Carlos Sainz’s first season in machines winning Formula One races has started hard thanks to a combination of mistakes, accidents and difficulties in adapting to the 2022 F1 cars that led him to “fight to get together”.
Sainz set up the ideal platform to build from this year during his first season at Ferrari, overshadowing team-mate Charles Leclerc in the championship by 5.5 points but finding it difficult to adapt to the new cars.
He finished second at the Bahrain Grand Prix at the opening of the season, although he described it as his “hardest weekend” for Ferrari, and then took third place in Saudi Arabia.
But after 31 consecutive races that ended, he retired in the second lap in Australia after entering the pebble trap of Turn 10, and then endured just two turns at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix before being apologized for by Daniel Ricciardo. . . It wasn’t his fault, but it was his fall in Q2 after a turnaround when entering another Rivazzo.
Speaking after his short, disastrous race in Imola, Sainz acknowledged changes to the 2022 regulations that “unfortunately, they didn’t suit my driving style much and I’m struggling to put that together”.
It’s an ongoing process and while one can take some comfort in the fact that its performance level has remained good so far in 2022, showing a pace at least to be a pole position contender for all four weekends, it needs all to click soon if that he has any chance of avoiding being selected as Leclerc’s winger.
Sainz is now 48 points behind Leclerc and despite progress in adapting to the car in Australia and Imola, he still doesn’t believe he’s completely with it.
This was underlined by his drop in the qualifications in Imola, which happened at a time when he did not feel that he was pushing hard.
“Pretty much,” Sainz said of how much trouble he struggles with the Ferrari F1-75.
“It’s no secret that mistakes like yesterday happen for a reason, and I’m not 100%, I’m struggling with the car and trying to figure it out.
“Obviously I’m fast, it’s no secret, I was fast yesterday, I was fast in Australia, just that confidence and predictability I have from the car.
“It simply came to our notice then. I will be 100%. ”
Sainz is well aware of the importance of reaching an agreement with Leclerc as soon as possible. Although 48 points is not an insurmountable gap with the remaining 19 races, it is only natural that the team is occupied around a stronger driver. So far it has been distinctly Leclerc.
Sainz also knows he has to work hard to get to Leclerc’s level or in a position to consistently surpass him. Last year, Sainz admitted that he considered Leclerc’s speed “shocking” and suffered a series of accidents while trying to meet the conditions. But it’s encouraging that he got there – surpassing Leclerc in four of his last six races.
Leclerc had the advantage this year, but Sainz is not too far away. In Bahrain he was 0.129s slower than Leclerc in qualifying then in Saudi Arabia, where he was on a temporary pole position after the first runs in Q3 when he was on used softwares and then couldn’t get performance out of fresh rubber, the deficit was 0.177s.
In modern F1 terms, these are significant gaps, but that’s because Sainz feels uncomfortable with the car. In qualifying in Australia, the red flag time in Q3 and the fact that Ferrari couldn’t get him to restart in time to do a very important round of tire preparation after his turnaround meant he couldn’t set a meaningful time but was competitive. And in Imola he was close with Leclerc before he left. So, there is an advantage to be taken advantage of.
Speaking before the weekend in Imola started, Sainz took the fact that he was so close to it as a positive thing.
“I’ve been fighting for pole position in all three races and I may have missed one tenth in the last Q3, to fight for it,” Sainz said.
“Australia, we will never know, but even in the first two qualifiers where I was not at home with the car, somehow I could still find a way to fight for the pole position.
“So this shows that very little is what I am looking for. And it motivates me and keeps me awake that at any moment this can change and that’s what I’m looking for.
“Of course, Charles did an exceptional job with this car. He makes a difference as a driver and he is doing very well, but I don’t feel far away.
“And even if I’m not at home and can’t do everything I want with the car, I’m still here or there, so now it’s all in the details and fixing everything right.
“And as soon as it clicks, I think everything is as we saw last year, the rest of the year will be easier.”
Speaking after Sainz’s Q2 crash in Imola, Ferrari team director Mattia Binotto suggested that Sainz should adjust to being in the car with the front-runner.
He said it was a question of Sainz “managing the pressure,” something Binotto suggested was Sainz’s strength.
Sainz contradicted this, arguing that his fall had nothing to do with the pressure.
“I don’t think yesterday’s mistake was pressure,” he said after the sprint race in Imola. Bio It was Q2, I knew I had already done a good banking lap to get to Q3, I was just trying there, to try different lines, a different balance…
“I’m still out there trying to fight the car to try to find my groove. I didn’t actually push so hard and I made a mistake that can happen in these conditions.
“But yesterday, if you asked me in Q2, did I feel the pressure? No, it was Q2, I was playing with the car and I made a mistake.
“Definitely, I have less training than the guys I struggle with, like Charles, Max and Chec. To fight for the podium and in cars that win races, I miss this experience, and maybe the lack of patience in Q2 to know that you don’t need those last two tenths I may have been trying to find yesterday.
“So this experience will serve me well and once I get used to it, I’m sure I’ll be as fast as others.”
But the concept of pressure is not so easy to tie. It’s an acronym for countless factors and probably fits what Sainz describes there, trying to maximize what he learned in Q2 to be the best in Q3, where he knew he faced the toughest challenge to beat Leclerc. No wonder he described what happened as “very painful”.
Similarly, Leclerc rejected the idea that pressure on the idea played a role in his Variante Alta error in the race. But it’s just not that easy to identify, which is why the key psychological side of the game is so hard for any professional athlete to correct.
Sainz was well aware of this after what happened at the race in Australia. Right after his short, disastrous race, he recognized that he was fascinated.
He was down in ninth place after qualifying problems he didn’t make, and then got off to a bad start due to a late steering wheel change after noticing at the last minute that the brake balance adjustment wasn’t working. That wheel was supposed to have identical settings as the original, but it didn’t. So losing his place at the start is not his fault.
But unusual for Sainz, usually so calm-headed, he began to exaggerate the point. He first put himself in a position to be hung to dry at the exit of turn 11 as he tried to break through Yuki Tsunoda with little chance. That allowed Mick Schumacher to get through it.
And as soon as he passed Schumacher in turn 9, he left, lost him on the grass, and turned back across the trail, ending up buried in the gravel.
Sainz had no luck in Australia, but everything that went wrong after the start came down to his misjudgment. It is easy to conclude that he entered the race knowing he needed to make up for the terrain and hoped to win a position at the start and then quickly clear the leading midfield cars. After falling to 13th from the starting net, he ran over trying to regain lost ground.
“It makes it easier in a way because you can obviously blame external factors,” he said of what happened in Australia.
“But also, I know that one of my strengths as a driver is to stay calm in situations like this and that this time I lacked that composure to react properly to embarrassment.
“It wasn’t a great weekend because a lot of external factors happened, but at the same time I didn’t have the best reaction to this.
“At one point, it had to happen. I was 17 [consecutive] points ends, I don’t know how many consecutive races I finished without major mistakes and at some point that mistake had to happen.
“And it happened, which I’m sure I’ll learn from it like I did earlier in my career and it just makes me stronger. A weekend to build character for sure. ”
What happened in Imola did not help Sainz ensure that he remained in that peaceful way of thinking. Playing catch-up forces drivers and teams to push a little harder than they please, which can often lead to a vicious circle.
It’s easy in the cold light of day to know you need to be calmer, but the real challenge is how to get yourself in the right mental state to do it when the pressure is really high.
“It’s a lot when it comes to psychology and how to deal with emotions and feelings,” Sainz said when asked by The Race how he can achieve the necessary calm.
“It’s something that is one of my strengths and I think it will continue to be one of my strengths. I just think that from time to time in your career as an athlete or race driver you need reminders to keep doing the things you did before that allowed you to stay calm.
“It simply came to our notice then [trouble in the form of mistakes] I had before this. That I was in a very strong race without any mistakes and that at some point it had to come and it can be encouraged by external factors, but I want to continue to learn from it. “
Sainz rightly dismissed what happened at the Imola race as out of his control because it really wasn’t in his hands. But the early end of the second consecutive race on the gravel, which, as he pointed out, also meant that the opportunity to learn the full race was lost again, will not make it easier to enter the right space.
Sainz still has a big role to play in the 2022 F1 season and there is no doubt that results will come. If Ferrari remains the leader, it is inevitable that it will win its first Grand Prix victory. He is a very fast, intelligent, skilled driver and one who will not run away from challenges or make excuses. If and when he clicks, it will be awesome.
But he knows he has to be at his absolute best, in one with the car and in his game, to have a chance to beat Leclerc. His hope will be that Australia and Imola were the best, but as time has almost run out to avoid being second in Ferrari this season, he will be very aware that he needs a strong weekend in Miami to get back to his destination.
And that can only increase the pressure as he struggles to gather it on and off the track.