strategy for Magnussen and Ferrari hopes others would follow, clearing a way for Sainz. But they were to be disappointed.

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Lap: 8 Position: 12 Lap time: 1’40.042
AdamiCharles lap time 39.3, 39.3. Update on tyre phase when you can.
AdamiThe pace is good, you are doing to do the job.
Lap: 9 Position: 12 Lap time: 1’40.240
SainzIt doesn’t feel that way but okay.
AdamiAnd Magnussen boxed. So hopefully they trigger the pit stops.
AdamiIf the traffic makes a big difference there you have four cars: Ocon, Ricciardo, Stroll and Vettel.
Lap: 10 Position: 12 Lap time: 1’40.712
SainzDRS train.
Lap: 11 Position: 12 Lap time: 1’40.664

Sainz continued to make progress, picking off the Aston Martin drivers to move into the points-paying positions.

Lap: 12 Position: 11 Lap time: 1’40.397
AdamiGood job there. Lap 11 completed. Charles lap time 39.3.
Lap: 13 Position: 10 Lap time: 1’40.468
AdamiNo DRS for Stroll.
AdamiMaking good progress there. Ricciardo next. 1.7 in front. Ricciardo on medium. 40.5.
AdamiThink about [unclear]
Lap: 14 Position: 10 Lap time: 1’40.435
AdamiRicciardo no DRS. Ocon in front is three seconds in front of him.
Lap: 15 Position: 10 Lap time: 1’40.116
AdamiCharles lap time 39.0. Ricciardo 40.9, 40.9.
AdamiWe have completed 14 laps, 14.
SainzThis tyre is not good.
AdamiWe prefer Plan B for Bravo. We prefer Plan B.

Only Magnussen’s team mate had followed his move onto a two-stop strategy. At the front, Max Verstappen’s efforts to pass Sainz’s team mate prompted Red Bull to make his first pit stop early.

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Lap: 16 Position: 10 Lap time: 1’40.359
AdamiWe believe it’s all down to overheating for tyres, obviously.
Lap: 17 Position: 9 Lap time: 1’40.049
SainzIt’s taking me like two or three laps to pass every car.
AdamiYeah, understood. Copy that. try to recover temperatures with more [lift-and-coast], eventually. Ocon car in front, 2.4.
AdamiMax has stopped for new hard and he’s at turn one now.
Lap: 18 Position: 10 Lap time: 2’17.570
AdamiOcon lap time 40.5 and Charles in front 38.9.
AdamiSwitch position red, switch position red.
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Paul Ricard, 2022
Leclerc’s crash turned the race on its head

The race then took a dramatic turn. Charles Leclerc crashed out of the lead, and the resulting Safety Car period was unhelpful for Sainz. Ferrari took advantage of the opportunity to make a low-cost pit stop and get him off the hard tyres he disliked, but it left him with a long stint to run on medium rubber.

AdamiCharles crashed at turn 11. Let me know for flap adjust.
SainzYeah. I don’t know. I’m a bit puzzled with the balance.
AdamiOkay. Let me know.
AdamiPit confirm and box.
SainzYeah. I’ll take one.

Making matters worse, Ferrari released Sainz into the path of Albon in the busy pit lane. They warned him at the last second, but he had little time to react. Sainz made reassuring noises about the situation on his radio, but it didn’t convince the stewards his exit had been conducted safely.

AdamiHold on brakes and K2. Traffic, traffic, traffic!
Lap: 19 Position: 8 Lap time: 2’20.344
SainzIt was okay. It was bit close.
AdamiTry and cool down the car. Try and cool the car down. [unclear] the Safety Car line. No cars out. Charge on and cool the car.
AdamiCharge button off.
SainzI left the space there, going out. I did everything I could.
AdamiUnderstood. And plan D, plan D for delta right now.
SainzYeah makes sense.
AdamiAnd Charles lost the rear entry turn 11. Mid-corner turn 11. Mode FW and charge button off.

Even behind the Safety Car Sainz could tell he preferred his new set of tyres, and though he had concerns about his front wing the team quickly assuaged them and he was ready to continue his rise through the field.

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SainzYeah this tyre already feels a lot better.
AdamiCharge button off and forward on brake balance. And work on your front tyres.
SainzWhich position, are we?
Lap: 20 Position: 8 Lap time: 2’20.535
SainzHow much did we lose at the pit stop? What position?
AdamiSafety Car in this lap. Prepare your tyres. And we are P8. We are P8.
SainzWho are the leaders? In front of these three, yeah?
Adami…in front of those cars. Safety Car approaching turn eight and mode race. Charge on and will be only K2 on for the restart. And reset your toggle position to the middle.
SainzWhy do I feel very little front wing? Check the front wing, there’s very little aero balance.
AdamiUnderstood. And brake shape zero. Safety Car exiting turn 11 and Verstappen approaching turn 11.
AdamiAnd all is okay from data. Can push.
The medium tyres performed better for Sainz on the Ferrari

Within a few laps of the restart Sainz had picked off the McLarens and Alonso, and was now lapping as quickly as race leader Verstappen.

Lap: 21 Position: 6 Lap time: 1’38.725
AdamiAlonso next and you are in the race.
AdamiTry to bring the tyres in, even if you are fighting.
SainzYeah, I’m trying.
Lap: 22 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’38.744
Adami[State of charge] seven.
Adami[Unclear] when you can.
AdamiAlonso 0.4 behind. FS1, consider.
AdamiStay in [state of charge] seven, should be enough.
SainzTalk to me about this tyre.
Lap: 23 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’38.393
AdamiTry to bring them in nicely. You are P5, Verstappen 37.7 on hard.
Lap: 24 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’37.941
AdamiIncrease [lift-and-coast] for better tyres and FS1 or that.

Inevitably, Sainz’s unsafe exit from the pits attracted a penalty. Impressively, when Adami described his penalty as a “stop and go”, Sainz immediately corrected him, pointing out it was a time penalty and not an immediate summons into the pits.

Lap: 25 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’38.128
AdamiUnfortunately we have a five-second stop and go penalty, we are serving it at the next pit stop.
SainzIt’s not stop-and-go…
AdamiFive-second penalty, yeah, five-second penalty.
SainzI am quicker than these guys, no?
AdamiYes you are quicker, we are in the race.
AdamiVerstappen 38.3.
George Russell, Mercedes, Paul Ricard, 2022
After a few laps, Sainz demoted Russell for fourth place

By lap 26 Sainz was within striking distance of Russell, though it took him a few laps to find a way by. Once he’d cleared Russell, Sainz went after Perez.

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Lap: 26 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’37.889
AdamiRussell 39.0, let’s go hunting.
AdamiNow Russell reporting a lot of understeer at turn four.
Lap: 27 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’38.043
AdamiTyres are ready, you can push on them.
Lap: 28 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’38.320
AdamiVerstappen 37.9.
SainzHe moved late under braking.
AdamiOkay understood we’ll look into it.
Lap: 29 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’38.257
SainzI’m quicker than Hamilton. It’s difficult to pass these guys.
AdamiCopy that.
AdamiIt’s all about overheating, as you know. [Lift-and-coast] suggested as you are doing, good job.
Lap: 30 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’38.211
AdamiVerstappen 37.7 for info.
Adami[State of charge] seven, Russell one second behind. Russell is down on battery, 1.1 behind, good job. Russell 1.4 behind. Verstappen 37.5. Hamilton 37.6. Perez 38.0.
Lap: 31 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’38.513
AdamiYou’ve got a third strike turn three for track limits, previous lap.
Perez three seconds in front, Russell 1.4 behind.
SainzYeah my battery is very low.
AdamiKeep the [state of charge] as it is, it will come up.
Lap: 32 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’37.963
AdamiSwitch red, switch red.

Anticipating a potential second stop, Sainz told Adami he wanted an extra turn on his front wing the next time he came in.

Lap: 33 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’37.975
SainzYep it’s coming back with the battery and tyres.
AdamiCopy, that’s good.
AdamiVerstappen 37.8.
SainzCheck on the Hamilton pace?
AdamiHamilton 39.2. He went off, that’s why he lost one second.
SainzWe can go up on the flap for next…
AdamiCopy. Switch position grey. Hamilton was on a 37.7 his best lap three laps ago.
Lap: 34 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’38.081
AdamiVerstappen 7.9. Hamilton 8.5.
AdamiAnd Perez 8.3.
Lap: 35 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’38.172
AdamiAnd Verstappen 7.9. Hamilton 8.1.
Sainz told his team he wasn’t coming in – then passed Perez for third

Once he caught Perez, Sainz began losing time. He warned the team it wouldn’t be easy to pass the Red Bull, which was quicker on the straights. With an eye on whether his tyres would make it to the end of the race, Ferrari began considering whether to pull him in for a second stop.

Sainz was eager for the team to make a decision as quickly as possible, as the later a second stop came, the less time he would have to make up places up later.

Lap: 36 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’38.599
Lap: 37 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’38.416
AdamiPerez [unclear], Hamilton 38.7.
SainzIt looks very difficult to pass this guy. Especially with their top speed.
AdamiWe are very good in 11 and 12, take advantage.
Lap: 38 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’38.310
Adami16 laps to go.
AdamiWe are considering plan A. 16 laps. Have a think and let me know. 16, considering plan A.
SainzWe need to decide now. But I think it’s difficult.
AdamiCopy that.
Lap: 39 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’38.703
SainzWhere is George?
AdamiHe is 3.2 behind.
SainzNo we cannot so think about something.
AdamiOkay, understood.

Ferrari took the decision to bring Sainz in. However they hesitated, first because they were waiting for cars behind him to drop further back so he would have less traffic to deal with after his stop.

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Lap: 40 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’38.348
AdamiOkay copy plan D confirmed. Plan D confirmed. Clearing traffic behind.
SainzDo we know if Red Bull is stopping or not?
AdamiWe believe they are staying out until the end. We believe they are staying out.
SainzThen let’s stop. Then let’s stop.
AdamiCopy that.
AdamiStay out, stay out, stay out.
Lap: 41 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’38.857
AdamiTwo more laps to clear traffic, two more laps.

By the time Ferrari decided they were ready to call Sainz in, he’d finally got a good run on Perez, who he passed. Before that he brushed off a message from the team calling him to pit.

As Ferrari later pointed out, the delay in broadcasting messages on the world feed explains why viewers heard the message after Sainz had passed the pit lane entrance as well as Perez. They say the exchange happened at the exit of turn 10, which tallies with the lag typically seen on messages broadcast on drivers’ onboard streams on F1 TV.

Ferrari finally brought Sainz in on lap 42. He left the pits with a huge pace advantage over the cars around him, but little more than 10 laps left to use it.

AdamiBox Carlos, box. Pit confirm and box.
SainzNot now! Not now!
AdamiStay out, stay out.
Lap: 42 Position: 7 Lap time: 2’05.219
AdamiCome on guys [unclear] call me box then.
SainzHappy to go to the end.
SainzWhat do you think? Let’s do one more lap.
AdamiWe think box now. We think box now.
SainzOkay. Okay, okay, okay.
AdamiGive you plus 0.2. There will be the five-second penalty.
AdamiConfirm and box. Hard on brakes and K2 on. Five seconds.
AdamiWatch the white line? You’ll come out close to Ocon. Pace delta three seconds. Stroll approaching behind. K2 off. Ten laps to go.
Lap: 43 Position: 8 Lap time: 1’44.372
Lap: 44 Position: 7 Lap time: 1’36.242
SainzWhat pace do I need?
Adami[State of charge] six, suggestion. Lando car in front lap time 39.0.
AdamiPerez and Russell are fighting hard, they are at turn 13/14.
SainzWhat is their pace?
AdamiPerez lap time 38.3. You have the fastest lap so far.
Lap: 45 Position: 6 Lap time: 1’36.208
AdamiLando lap time 39.3. Fernando four seconds in front. Fernando lap time 38.7.
Having finally made a second pit stop, Sainz passed Alonso and the McLarens for fifth

Sainz, who had wanted to stay out another lap on his mediums, immediately had second thoughts about the strategy. Ferrari told him the decision had been necessary due to the age of his tyres.

Lap: 46 Position: 6 Lap time: 1’36.243
SainzI don’t understand why we boxed, we would have pulled away.
AdamiWe were short in tyre life.
AdamiRussell lap time 37.6, info.
Lap: 47 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’35.852
AdamiFernando lap time 38.3, two seconds slower.
Lap: 48 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’36.611
AdamiAnd five laps to go.
Lap: 49 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’47.636
SainzAh, I don’t understand.

Sainz’s slim hopes of catching Perez and Russell again were thwarted when Zhou retired from the race, triggering a Virtual Safety Car period.

AdamiVirtual Safety Car, stay out. Stay positive.
AdamiCharge button on.
Lap: 50 Position: 5 Lap time: 2’00.875
AdamiTry to keep temperature in the tyres. It’ll be soon, the ending, be prepared.
AdamiThey are moving Zhou’s car at turn six. K2 on. Ending, ending.
SainzStill ending?
AdamiYeah, still ending, still ending. Probably a glitch there. Ending now, again, ending.
AdamiAnd K2 on.
SainzWe have fastest lap?
Lap: 51 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’35.781
AdamiYes, confirm. Three to go.
Lap: 52 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’36.352

After the chequered flag fell, Sainz still felt the team should have gambled on leaving him out. By pitting for fresh tyres he had been able to set the fastest lap and gain an extra point. But even if he had only been able to out-run Russell by staying out, Sainz could still have banked more points.

Lap: 53 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’36.446
AdamiAnd last lap, last lap.
Finishing position: 5
AdamiAnd mode slow. And P5 confirmed. And you showed master class out there. Good overtaking manoeuvre and good job there.
SainzYeah thank you. It was tough.
AdamiWe were boxed in with strategy there with the tyres not going to the end. It was tough, I know but you did what you could.
SainzYeah, I know, but we had nothing to lose by staying out.
AdamiUnderstood. Some pick-up please.

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2022 French Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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10 comments on ““We need to decide now”: Inside Sainz and Ferrari’s French GP strategy dilemma”

  1. the hesitation clearly cost them.

    No, it didn’t. The unsafe release costed them, more exactly 5sec. Pitting 4 laps earlier, as mentioned, wouldn’t have changed anything. He finished like 11,5sec behind PER, there’s no way he would have caught PER and passed him too with an extra 4 laps. It was a decision between continuing and see what happens once he was in P3 OR pit like 10 laps earlier than he actually pitted 2nd time and hope his tyres are still good enough to pass PER. My opinion is that, maybe there were afraid a little bit too that the tyres won’t last, but I think the decision behind the 2nd pit stop in like the ”last moment” was to get the FL from VER while being sure he can’t stop again too… but Ferrari couldn’t tell SAI this reason: that they possibly threw away his P3 just to stop VER from gaining 1 more point.

    1. The upside being that it’s a two point differential in Sainz’s putative title fight.

    2. That seems a fair assessment @mg1982

  2. The stop immediately after having passed Perez didn’t make no sense at all. They should either have committed to a two stopper at least half a dozen laps earlier or go to the end.
    In my opinion the latter was definitely worth the try. The soft tyres were still good enough to pass Perez and the claims that they would neither make it to the end nor allow him to pull away is highly speculative and probably only out of self defense.
    Perez was also fighting was Russel so both lost further time.
    They could have waited a couple of laps longer to see how things would play out.
    If he really wasn’t pulling away fast enough they could still pit, pass McLarens and Alpines in a flash and pick up fastest lap.
    So nothing to lose, really…
    Ferrari strategy simulation seems to have difficulties to adapt to scenarios out of the norm and decision making is taking to long.

    1. They could have waited a couple of laps longer to see how things would play out.
      If he really wasn’t pulling away fast enough they could still pit, pass McLarens and Alpines in a flash and pick up fastest lap.
      So nothing to lose, really…

      This actually makes sense. Wonder why I didn’t think of it!!

      Sainz passed Alonso with 5 laps to go, they definitely had buffer to see how easily the 5 second gap was building. True.

      Such a strange situation, at first they argued for long should whether they stop or not. The longer they argued the worse the decision looked. But as you rightly said, had they waited even longer, the decision would have seemed better.

      The only explanation for their stop is that Ferrari felt DNF due to tyre failure was a real risk, which IMO was not inconceivable especially in the Ferrari garage. As I said below, Ferrari could be thinking that degrading medium tyres may have played a part in Leclerc error and hence, they wouldn’t want Sainz to also face the same issue

      1. Agreed. They were not in the mood to take any risks. Having a tyre blowing up must have been their worst nightmare especially after what happened to Leclerc.
        The pressure on the whole team must be immense.

  3. Fantastic read!

    The more I think of it, it feels Ferrari decision was right. Sainz was no more than 0.5s quicker than George / Checo on any of these laps. His average pace was probably only 0.2-0.3s better. He couldn’t have negated the 5 second gap to either of them. Plus, it is not inconceivable that Ferrari were thinking that degrading medium tyres may have played a part in Leclerc error and hence, they wouldn’t want Sainz to also face the same issue.

    Taking 11 points with 100% guarantee is a better choice than having a toss-up between 1) very low probability of 12 points, 2) even lower probability of 15 points, 3) High probability of 10 points or 4) very low probability of 0 points

    What would have been fun is if they had continue to argue for another 3-4 laps and then pitted under VSC and then come charging back at George and Checo in the last 2 laps on a car almost 2-3 seconds per lap faster.

    1. if we give 20/10/69/1 % chances for those 4 options you listed, expectation is 10.8 points. Sounds pretty close, so going with the decision that takes a point from Max as well seems correct.

  4. Reading this I’m more and more baffled that Checo handled the ending of the VSC so badly and treated it as if the glitch cost him his position. It seems clealry something the drivers and pit walls are used to dealing with.

    1. It did sound like most of the other teams took that in their stride.

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