Since battling for his first Formula One victory at the Italian GP and having to settle for second, Carlos Sainz has had two races that he will be in a hurry to forget. At the Tuscan Grand Prix, the Spaniard’s race lasted a mere five laps due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time when the race restarted (for the first time). Now, in Russia, having already crashed in Free Practice 1, the McLaren driver’s Grand Prix didn’t even last one lap as a result of an error going wide at Turn 2. Carlos Sainz admitted his error but also believes that Turn 2 should not even exist to begin with.
Carlos Sainz looked quick in Free Practice 3 and the race pace was certainly there. Due to starting the seventh Russian Grand Prix to be held at Sochi in sixth place, his confidence would have been high and no doubt he would be eager to put the disappointment encountered at Mugello behind him.
Unfortunately, as the lights went out, the McLaren racer found himself under pressure from all sides:
"I didn’t have a very good start, the dirty side of the grid was terrible – we were all slow off the line," explained Sainz after the race.
In an attempt to maintain his position, Carlos Sainz ran wide at Turn 2 into the run off area. Ahead of him, Max Verstappen had found himself in a similar predicament and the Red Bull racer negotiated the marker bollards with ease and a well judged speed before returning to the track.
The Turn 2 marker bollards have been implemented for 2020 to ensure drivers respect track limits and if they fail to do so have to lose time negotiating the obstacle before returning to the track.
Red Bull’s talismanic racer, Max Verstappen, having had no issue with this new obstacle soon found himself back in the hunt.
For Carlos Sainz though, due to entering the recntly blocked run off area at speed and crucially at a misjudged angle, the left front wheel of his MCL35 made heavy impact with the wall and that was that – a second DNF in a row for the Spaniard.
Speaking to the media after his short-lived Russian Grand Prix, it was clear that Carlos Sainz took full responsibility for the error but in his eyes Turn 2 should also not even be there to begin with:
"Unfortunately in Turn 2, I had someone on the inside, and I ran a bit wide," Sainz said.
"By the time I decided to go around the bollard, I went around the bollard with a very, very narrow angle, and I misjudged my entry speed around the bollard and hit the wall pretty heavily.
"A misjudgement by my side, a mistake. I still think that corner shouldn't exist. It's not a very nice corner to drive around, and it generates these kind of situation. But I just misjudged it.
"It's still not a corner that is well designed. You saw today in the race just how many people are missing that apex, and having to around the bollards, destroying the bollards, it's clearly not a great corner."
The destroyed bollard Carlos Sainz was referring to was caused by Romain Grosjean later on in the race as a result of his own running wide at Turn 2 and running through the bollards - as opposed to around it. Also, during the race, the infamous Turn 2 made headlines again in that Daniel Ricciardo was sanctioned with a 5-second penalty for failing to ‘follow the Race Director’s instructions’ as he did not take the route through the bollards when running wide but instead returned to the track straight away. In the end this 5-second penalty made no difference to Ricciardo’s 5th place finishing position ahead of Scuderia Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in 6th place.
Having ended his race prematurely, Carlos Sainz was quickly relaying his apologies to his crew over the Team Radio but Team boss Andreas Seidl clearly had no issue with the corner’s design as he cited Sainz’ angle on entry as the decisive factor:
"Carlos said it himself with the angle he was approaching this slot, he misjudged, and that was the reason why he touched the barrier," Seidl said.
"So then it was his fault. I think it would be wrong now to blame anyone else or anything else.
"Obviously it ended our race for both cars, unfortunately, in Turn 2 of a long race, because Lando had to back out and was last after the first lap.
"And then there was nothing left to lose, so we boxed through safety on to the hard trying to simply survive and hope for something else happening like another safety car which didn't work out.
"Very disappointing to go away from here with zero points, because I think we were up for again good points."
McLaren have a very quick package beneath them but they are not having clean weekends.
Meanwhile, their rivals are scoring some big points with Sergio Perez getting a hard-fought 4th for Racing Point in Sochi and Renault’s, soon to be departing, Daniel Ricciardo just behind in fifth.
For now, the Woking based racing outfit sits third in the Constructors’ table with 106 points. However, following a strong weekend from their rivals, Racing Point are just 2 points behind sat in fourth place having amassed 104 points so far and then neatly poised in 6th place is Renault on 99 points.
As a result, McLaren appear to have lost their early season impetus and Carlos Sainz almost tasting victory in Italy seems a long way ago now. Both he and his team will be desperate to put their season back on track at the Eifel GP in just under two weeks' time.