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Sainz defends Ferrari strategy after late pit stop sees him finish fifth in French GP recovery drive

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Carlos Sainz was voted Driver of the Day in France, having come from 19th to fifth in the race. And while the Ferrari driver said he could have taken a podium with a “perfect race”, he was content with the team’s strategy and the points he clinched on Sunday.

Sainz started 19th (thanks to grid penalties) on hard tyres and made it as high as P3, passing George Russell and Sergio Perez after the Safety Car for Charles Leclerc's crash. However, the Spaniard had copped a five-second penalty for an unsafe release, and the team chose to see him serve that in the pits and take another set of medium tyres on Lap 42, after which he recovered to fifth by the flag.

READ MORE: 'I'm losing too many points' says Leclerc as he takes blame for 'unacceptable' mistake that cost him lead in France

Asked if he could have won, he replied: “No, no, not the win, but the podium position, I think with a perfect race we could have made it; the win I think, Max [Verstappen] was pretty fast and perfect out there, so starting last it’s not like you can beat Max. But yes, it felt like a good recovery, fast pace. I think without the penalty, if we would have started on pole or on the first row like we could have done yesterday, the win would have been definitely possible.

“I think the team is doing a very good job on strategy this year; I still believe at Ferrari we get super-criticised for things that other teams might be going through also in the pit stop windows, and every time there’s a tricky moment on strategy, we are discussing things. But we are not a disaster like people seem to say we are. We like to discuss things, we are open about them.”

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Carlos Sainz 'had a lot of fun going through the field' in French GP

Ferrari’s strategy was further criticised by some as Sainz was asked to pit just as he was lining up a pass on Perez for the final podium place (main video) – but Sainz defended that call and explained why he did end up pitting for another set of medium compounds after overtaking the Red Bull.

“Yes, I was in the middle of an overtake but I didn’t believe that was the right lap to stop and come back through the field,” he said. “I believe that maybe at the time it was better to risk it and stay out and see what happens to the tyres… but I had just made it to P3 and I saw a podium position that I said, if I make these tyres last, maybe I can finish on the podium.

READ MORE: 63-point championship lead ‘probably bigger than it should’ve been’ admits Verstappen after French GP win

“But we will never know, it was a feeling; the team has a lot more data on the computer, they have a lot more numbers to go through and if they took that decision, I’m 100% convinced that they took it with the best of intentions and with the best of spirits. It’s just, we need to keep progressing and we need to analyse everything and see if we can do better, but I’m convinced the team is doing a good job there.”

With P5 and the bonus point for fastest lap, Sainz left France happy with his haul.

“We started 19th and how the pit stop went and how everything turned out, to be finishing P5 and the point for fastest lap, it’s okay. I’m going to take it, but I believe with a perfect race we could have been further up.”

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