Carlos Sainz was thrilled to take a podium at Ferrari’s home race, but revealed that holding onto the lead for all his worth in the first stint almost cost him big time on Sunday.
Sainz gamely held off Max Verstappen for the first 15 laps of the Italian Grand Prix, but the life he took out of his tyres in doing so left him as a target for those behind.
His full-on battle with team-mate Charles Leclerc for the final podium place ran all the way to the finish line on Sunday, but he ultimately held on to earn his first podium of the season – but only just.
Carlos Sainz admitted being ‘very vulnerable’ after pushing hard at Monza
Additional reporting by Thomas Maher
Sainz had an excellent getaway at Monza on Sunday and keeping Verstappen behind was crucial to his chances in the race, having taken a sterling pole position on Saturday.
But with a dominant Red Bull behind him, he knew that he would have to push harder on his tyres more than he would have liked in order to keep Verstappen at bay.
And when a lock-up at the Rettifilo Chicane allowed Verstappen a run on him through Curva Grande, that would be the end of him leading the Italian Grand Prix after a game defence.
Though in doing so, the 29-year-old explained that it had something of a knock-on effect for his chances later on, and he had to hold on for all his worth to a place in the top three.
“Obviously very, very happy because a P3 in Monza in front of the tifosi is as good as it can get, at least for this weekend,” Sainz told media including PlanetF1.com after the race.
“Because clearly Red Bull were in the end quite a bit quicker than us today, as we expected.
“It was a day to try, and I tried everything I could to keep them behind, especially that first stint in front of Max.
“It probably nearly cost me a podium because it meant that I was wearing a lot my tyres and using the tyres more than probably what I would have liked and making me very vulnerable towards the end of the stints, and always under a lot of pressure by Max first, then Checo, then Charles.
“In the end, I could make it onto P3 because we made it, but it was a tough one. A very tough one.”
Sainz received widespread plaudits all weekend long for the pace he showed for Ferrari, topping two of the three free practice sessions before storming to pole position, and holding on well in the race.
Even though he has a Formula 1 victory to his name, from Silverstone last year, he was asked if he felt like it was his best performance in his F1 career to date.
While he was unsure about his whole career, he does think it was right up there – and even at the top of his days at Ferrari so far.
“I’m not sure in F1,” he said in response to the question about where this weekend ranks among his best in Formula 1.
“I’ve done other strong weekends in F1 that maybe got a bit noticed when I was in the midfield where I felt I extracted everything out of the car.
“Of this year? For sure. Of my Ferrari career? probably. Of my F1 career? It’s a tough, tough call.
“But yeah, I felt like this weekend I was on it from the beginning. Comfortable with the car, especially over one lap.
“I felt really at home, and I could put together a strong lap yesterday and snatch pole, but today was again a bit tougher and it’s shows me exactly where we need to keep working on and where I will put my head down and keep pushing the team – to keep working on our tyre understanding and our race pace understanding.”
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