On Saturday’s afternoon, Silverstone’s circuit hosted the first Formula One Sprint Race of the season. The 100 kms-long race served to determine the grid for the Grand Prix on Sunday. While Valtteri Bottas, Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon and Kimi Raikkonen opted for softer compounds, the Scuderia Ferrari’s duo, like most drivers, decided to start the 17-lap sprint race on medium tyres.
Charles Leclerc, who qualified fourth on Friday, managed to hold onto his position and will start right behind Bottas’ W12. On the other hand, it was a much harder afternoon for Carlos Sainz.
🇬🇧Far from happy. My race was heavily compromised at the first lap when the Williams locked up and hit my rear, dropping me to P19. I pushed hard to recover to P11, but I wanted more. It’s part of racing and tomorrow we’ll go for it again.— Carlos Sainz (@Carlossainz55) July 17, 2021
A first-lap contact with George Russell, who qualified P10 on Friday, severely affected the Spaniard’s Sprint Race. Sainz was challenging the Williams driver on Lap 1 when the two entered the tightening Brooklands corner – with Sainz coming from wide to try and attack Russell and the pair touching, causing the Ferrari driver to fall down the order to P18.
“I guess I was a victim of a mistake there from George,” said Sainz, who was eventually capable of gaining back seven positions up to P11.
“I got bumped off and it cost me, going back to last in Lap 1. Then obviously I had fun after that because I could make my way through the field with strong pace and finish 11th, to minimize the damage”.
"More than a Sprint Qualifying it was a ‘comeback stint’ for me today. I’m very far from happy because the car has a good pace and I was looking forward to qualifying in a good position for tomorrow.
“But still, it [the contact] has costed me. I should have finished today around P8, P7 and be in a good position for tomorrow, and unfortunately, this has cost me quite a lot,” Ferrari’s number 55 continued.
Despite the unfortunate incident, Sainz still enjoyed his "comeback" with some serious overtakes and feels optimistic due to what seems to be a Ferrari with a very good race pace.
"I wasn’t going to give up, so I pushed flat out for the rest of the race, did some good overtakes despite the difficulties in this track and managed to recover to P11. It was a strong comeback, but I would’ve preferred not to be pushed off".
Monegasque Charles Leclerc managed to stay out of Lap 1 drama and said he really enjoyed the 17-laps Sprint session.
Really enjoyed that !! P4 with a strong pace, will push to convert that into a good main race tomorrow 🔥 pic.twitter.com/Mrk7lop7mL— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) July 17, 2021
“Even though it was quite a lonely race, I actually enjoyed it,” said Leclerc after the race. “To be pushing so much for 17 laps, flat-out, is a bit different. I really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to tomorrow. Anyways, it’s part of racing and we still have tomorrow to try and recover more positions. The car is ready and I am ready. Let’s race," he concluded.
Leclerc managed to retain his P4 after the 100 kms race, which left him cautiously optimistic for his SF21 pace on Sunday’s race. Hopefully, this will give the Maranello-based team the chance to get involved in the podium scrap for Sunday’s British Grand Prix.
“I don’t see any reason why we’ll struggle more tomorrow than today, apart from maybe if conditions change,” he added. “But it should be fine. It will change for everyone and hopefully, we’ll keep that pace tomorrow.”
“I will try to push for a podium for sure"
“But if we don't take the position at the start, it's going to be difficult to overtake on track. So we definitely need to try and make a position at the start without taking too many risks, because we're not fighting Mercedes and Red Bull this year. But if there's an opportunity, I will take it,” concluded the Monegasque.