(L to R): Sergio Perez, Red Bull; Carlos Sainz Jr, Ferrari, Red Bull Ring, 2023

Sainz “frustrated” over Ferrari strategy as he remains without a podium in 2023

2023 Austrian Grand Prix

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Carlos Sainz Jnr said the Austrian Grand Prix was one of his strongest performances of 2023 but believes Ferrari’s strategy compromised his race.

He qualified third on Friday, and on Saturday qualified fifth and finished third in the sprint race. Two penalties for track limits violations meant he came sixth in the grand prix, but on-the-road he was 4.189 seconds off third place at the chequered flag.

But Sainz believed his pace was not only strong enough to finish ahead of Perez, who had started 15th, but be level with his team mate.

“[The car] was very quick today, especially with the medium tyres. I felt like we had a lot of pace. It’s just a shame we couldn’t use it fully, but it is what it is,” he said.

Sainz ran in third behind team mate Charles Leclerc through the first stint, and when they pitted together during a Virtual Safety Car period on lap 15 he dropped to sixth while Leclerc remained in second. It took five laps for Sainz to return to third, and there was no net loss of position when he pitted again on lap 45 of 71.

After 13 laps of having Lando Norris and then Sergio Perez in his mirrors, Sainz finally conceded position with ten laps to go. In the time he had spent defending he dropped from 8.5 to 13.7 seconds behind Leclerc.

“I was very quick on the first and second stint, obviously the second stint was already compromised by the first stop pitting behind Charles, and catching the Virtual Safety Car ending, which made me lose six, seven seconds of race time, made me lose positions to cars that I shouldn’t have lost, which meant then I had to push on the medium to overtake them [and] get the track limits [penalty].

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“My race was compromised from that point onwards, but if I look at the pace I was very quick.”

Sainz said Ferrari “need to analyse what we could have done” when he was brought into the pits behind his team mate after the VSC was deployed. “Clearly my race was compromised by that pit stop there. I guess the team had a reason to stop both cars. And if not, I don’t know.”

“We had agreed before the race to work as a team in the first stint to open the gap to the cars behind, so they didn’t want to fight. I followed the plan, even though I had quite a bit of pace and I was quite comfortable there and probably could have gone faster. It’s a shame that after all doing the teamwork and then the pit stop arrives, and you’re compromised the way I [was].”

Sainz reckoned a double Ferrari podium “was possible, especially with the pace I had.”

“I’m just frustrated. It’s been a few races that I have a lot of pace in the car, a lot of race pace, and I wish I could maximise it a bit more,” said Sainz, who would have matched his best 2023 result of fourth had he not been penalised.

“I’m very quick this year, especially in the races. I feel like I’ve done a big step forward, if you look at my pace yesterday and today. But P4 I guess [was] not bad. But I think today P2 or P3 was in our hands.”

He believes the quality of his performance deserved more than the fourth place finish he took before his post-race penalty.

“I’m very happy with my performance today. I think I did some very clean moves. I defended well with Checo. As soon as I was arriving to one car, I was passing them. I was managing my tyres well at the same time that I was attacking. That’s why I’m, I guess, frustrated right now because I struggle to see the positive on this P4 with all the pace and the overtaking and defending that I did.”

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2023 Austrian Grand Prix

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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6 comments on “Sainz “frustrated” over Ferrari strategy as he remains without a podium in 2023”

  1. Strange that Ferrari didn’t plane on splitting strategy – they could’ve left one of the drivers, like Sainz on the track during VSC, or at least fitted different compound of tyres. Because Sainz didn’t win anything by pitting during VSC – he had to drop further from Leclerc in order not to wait in the box, so he lost like 6 seconds. So he didn’t gain much and at the same time he dropped tyres that were still good. So Ferrari weren’t sharp enough, again.

    1. Yes, would’ve been a good idea, especially as he looked quicker at that stage.

  2. I thought Sainz’s strength was ignoring his team and overruling their bad stratregy decisions.

    Leclerc lost around 12s to Verstappen with his stop (5s before stopping, 17s after). Sainz lost roughly 6-7s through the botched double stop (was really close to Leclerc before the stop, but he did seem to leave a 2s gap right before going into the pitlane which he might have been able to compensate after exiting the pitlane because of the VSC sector times).

    So not pitting during the VSC would have cost him 1-2 seconds by itself (the 8 extra from a green flag pitstop minus the 6-7 he lost in the double stop). That’s easily offset by having a better strategy (stopping during the VSC was too early for optimal pace) and having to overtake Norris and Hamilton, which further added to his tyre wear. Considering his gap to Pérez without the penalties was below 5 seconds, that Pérez would have caught him a bit later and Sainz might have had better tyres at that time, it’s reasonable to say keeping him out would have been a better choice. Sainz would have lost time even with Leclerc’s stop being good, so that’s not really a factor.

    So yeah, another example of Ferrari strategy. They should realize that a double stop with a VSC is really not worth it for the second car. Aston Martin made the same mistake and Stroll lost 8 positions because of that.

    1. True, was a bad idea to stop, but as you point out stroll got the worst of the double stacking consequences, as the other cars were closer.

    2. I disagree, the double stop under the VSC was the right call, and would have worked had tire change timing not been that bad. Sainz was able to easily offset the wasted seconds at pits by overpassing two cars up to third again. As the article reads, there was no net time loss when he pitted again. Sainz really screwed it with his driving. He earned not one, but two sanctions for overpassing limits, absolutely unnecesary given the fact that the Ferraris performance was far better than MB and Mclaren. For me, he bears 75% of the blame.

  3. Apparently, Binotto wasn’t the problem after all. The double stack was a horrible call.

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