After Charles Leclerc picked up a new engine in Russia, which included Ferrari’s latest hybrid system update, it was Sainz’s turn last weekend to switch to its fourth power unit of 2021 and take thus a grid penalty.
But when the Spaniard saw how fast Leclerc was on Friday in fuel-efficient races, he admitted to “regretting a bit” that he couldn’t fight for a podium like his teammate.
Leclerc led the spells of Sunday’s wet race, conceding third place to Sergio Perez but keeping Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton at bay for fourth.
From the back of the grid, Sainz climbed to eighth place, just four seconds behind Lando Norris ‘McLaren, the team with which Ferrari is battling for third place in the Constructors’ Championship.
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Despite losing what appears to have been a huge opportunity to strike back against McLaren, Sainz said he supported the team’s decision to take the penalty on the grid in Istanbul.
“No, I wouldn’t change the decision, I think it was the perfect race to take the penalty and then make a comeback,” he explained.
“Of course, without the penalty with the old engine, I could have started more in the lead, but in a long season you have to put everything into perspective and it’s a development that gives us a bit of performance.
“So I think the decision is made correctly and we made it as soon as we can, and that also gave me the opportunity today to come back to the pitch.
“As you saw today, I was able to overtake and it’s also thanks to the good job everyone is doing at Maranello with the new powertrain.”
Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo Racing C41, George Russell, Williams FW43B and Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari SF21
Photo By: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
While Ferrari explained that its engine upgrade was aimed more at 2022, it still offered short-term performance, with team boss Binotto arguing that Leclerc would have started further than fourth had he used the old specification from Maranello.
“If I look behind [Charles], it was very tight, and I’m pretty sure a few positions would have been lost without this specification, ”said Binotto, who missed the Turkish Grand Prix and worked at the factory.
When asked if Ferrari’s powertrain update would allow him to beat McLaren in 2021, Sainz said the fight for third place will continue to come and go depending on the circuit.
“It’s a difficult question to answer,” said Sainz as Ferrari closed the gap to 7.5 points.
“As you saw this weekend we were faster than McLaren. In Sochi they were faster than us so I still think it’s going to be ups and downs until the end of the year.
“What this engine should give us, I think it is the possibility for the circuits where we are behind to be a little closer to them, and on the circuits where we are ahead, to be perhaps a bit higher.
“This is what we’ve been looking for since the upgrade was advanced, and what we’re hoping is going to give us that little edge to try and make the fight a little more complicated.”