Grid penalty makes for bittersweet Friday for McLaren’s Sainz
For three race weekends in a row now, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz has found himself inside the top seven after Free Practice 2. But with the Spaniard set to start the Austrian Grand Prix from the back of the grid after opting to run Renault’s Spec B internal combustion engine and new power unit elements, Sainz admitted that his strong pace around the Red Bull Ring had left a ‘sour’ taste in his mouth, given the penalty that was set to come his way for Sunday’s race.
Sainz finished a disrupted FP2 session in P5, just 0.459s adrift of Charles Leclerc’s session-leading pace, while he’d ended the more conventional running of FP1 in seventh, the only runner outside the top three teams to get within a second of Lewis Hamilton’s session-leading time (and only 0.664s adrift to boot).
But with Sainz having taken a complete new set of Renault power unit elements for this weekend, that strong set of results meant that it was a bittersweet day for the driver who finished sixth at the French Grand Prix a week ago.
It could be such a good weekend without the penalty that I’m disappointed by that, but really proud of how we’re starting to move quickly
“[The grid penalty] makes probably the feeling of today very sour,” he said. “When you have good pace on Friday without really wanting to be quick, because we are preparing the run plan and the car for Sunday, and still, when you try and attempt one push lap and the pace is there, it makes me feel disappointed about the penalty, but that’s the price that we need to pay right now.
“I’m surprised not to be happy about the performance, but it could be such a good weekend without the penalty that I’m disappointed by that,” he added. “But really proud of how we’re starting to move quickly… It just shows we’re doing our homework well; we arrive to races very well prepared, the car is adapting to three different tracks now and I’m happy with that.”
We managed to do pretty well in Paul Ricard. Austria is the shortest track, so we have the best opportunity to beat some of the faster cars
Despite McLaren finishing with both cars in the top 10 in both FP1 and FP2 at the Red Bull Ring, it was a less assured day for Sainz’s team mate Lando Norris, who finished 10th in both sessions. But the British rookie revealed that he’d been happy with his long run pace – and would attempt to use it to mix with the top three teams in Sunday’s Grand Prix.
“The short run stuff, I didn’t do so well in, getting caught out by the wind and so on,” said Norris. “But the longer run stuff, we managed to get a few more laps in this weekend compared to what we did last weekend, so I’m a bit more confident on the long run side of things.
“[Beating the faster cars] is our aim for now,” he added. “If we can beat more people, we’ll have it. We still managed to do pretty well in Paul Ricard: beat a Ferrari in quali and beat a Red Bull [in the race] so it’s a possibility. The shortest track, we have the best opportunity to beat some of the faster cars. But they are faster cars, so if we can beat them, that’s a big win for us. We’ll do our best.”
McLaren’s recent strong performances have seen the team climb to a clear fourth in the constructors’ standings with 40 points, eight more than their closest rivals and power unit suppliers Renault.