Sainz recounts mentally tough British GP breakthrough

Carlos Sainz

Victory in the Formula 1 British Grand Prix came at the end of a complicated encounter that forced Carlos Sainz to work hard for his maiden win.

The Spaniard crossed the line ahead of Sergio Perez, Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc in one of the most exciting grands prix in decades.

It witnessed two standings starts, the second after a monster opening corner crash, and drew Sainz into intense battles with Max Verstappen and Leclerc over the course of the race.

Indeed, the intra-team Ferrari squabble looked as though it might cost both the Scuderia’s drivers the chance to win as a resurgent Hamilton posed a serious threat mid-race.

Ultimately, a late stop under Safety Car proved decisive as Sainz had a fresh set of soft tyres fitted for the short run to the flag while team-mate Leclerc remained out, becoming effectively a sitting duck.

“Definitely was probably, mentally, one of the toughest races because there was so much going on, on the radio trying to manage the gap to Charles and Lewis, and at the beginning with Max. There was a lot of fighting going on,” F1’s newest race winner recounted.

“I wasn’t completed comfortable with the car, I was struggling a lot with understeer in the high-speed corners, opening a lot the front-left tyre.

“And this was taking me out a lot of pace, but I kept it cool, kept believing, kept within reach all the time, and suddenly when the opportunity came, I grabbed it.”

Sainz lost the lead to Verstappen at the original start, but a better and more aggressive getaway saw him defend his position following the red flag restart.

A mistake then dropped him behind the Red Bull driver, who soon suffered his own issues as he dropped out of contention with issues aboard his RB18.

That left the two Ferraris to battle it out among themselves, their squabbling delaying their progress while Hamilton in third closed the gap.

It created nervous moments on the scarlet pit wall as they debated whether to release Leclerc, who appeared to have greater pace in the opening stanza.

Ultimately it did largely by default when Sainz pitted, though it was only temporary as Leclerc was in soon after.

A different pit strategy from Mercedes then saw Hamilton take the lead, but a slow stop later in the race ensured he rejoined third.

That had nearly been the lead as the two Ferrari drivers battled one another before the call was made to move Leclerc ahead, the Monegasque having fallen back behind Sainz during the pit sequence.

When the opportunity came for a late stop under Safety Car, the Maranello operation split its strategies, empowering Sainz with a shot at victory while seemingly leaving Leclerc a sitting duck.

He promptly fell to fourth, as Perez emerged from an incredible tussle for the final podium place to rise to second in the closing laps.

However, Sainz had moved clear out front almost immediately after the restart, and was not headed for the balance of the 52-lap race to win on his 150th start.

“It hasn’t quite sunk in yet,” he said.

“I’m very happy but I’m waiting for the minutes to go by and to realise what has actually happened today.

“To win my first race in front of this amazing crowd with Ferrari in Silverstone, one of my favourite circuits, it’s amazing.

“It wasn’t easy at all, but it came and kept fighting for it.

“It was about to come one day, sooner or later, and it was today.”

Victory sees Sainz move ahead of George Russell into fourth in the drivers’ championship with 10 races now complete.

Verstappen continues to lead the standings with 181 points, 34 clear of Perez with Leclerc third a further nine behind.

Austria hosts the next round of the world championship, with a Sprint weekend around the Red Bull Ring starting on Friday.

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