Sainz relishing challenge of back-of-the-grid start in Istanbul after receiving new-spec Ferrari power unit
As his team mate Charles Leclerc did at the Russian Grand Prix two weeks ago, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz will start the Turkish Grand Prix from the back of the grid after taking on a fresh power unit featuring Ferrari’s new-spec hybrid system – with Sainz saying he's actually looking forward to the prospect of slicing through the field at Istanbul Park on Sunday.
Ferrari introduced their new hybrid system on Leclerc’s car at Sochi, with the goal of aiding the development of their all-new power unit for 2022. But with the unit having shown strong performance in Leclerc’s car – albeit that he came home P15 in Russia after losing out in the mixed conditions at the end of the race, as Sainz was able to bring home his third podium of the season – Sainz said he was keen to try the power unit out for himself.
“It actually doesn't feel that bad,” said Sainz of the penalty. “If you're going into the weekend with a new PU [power unit] that is hopefully bringing a bit of performance and a bit of development to the team, I cannot be disappointed with that.
“Obviously you pay the price of having to start last,” he continued, “but I have a pretty good record of starting last and coming through the field in these last few years, so I'm kind of excited [for] it, because your focus is mainly on preparing the race, making sure that the car is well set up for the different compounds and the different conditions that we have in the race, with high fuel etcetera.
“So it's actually okay also to have a different weekend now and then and a different approach, and I find it actually exciting [to have] nothing to lose. You go into a weekend [and] you can risk it even more.”
Sainz was one of the stars of the Russian Grand Prix weekend, after qualifying P2 before racing to third, having led the race early on. And the Spaniard said he’d been pleased to demonstrate that he’d taken “a step” in the second half of his maiden season with Ferrari.
“This second half of the season, it was important to get a good result,” said Sainz. “The first three races [of the second half] were good, but they were nothing special, and I was expecting to do a bit of a step this second half. And this podium kind of confirms that step that has been done on car understanding and performance throughout the season as I get more used to this new environment.
“And it was a good weekend [in Sochi]. The quali, nailing a lap when it counted, nailing the start and leading the race and then nailing the strategy and the tyre management through the race to come home third – it was overall a well-executed weekend that for sure gives me good vibes going into the last third of the season.”
Sainz now has the prospect of a busy Sunday afternoon carving through the field from the back of the Istanbul Park grid. But with the circuit having demonstrated very low grip levels when F1 last raced here in 2020 – where Sainz raced from P15 on the grid to P5 with McLaren – is the Spaniard confident of there being more grip this year?
“I think we are all expecting the grip to be better,” said Sainz. “How much better, that's a different question. If it's more like Portimao, where the grip is not high but it's okay, then it should be good fun.
“If it's like Barcelona or Silverstone, really high grip levels, then it should be also quite exciting because then the tyre wear could be an issue. So maybe for my personal interest, I want [the conditions to be] extreme, and the more extreme, the more different things can happen – and maybe more opportunity comes for me.”