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Sainz says Spain upgrades 'starting to pay off' as McLaren score big again in Austria

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RED BULL RING, AUSTRIA - JUNE 30: Carlos Sainz Jr., McLaren MCL34 during the Austrian GP at Red

McLaren strengthened their position as the best of the rest, behind Formula 1’s big three teams, as they took their second successive double points score in Austria – and Carlos Sainz reckons their upturn in form is down to them maximising the upgrade package first introduced in Spain…

Bringing developments that deliver consistent on-track performance has been a weakness for McLaren for several years now, but there have been signs this year that they have started to remedy the situation.

In France, McLaren scored points with both Sainz and Lando Norris – and they repeated the feat in Austria, with Norris starting fifth on the grid and ending up sixth while Sainz produced a stunning fightback from last to finish eighth.

McLaren are now fourth in the constructors’ championship, extending their lead over Renault to 20 points.

“We introduced an upgrade in Spain which looks to be starting to pay off,” said Sainz. “The first two race weekends [that we ran the upgrade] in Monaco and Canada, maybe because of the nature of the tracks we couldn't feel it as much as we are starting to feel it now. It's paying off and paying off and we are understanding the car and being faster every weekend. The car in high speed is starting to perform very well.”

Austrian GP: Norris passes Raikkonen for P5 at the hairpin

Starts have not been a strength of Norris of late, but his efforts in Austria were a marked improvement. The Briton made a great start, rising up to P3 and battling with Lewis Hamilton. Though he dropped down the field, he retained a pace good enough to be best of the rest.

“The first lap was the best, managing to get into P3,” said Norris. “It’s a shame I couldn’t stay ahead of Lewis; he was quicker on the straights, which is a bit frustrating!

“But apart from that we did a better job on the opening lap which was nice. After that it was more controlling the race, getting past the Alfas because we were confident we had good pace, managing the tyres, and trying to make it to the end.

“We’re performing very well in all areas, from pit stops, pace to reliability. The guys are doing a good job so we have to keep that up if we want to be ahead of what sometimes are the quicker cars.”

McLaren’s tally of 52 points moves them just 10 shy of their 2018 total with 12 races still to go of the current campaign.

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