Scuderia Ferrari Spanish driver Carlos Sainz has expressed his lack of assurance on the uneven Circuit of the Americas track, which has consequently provided his Scuderia Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc with an edge throughout the Formula 1 US Grand Prix weekend.
It’s evident that Charles Leclerc has outperformed Carlos Sainz in Austin, securing pole position for the main race on Sunday and a second-place qualification in the Saturday shootout, while the Spaniard landed in fourth and sixth positions in the two respective sessions at COTA. According to Carlos Sainz, the nature of the sprint weekend made it challenging to fine-tune the SF-23 car’s performance over the increased roughness of the track in the first free practice session.
“For me it’s mainly track characteristics. The car here is bouncing around a lot and jumping around a lot and when that’s the case normally Charles copes with it a bit better than I do.” – the Spanish driver explained in an interview for the media when quizzed about the pace difference as compared to his Maranello teammate.
“And this time I didn’t have time to change the setup to improve it, to put it a bit more to my liking, and go into the race weekend a bit more comfortable with the car to extract more and more performance. In sprint weekends that’s the problem, that you’re stuck with the baseline set up more or less that you can run and the amount of bumps again this year surprised us being even bumpier than last year. I’m just not coping very well with it in the high speed. Not a lot of confidence. I feel like the car is going to snap on me at any point in time, and I’m having to drive one step under the limit, which is never ideal in quali.” – the Spaniard pointed out.
Among all the drivers in the lineup, Carlos Sainz stood alone in his choice of soft tires for the Saturday sprint race, and starting from sixth on the grid, he managed to advance two positions. However, he later lost ground to Lando Norris and Sergio Perez, ultimately concluding the race in the same sixth position from which he had initially started, skillfully holding off George Russell’s challenge in the final stages of the Sprint race.
“First of all on the grid being the only one on softs doesn’t give you a lot of confidence,” he explained regarding the tyre decision – “We thought there were going to be more cars out there with softs. If we go for soft it means that our tyre model suggests that it’s not a bad tyre to go on. If not, we simply wouldn’t even consider it. It suggested that it could be a decent tyre for this race, as previous years the soft has been a decent tyre here. This time around clearly we need to analyse if we can do something, because was it worth the risk? And maybe it wasn’t. But we need to analyse how we can maybe do a bit better there. In the end it paid off at the start, but at one point it did look like it was going to be very tricky.” – the Spaniard continued.
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Carlos Sainz also confirmed that he expected to lose more position in the final stages of the Austin sprint given the circumstances: “Mid-race once Lando and Perez passed me and George was attacking me I thought we were just going to go backwards. I managed to recover the tyre well, and did some good defending in order to keep them behind. And we brought home a P6 that at one point didn’t look like it was going to be possible. Unfortunately, for me, it’s been more defending than attacking all year long! But probably because of doing so much defending all year I’m getting some practice, and I’m getting better at it.”
But did Carlos question the decision to start the Sprint race with soft tyres? “I’m going to keep that for myself! But obviously it was a tough call to do. But in the end also we learned some valuable information for my team, given tomorrow there’s plenty of strategies available out there, and now we know how the soft behaves we can map it, and compare it to the medium.” – the Ferarri man concluded.