F1 Australian GP winner Carlos Sainz: “It felt good to pass” Verstappen, reflects on “rollercoaster” two weeks

Photo Credit: Scuderia Ferrari
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Carlos Sainz becomes for the second year in a row the first non-Red Bull race victor in a campaign. The Ferrari driver overtook Max Verstappen on lap 2. The 3-time defending World Champion was struggling with overheating brakes, which would lead to his first retirement in two years at the beginning of the race at Albert Park.

It was a dominant display from the Spanish driver, who masterfully controlled the race and led home a Ferrari 1-2 in Melbourne.

Sainz was extremely pleased to win another race for the Italian team after Silverstone in 2022 and Singapore in 2023, as he mentioned in the post-race press conference the great emotional significance his third Formula 1 win holds.

“It’s the whole start to the year in general, how the year started with the news of the non-renewal. Then you get yourself fit. You get yourself ready for the start of the season, pushing flat out. And then you get to Bahrain. You do a good podium. You say, ‘OK, now the season is starting well and I can keep the momentum going’.

“And suddenly, boom, they’re missing a race in Jeddah and the operation. Long days in bed, not knowing if I was going to be back in time. Obviously, a lot of unknowns. Am I going to be back fit? Am I going to be back feeling still good with the car?

“And then suddenly you come back and win. So, yes, what I said on the radio – life is a roller coaster sometimes, but it can be really nice and good to you sometimes. Just letting it sink in and enjoying the moment,” he summed up.

Asked about the way he was dealing with the physical aspect of racing, having undergone surgery only two weeks ago, Sainz admitted that he had gone into the 58-lap race without actually knowing how he would feel in the second part of the event:

How nervous I was? I was confident about the first half of the race that I was going to be OK because it’s more or less the laps that I did on Friday. Obviously, the second half of the race was a bit of an unknown.”

However, being in the lead assisted him in completing the 58 laps without any difficulties for his body, as he was able to dictate his own race in clean air.

“But yeah, once I got up in front and I had a gap, you can manage everything. You can manage yourself, you can manage the tyres, you have less pressure. You can choose your places where to push and not to push you know, and everything becomes a lot easier. So yeah, I’m not going to lie, the last five or 10 laps I was a bit stiff and tired but nothing that was slowing me down too much.”

Sainz discussed his attack on Verstappen, wanting to take the lead early on because of Ferrari’s speed and the power of the DRS zones.

“I got a decent start from the dirty side of the grid, but obviously couldn’t put Max under pressure into Turn 1, but from there on it was a kind of a very strategic first lap and a half where you are wanting to protect the tyre from opening up the graining.

“But at the same time, I knew this weekend and this race, I could have the pace to challenge Max.

“And I thought to myself, with how powerful the DRS is around here, if I get myself within the DRS range after lap one, we can put him a bit under pressure. I think he did a mistake into Turn 3 that allowed me to stay within the DRS and I could feel myself being pretty quick. And then, yeah, I don’t know when his brakes started to go, but yeah, in dirty air, obviously, it’s not the same than in clean air with a big gap.”

After retiring, the Dutch driver admitted to having struggled with those braking issues since the beginning of the race, but Verstappen’s technical problem doesn’t take away the pleasure from Sainz in being able to make a move over the three times World Champion on circuit.

“I don’t know. I saw him… obviously pushing on lap one and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to push with him too and challenge in the car’. But obviously it could have been the brakes, as he said.

“So, yeah, I don’t know, honestly, but it felt good to pass him, with brake issues or not, because it is tough, you know, to pass Max on track and the Red Bull, But it’s what we’ve said from the beginning – if you are there and you can put Red Bull under pressure, you can sometimes get it done.

“But you need to be there, and we need to be there more often if we want to win,” he concluded, hoping that the particular pace and form found this weekend will be repeated at the next round in Japan.