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Ferrari pull clear of P3 rivals McLaren, as Sainz and Norris tangle in Brazil

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SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 13: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Scuderia Ferrari SF21

They may not have been challenging for a podium, but Ferrari had a strong Grand Prix in Sao Paulo, outscoring arch rivals McLaren by a huge 18 points in the battle for third in the constructors’ championship – despite a terrible start for Carlos Sainz.

After out-qualifying team mate Charles Leclerc and then earning an impressive P3 grid slot from the Sprint, Sainz was hoping for a big result. All that went wrong when the lights went out, however, the Spaniard making a poor getaway that resulted in contact with McLaren’s Lando Norris on the run into the first corner.

RACE REPORT: Hamilton takes victory in Brazil after stunning drive from P10 and pass on Verstappen

“It’s very strange, as I think I did the same start as yesterday, the same procedure, but for some reason today I don’t understand we triggered a lot of wheelspin,” explained Sainz. “We need to analyse what happened – if there was something strange with the clutch or the tyres, because it cost me the top-five finish that I was looking for today.”

2021 São Paulo Grand Prix: Norris and Sainz clash at Interlagos start

He only just missed it, though, taking the flag in P6 behind Leclerc, having escaped his early dramas seemingly unscathed. The same could not be said of his former team mate Norris, who picked up a puncture after tagging Sainz’s front wing as he passed the slow-starting Ferrari and trailed home in tenth.

“It’s a very fine line between who turns into who,” said Sainz. “Obviously the corner goes left and I was holding the inside, but I don’t know – I don’t think I deliberately did anything against him. If anything I felt like he turned in a bit early into Turn 1 and we tangled. But a racing incident, things that happen – sorry to him if I did something wrong, but to be honest I don’t think I did.”

Carlos Sainz perplexed by 'very poor start' at Interlagos

While Sainz was disappointed with his result, team mate Leclerc was pleased to bounce back from his disappointing P7 Sprint result to claim fifth, as – unlike last time out in Mexico – Ferrari found themselves untroubled by AlphaTauri in the ‘best of the rest’ battle behind Mercedes and Red Bull.

“Very happy,” said Leclerc of his Interlagos race pace. “Today was all about managing the gap with the people behind. Obviously I had Carlos (directly) behind, but after that we were quite clear compared to the others, which was good to see.

“So happy with the pace today, especially happy with the improvement I’ve done in driving from yesterday to today – yesterday was a difficult day for me. I worked hard yesterday night, I worked hard this morning and I managed to drive a lot better in this race. So yes, happy to finish this difficult weekend on a high.”

To boost Ferrari’s fortunes further, Norris’s McLaren team mate Daniel Ricciardo suffered technical issues resulting in his first retirement in 35 races. It means the Scuderia’s advantage is now 31.5 points with just three rounds of the season remaining.

Charles Leclerc delighted with 'progression' and P5 in Brazil

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