Carlos Sainz joined Scuderia Ferrari from McLaren for the 2021 season and is now sixth in the drivers' standings, leading teammate Charles Leclerc, and has three podiums and 112.5 points so far.
Last weekend, Sainz qualified second for the Russian Grand Prix and dominated the early portion of the race before finishing third after timing the move to intermediates effectively amid a late rain storm that lost a number of drivers positions.
While Sainz has more points and podiums than Leclerc this season, he has also crashed at a few events, notably qualifying at the Hungaroring and practice at both Zandvoort and Monza.
The crashes, according to Sainz, demonstrated that he was still not completely comfortable with Ferrari's SF21 vehicle, leading him to focus his strategy on developing confidence during the weekend in Russia.
According to Sainz in an interview with motorsport.com, "I guess you guys have seen from the outside that I’m not still 100% at home with the car, I don’t want to bring back the crashes, but I’ve never crashed in my career. I’m a driver that never puts it in the wall, but for some reason, there have been a few crashes that show that I still don’t fully 100% understand the car."
He continues, “[In Sochi] I made a conscious effort also to take it step by step, through free practice, into qualy, and be fast really when I need to be fast instead of being fast straight away in FP1.
Sainz quickly adds, “It has worked well, it has given me a good confidence, and I’ve been quick all weekend and I’ve been feeling at home.”
Sainz has always stated that he will use 2021 to settle in at Ferrari before embarking on his second season in Maranello the following season. But he was encouraged by the fact that Ferrari had capitalised on podium opportunities when they arose, finishing second in Monaco and third in Hungary.
To conclude, "We’ve used our opportunities to score those three podiums. We just maximise the opportunities that we get. It’s a good signal, a signal that the team, under pressure and in the right moments, we are performing well. We are getting the results whenever the chances are coming.”