Finally, after 150 Grand Prix starts, Carlos Sainz Jr. can call himself a Formula One race winner.
The son of “El Matador”, two-time WRC champion Carlos Sainz Sr., the “Smooth Operator” has always had a lot of pressure put on him, even before taking up the fire engine red of Scuderia Ferrari. So of course, that first F1 win wasn’t a walk in the park at the Silverstone Circuit on Sunday (July 3).
The final safety car came on lap 39 when Esteban Ocon stalled out and stopped on the old pit straight on what’s now the backstretch. This brought out a safety car that allowed most of the leaders except for leader Charles Leclerc to pit for softs. Leclerc thus had to restart on 16-lap-old hard tires versus everybody else with brand-new soft tires.
Sainz was told right before going green by the Ferrari strategists to block Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez from his second-place position so that Leclerc could gain some distance. But Sainz outright told the team no, scooted past Leclerc on the restart to tack the lead, and never looked back over the last ten laps.
“I cannot ask for more, it was a very special day,” Sainz said in his podium interview with F1 media member Jenson Button. “It was not easy, I struggled quite a bit with the balance. Especially on the first stint with the medium tire. Max [Verstappen] was forcing us to push through the high speed and I opened the front left. Even with all of that, I stayed believing that it could still happen. I needed a safety car to stay in the race, and all of a sudden the safety car gave me the opportunity to get on it.”
Leclerc then had an epic multi-car battle royale between himself, Perez, and Hamilton, with Perez at one point arguably running Hamilton off the road. Perez would end up finishing second, Hamilton in third, and Leclerc in fourth.
Verstappen got by Sainz on lap one, but after a lap one red flag, the grid was reset to their starting positions with the DNF’d cars not there. Sainz held off Verstappen to lead lap three on the restart, and Leclerc tried to get by Verstappen but went off track from an aggressive defense from the Dutchman.
On lap 10, Sainz ran into the grass out of Becketts corner and was passed by Verstappen. But then, two laps later, Verstappen ran over a piece of debris and pit for a puncture after being passed by both Sainz and Leclerc. The debris affected the Red Bull’s performance, however, and Verstappen could manage to finish no better than seventh after a great closing lap battle with Mick Schumacher, who finished eighth for his first-ever F1 points.
Hamilton took the lead on lap 25 after both of the Ferraris pitted for hard tires, but couldn’t successfully undercut the two due to a slow pit stop when the Mercedes driver eventually pit for hard tires. His third was the 13th time he has finished on the podium at Silverstone Circuit, a new record for any driver at one single track.
The event was marred by an incredibly violent lap one, turn one crash that featured Zhou Guanyu flipping into the catch fence. It was almost a disaster with how caved in the catch fence was afterward. Zhou was later released from the care center uninjured, but the wreck caused a 50+ minutes red flag. Ocon was also involved in this wreck, along with Pierre Gasly. Alex Albon hit the pit wall hard and was transported to a local hospital for further evaluation.
F1 competitors next head to Austria for the next race. The Austrian Grand Prix at Red Bull Ring will take place on Sunday, July 10 at 9 a.m. ET with TV coverage provided by ESPN.
About the author
Michael has watched NASCAR for 15 years and began covering the sport five years ago. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and a proud member of the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA).
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