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‘We executed everything perfectly’ says Sainz after sixth in Sochi

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SOCHI, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 29: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) McLaren F1 Team MCL34 Renault

Life on track after the summer break has been tricky for Carlos Sainz, the Spaniard failing to score in Belgium, Italy or Singapore. But the McLaren driver bounced back with aplomb in Russia, finishing a strong sixth to close to within three points of sixth-placed Pierre Gasly in the drivers’ standings…

The Sochi Autodrom, laced with slow and medium speed corners, does not play to the MCL34’s strengths, and it appeared McLaren could well be in for a tough weekend on Friday after both Sainz and team mate Lando Norris complained about a lack of grip.

But sweeping changes overnight dramatically transformed their fortunes in qualifying, with the duo both progressing to Q3. Come race day, Sainz made an electric start, challenging Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes for third place before slotting into fourth.

The Spaniard ultimately lost further positions to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon, but he had enough in hand to cover off the fast-approaching Racing Point of Sergio Perez.

We got a good start which was the first target to give ourselves a chance to be on TV

Carlos Sainz

“We got a good start which was the first target to give ourselves a chance to be on TV and we were fighting the two Mercedes and two Ferraris into T1,” said Sainz. “From there on it was just about pace management and tyre management. It was a race where strategy was key - the timing of the pit stop. We executed everything perfectly and we got a few points.

“This track is quite tough for us. Low speed corners and medium speed corners combined is not very good, but still we managed to extract another best of the rest, which is just what we needed.”

His points haul for sixth, combined with an eighth place for Norris, means McLaren have now scored more than 100 points in a season for the first time since 2014, which incidentally was the last time they ran a Mercedes power unit.

READ MORE: Why McLaren and Mercedes have joined forces again for 2021

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Carlos Sainz: Today went 'exactly how we wanted'

With Renault only scoring a single point, through Nico Hulkenberg, McLaren leave Russia with a healthy 33-point cushion over the French manufacturer with just five races to go. The British team have recovered well after failing to score in Belgium and only getting one car into the points in the two races before Russia.

“It’s getting better and better,” said Sainz of McLaren’s position in the constructors’ championship. “The key was not to lose our patience, after two tough races in Monza and Singapore where we could have got a lot of points and sealed it before in the championship.

“We had that run of bad luck after the summer break of three zeros and we’re back where we could have been in Monza and Singapore without anything happening so it’s good to see.”

There’s still a long way to go, mind, with five races and a maximum of 215 points to play for…

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