The Spanish driver found himself “blocked” at the start of the race by Charles Leclerc; then he had to wait for his teammate’s pit stop under Virtual Safety Car conditions.
What a blow
The Austrian Grand Prix represented, without a doubt, Carlos Sainz’s best performance of the 2023 Formula 1 season. The Spanish driver was a great protagonist throughout the entire weekend, finishing third in the Saturday Sprint race and crossing the finish line in fourth place in the Sunday Grand Prix. However, the review of track limits footage implemented by the FIA following a complaint from Aston Martin sunk Carlos Sainz’s race, dropping him down to sixth place. It was a cruel blow for the Spaniard, who had already expressed his bitterness about the original fourth place, considering it as a missed podium.
Discussions about strategies
In the post-race interviews, Ferrari’s #55 did not hesitate to take a few jabs at his own team, questioning the management of the double pit stop under Virtual Safety Car conditions and also the missed opportunity to challenge Charles Leclerc for position at the start of the race. A decision that, in hindsight, influenced Carlos Sainz’s entire race.
If the Spaniard had managed to overtake his teammate before the first pit stop, he would have become Max Verstappen’s main pursuer, forcing Charles Leclerc to follow behind him during the double stop.
During the race, Carlos Sainz made his intentions clear several times over the radio, but he was restrained by his race engineer Riccardo Adami and the Ferrari pit wall. In the early laps, the Spaniard consistently found himself just over a second behind Charles Leclerc. When asked by the Maranello team about the pace he could maintain, his response was rather pointed: “I think you can see it. There’s no need for me to tell you.”
A more explicit message had come earlier: “Can I pass?” So, after a few laps, Riccardo Adami had to “calm down” Carlos Sainz, telling him to wait: “Let’s stick to the plan. No attacks for now.”
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The real tension with the team, however, arose during the pit stop under VSC conditions. The decision for the double stop was made by Ferrari’s strategists. Here is the transcription of the communications that took place in those hectic moments:
Sainz: “What do you think, what should I do? Open up [the gap]? The tires are performing well. Can you tell me what we want to do, please?”
Adami: “Box with both cars.”
Sainz: “Okay, then I’ll open up [the gap] with Charles.”
However, the pit stop didn’t go as hoped: both Leclerc and Sainz lost time, and the Spaniard returned to the track in fifth place, understandably annoyed.
Sainz: “Come on, guys. Why didn’t we stay out?”