Written by Ishani Aziz, Edited by April Thorne
Carlos Sainz was due to start his 150th race at Silverstone but had yet to secure his maiden victory. After a long wait, that comes second only to Sergio Perez’s before Sakhir in 2020, Sainz finally has a win to his name. We debated the obstacles standing in the way of his first win earlier; namely his impatience after undesirable qualifying results -leading to avoidable mistakes-, bad luck with a sometimes unreliable car, and most importantly a driving style which was at odds with his machinery. Silverstone was by those parameters, an unlikely yet perfect weekend for Carlos.
A good qualifying result was crucial in terms of setting Sainz up for his success on Sunday. He had extremely good car control in the wet and seemed slightly more at ease in the Ferrari. Both of his main competitors for pole slipped up: Leclerc made a mistake in Q3 which was evident from the speed traces going into the Chapel-Becketts-Maggotts area in sector two, and Verstappen was just shy of Sainz’s pace overall (again evident in the traces). Carlos was also having battery issues and losing some power in the last lap. However, the weather and battery issues together may have forced him to be more cautious, preventing him from making any steering mistakes we often see him doing under pressure in qualifying sessions. Nevertheless, a well-deserved qualifying pole position for Sainz no doubt helped with his confidence on race day.
It seemed that Sainz’s string of bad luck this season had earned him a near-miracle on race day. Redbull made the astute choice of putting Max Verstappen on soft tyres, which unsurprisingly set him up for a brilliant start in which he snatched the lead from Carlos in the opening lap. After the shocking crashes in which Alex Albon and Zhou Guanyou were involved and thankfully unharmed, the red flag essentially drove Max’s progress to a grinding halt. The decision to restart the race in the previous grid order was probably music to Sainz’s ears, and the 45-minute wait certainly gave him time to rethink his start.
Now having virtually erased his first start, Sainz maintained his lead quite well, even with Max applying fierce pressure. This lasted until he made a slight mistake in Becketts early on in the race, where some oversteer caused him to fall into second place. That would likely have been his fate until the end of the race, had it not been for Redbull’s floor issues, forcing Max to box in Lap 12 with damage he would sustain until the end of the race.
With Verstappen effectively out of the way, the Ferraris were now free to fight. Charles Leclerc had started the race with some front wing damage after the shunt, and was struggling quite a bit with evident understeer. Despite that, he was the faster driver by the time Lewis Hamilton was gaining on the Ferraris, and voiced his opinions claiming that Sainz was “****ing up my (his) race”. Sainz was pitted for new hard tyres in Lap 20, rejoining in third position, followed by Leclerc’s pitstop in Lap 25. By the following lap Hamilton was about 18 seconds ahead of the Ferraris. By Lap 31, Sainz didn’t match the team’s desired pace, and was ordered to move over.
By lap 33 Sainz was audibly frustrated, as a slow 4.3-second pitstop by Mercedes had meant he was now in second position behind Charles. Ferrari had ordered Sainz to allow Charles “breathing room” after the yellow flag caused by Esteban Ocon’s retirement in Lap 38, so it seemed the team placed their bets on Leclerc. In a typical display of perfect mismanagement, Ferrari didn’t pit Leclerc at all, and instead put Sainz on softs. By Lap 43 Sainz was understandably confident of his pace, stating; “I’m going to be much faster than Charles”. His attack on Leclerc into Brooklands was masterful, and hopefully proof that he’s steadily taming the F1-75 that he has repeatedly said he’s struggled with.
Despite the domino-effect that led to this win, the last 10 laps of Silverstone seemed to show a transformed driver who earned his victory. The messages congratulating Carlos from Ferrari, McLaren, and many other teams is a testament to Sainz, and this clearly long-awaited win.