French Grand Prix: Carlos Sainz defends Ferrari strategy after pit stop debate
Carlos Sainz finished fifth at the French GP after appearing to have had a chance of a podium; Max Verstappen won for Red Bull after Ferrari's Charles Leclerc crashed out from the lead; the season continues next weekend with the Hungarian GP, all live on Sky Sports F1
Last Updated: 25/07/22 1:41pm
Carlos Sainz has defended Ferrari's strategic decisions after a controversial call over a late pit stop saw him lose out on a potential podium finish at the French Grand Prix.
The Spaniard started Sunday's race from the back row of the grid after taking on new engine parts, but came through the field to move into contention for a top-three finish in the closing stages, but came in for a late stop before eventually finishing fifth.
The apparent confusion between team and driver over the stop, which played out on team radio, added to a challenging day for Ferrari, who saw Charles Leclerc crash out from the lead, leaving Red Bull's Max Verstappen to extend his world championship lead to 63 points.
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"I think the team is doing a very good job on strategy this year," Sainz said.
"At Ferrari we get super criticised for things that other teams might be going through also in their pit stop windows. Every time there is a tricky moment on strategy, we are discussing things, but we are not a disaster like people seem to say we are."
Sainz, who was facing a five-second time penalty for an unsafe release during his first pit stop, was engaged in a discussion over team radio as he attempted to pass the third-placed Sergio Perez in the final quarter of the race.
Having become frustrated at not making the pass, Sainz asked to come in for fresh tyres, but was initially told to stay out by his team. The Spaniard then made a brilliant overtake on Perez, which he did despite being talked to over radio at the most pivotal moments.
Sainz would have needed to open a five-second gap to Perez to hold third place due to his penalty, and the team decided he couldn't manage this and that there was also a major risk of tyre failure on his wearing mediums.
"We like to discuss things, we are open about them," Sainz said. "Yes, I was in the middle of an overtake but the team believed that was the right lap to stop and come back through the field.
"I believed at the time that maybe it was better to risk it and stay out and see what happens with the tyres, even if it was the medium tyre on the limit of its life, but I had just made it to P3 and I saw a podium position. I thought, 'if I make these tyres last, maybe I can finish on the podium', but we will never know.
"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 per cent convinced that they did it with the best of intentions and the best spirit. We need to keep progressing and we need to analyse everything and see how we can be better, but I'm convinced the team is doing a good job."
Speaking to Sky Sports F1 after the race, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto was adamant that the right decision had been taken.
"We don't feel it's the right choice, we are pretty sure it was the right choice," Binotto said.
"Because at the time, he was short on life with wear and tyres so it could have been really risky to go to the end. We don't think he would have had the pace still to open the gap to five seconds, and by stopping he did the fastest lap, which is certainly a point which was gained. I think that was the safest and the right decision to take."
Rosberg: Ferrari need serious changes
Former world champion Nico Rosberg offered a scathing assessment of Ferrari's decision-making, insisting the Italian team had got it wrong on several levels.
Sunday's race wasn't the first time this season that Ferrari have faced criticism for strategic decisions, with Leclerc having most notably been left frustrated by decisions which he felt cost him victory in Monaco in May.
"I was shaking my head," Rosberg said. "What an earth are they doing there?"
"First of all, he was in the middle of a huge battle out on track and his whole team wasn't watching that anymore, they were down doing their calculations about pitstop times. They were talking to him in the middle of the wheel-to-wheel action. I thought, 'guys what are you doing?'
"Then, Carlos is in P3 and comfortably he would have been able to stay there, and the tyres would have been fine until the end. He even had a chance to still get Lewis for P2. Then, they bring him in and there's no chance to go beyond P5 where he ended up.
"What an earth is going on there? Really, I think it's time they made some changes there, some serious changes."