As the lights went out on Sunday at the Dutch Grand Prix, it was clear early on that Carlos Sainz did not have the pace to match his teammate Charles Leclerc. Not only this but on the final lap Sainz would succumb to the pressure from his fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso and eventually cross the line in 7th – having qualified in 6th. This outcome has given Carlos Sainz and Scuderia Ferrari a headache as they endeavour to figure out where the pace of the car went. With this weekend bringing a return to Monza, if Sainz has any chance of living up to the expectation of the Tifosi, his team at Maranello need to solve this problem sooner rather than later.
Carlos Sainz had an eventful qualifying in Zandvoort and it appears that the damage encountered on the Saturday morning beforehand may have resulted in the lack of pace from the Spaniard on the Sunday.
Having crashed heavily in the final free practice session on Saturday morning, the Scuderia Ferrari mechanics did a superb job to ensure Sainz made it into qualifying. Not only did the former McLaren man make it onto the track but he would start on the third row alongside his teammate Charles Leclerc.
Unfortunately, that would be one of the few times Carlos Sainz would have the Monegasque beside him seeing how shortly after lights out in Zandvoort it was clear that the Spaniard did not have the pace to match the speed of Leclerc. Not only this but he would also move backwards by the conclusion of the race. Despite some valiant defending, Carlos Sainz would eventually cross the line in seventh after being overtaken by the always impressive Fernando Alonso at the start/finish straight on the start of the final lap.
Carlos Sainz spoke to the media after the race and his comments showed that he was confused as to where his pace went.
"I cannot explain it obviously," Sainz said. "The whole race was a bit of a pain for me, and I was just very slow: sliding around, and degrading the tyres. I lost the feeling that I had with the car on Friday on Saturday. And, to be honest, on the laps to the grid, I already noticed something that I was not really happy with, and the balance was quite off.
"I basically struggled quite a lot the whole day, and it's something that we are going to look into in the next few days to try to find out exactly what happened."
Friday’s Free Practice 1 and 2 had seen both Scuderia Ferrari men on the top three. Having got the better of his teammate Charles Leclerc in the first session, recording the third quickest time of the day, Sainz would come second to the Monegasque in the afternoon. Although, in doing so he recorded the second fastest time of FP2. As such, all eyes were on Scuderia Ferrari and whether they could spoil Max Verstappen’s homecoming.
However, when Carlos Sainz crashed on the final free practice session, there was doubt as to whether he would even make it to qualifying let alone be challenging at the top. Nevertheless, as a result of the mechanics working tirelessly, his car was repaired.
Now though, Team Principal Mattia Binotto wonders whether there was a problem from Saturday which carried over to race day.
"We don't know yet what really was the issue, so we will look at everything. We will look at the car, in terms of assembly. We will look at the setup, we will look at the car balance. At the moment we do not have any answer. From the crash, I don't think that there is any consequence of it, even though Carlos did not have useful track time in the morning to try to understand a bit more the car.
"I think we cannot exclude a mistake at the moment, so we will look carefully at all the aspects. I am sure we will come out with a conclusion that will make it more comfortable for the next events." Binotto concluded.
Carlos Sainz is happy for the Maranello men to do their thing and not keen to make assumptions, as he told the media in the post-race interviews.
"It might either be one thing or it could be a lot of small things. I prefer not to jump into conclusions, particularly because I don't know exactly.
"We simply haven't had a look at the data, so it's going to take a few days. I'm sure we will find something and we will come back stronger. It might just be that it was nothing and I need to change a few things. But it is true that it has been very strange and we're going to work hard on understanding it." Sainz continued.
Despite the lack of pace, Scuderia Ferrari came away from Zandvoort with a good haul of points. A timely feat after McLaren’s underperformance with Lando Norris bringing a solitary point to the Woking-based team. As a result of P5 for Charles Leclerc and P7 for Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari has returned to third place in the Constructors’ classification.
After Sunday’s spectacular event in Zandvoort, the F1 circus now moves on to Monza’s Autodromo Nazionale, for this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix. The event also features the second appearance of the Sprint Qualifying format. Therefore, any gremlins needing to be uncovered in Sainz’ car are a clear priority with such an important home race on the horizon for the team.
Speaking to Ferrari.com, Carlos Sainz put Sunday’s race into perspective.
‘I was planning to attack and fight for positions, but I ended up having to defend. We need to analyse what happened today and move on. On the positive side, we scored some good points for the team, which puts us in a stronger position in the Constructors’. Now I am looking forward to Monza. It will be my first Italian GP as a Ferrari driver and I am sure it’ll be a weekend I will remember forever.
This past weekend, ‘The Orange Army’ certainly gave Max Verstappen a Grand Prix to remember in Zandvoort. Now, all eyes are on the Tifosi. As with a crowd at 50% capacity, we can surely anticipate another passionate event as fans return in large numbers to Monza for the first time in two years. Carlos Sainz will just hope his team has enough time to be able to remedy any issues and provide him with a car to compete with the very best.