This is a very Ferrari-centric post.
You have to hand it to Ferrari, they’ve been one of the main stories at almost every race this season. It’s good to see them back in the mix again, but they need to figure out a way to clean up the errors. At the very least, they need to find a way to get luck – and maybe the racing Gods – back on their side.
They have a fast car, but are experiencing heartbreaking results way too often.
1. Max Verstappen – Red Bull
2. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes
3. George Russell – Mercedes
4. Sergio Perez – Red Bull
5. Carlos Sainz – Ferrari
6. Fernando Alonso – Alpine
7. Lando Norris – McLaren
8. Esteban Ocon – Alpine
9. Daniel Ricciardo – McLaren
10. Lance Stroll – Aston Martin
11. Sebastian Vettel – Aston Martin
12. Pierre Gasly – AlphaTauri
13. Alex Albon – Williams
14. Valtteri Bottas – Alfa Romeo
15. Mick Schumacher – Haas
16. Zhou Guanyu – Alfa Romeo
17. Nicholas Latifi – Williams (DNF)
18. Kevin Magnussen – Haas (DNF)
19. Charles Leclerc – Ferrari (DNF)
20. Yuki Tsunoda – AlphaTauri (DNF)
1. Why, Charles, Why?
A developing theme this year is Ferrari’s propensity for going from 100 to 0 in the blink of an eye. For the third time this season, Charles Leclerc was forced to retire from a race in which he was leading.
On Lap 18, one lap after Verstappen went in the pits from P2, Leclerc spun out and ended up in the tyre barrier. If we zoom out the lens and fast-forward a few years to when Leclerc is named World Champion, we’ll look at this season as prerequisite growing pains. Verstappen went through them, too.
But in the moment, they are just devastating. The drivers’ championship would be a lot tighter if Leclerc were able to hang on in these races, but the opportunities have been thrown away.
In this situation, perhaps Leclerc was trying to push too hard, knowing he had to cover off the potential undercut that Red Bull was attempting. In doing so, he spin out.
2. The Story of Sainz
After being forced to take a grid penalty for replacing his power unit, Carlos Sainz started in P19. By the time Leclerc left the race, Sainz found himself in P7. From there, he was in the thick of things for the rest of the race.
However, Sainz was given a 5-second penalty for an unsafe release. For those who don’t know, an unsafe release is when a car makes a pit stop and is released from their pit box, back into the pit lane, while another car is “right there”.
Hence, an unsafe release. Basically, it’s like switching lanes while a car is in your blind spot. You don’t do it.
The 5-second penalty would either be added on to his overall time at the end of the race, or if he made another pit stop, his car would sit untouched for five seconds, thus serving the penalty.
With 12 laps left, Sainz was in 4th place, 0.5 seconds behind Sergio Perez. We then hear a radio message from Sainz to his team, in which he says he can’t pass him and wants to pit. That seemed like a strange suggestion.
The whole race, we’ve been reminded that a pit stop would drop you back about 33 seconds. Sainz would find himself way back in about 10th place. Sure, he’d probably get back up to 5th due to fresh tyres and having a faster car (and new power unit!), but why risk it?
The team wanted him to stay out. He stayed out.
The very next lap, Sainz is side-by-side with Perez in the third sector. But wait! The team is telling him over the radio to pit. What!? Do they not see what’s happening on the track?
Sainz says no and passes Perez at the final corner to move up to P3.
Surely, with 11 laps left, he would just stay out, right? Even if he’s not able to put a 5-second gap between himself and Perez – or if Perez passes him – a 4th place finish seems doable.
On the next lap, Sainz comes into the pits. He served his penalty, lost a bunch of time, and came back out in P9, with medium tyres again.
Sainz worked his way back to P5, but ran out of laps to catch back up to the battle for the final podium position, which ultimately went to George Russell because Sergio Perez was caught off guard(?) when a Virtual Safety Car ended on Lap 50 of 53.
Sainz earned 11 points: 10 for finishing 5th + 1 for the fastest lap.
So, at least he took that single point away from his competitors? I feel like he left a few more points on the table, but Ferrari was worried about his tyres not lasting until the end. It’s a valid concern, especially with how hot it was and how much Sainz had to push.
I guess we’ll never know what would’ve happened if Sainz stayed out. Maybe it ends in disaster and Ferrari gets 0 points from the race.
I wonder if they let him stay out if Leclerc is still leading the race. Or maybe it’s an even easier decision to bring Sainz in.
Who knows? Well, Ferrari knows, I guess.
This team keeps things interesting, that’s for sure.
The next race is the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday, July 31.