Carlos Sainz produced today one of his best performances ever as a Formula 1 driver. It was at the United States Grand Prix, where the Spaniard finished the race in sixth place. By doing so he matched his best result in the series and scored eight points more for the Championship, where he currently is twelfth.
The race was held under clear blue skies. Carlos started from tenth and quickly gained two spots as he went through the first corner picking up the middle racing line. He avoided Valtteri Bottas’ and Nico Hulkenberg’s collision and fought hard against McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. He would meet the latter later in the day.
In the opening laps he was a DRS away from Felipe Massa. He didn’t lose more than two seconds to the Brazilian until the first round of pit-stops. Carlos pitted on Lap 12 and moved from supersofts to softs. He rejoined behind Massa, but also behind Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, who was yet to stop. That circumstance costed him precious time to the Williams, five seconds to be specific.
In Lap 31, Race Direction deployed a Virtual Safety-Car due to Max Verstappen retirement. Carlos chose to pit immediately, changing to soft tyres again. He would go all the way on that set. He was able to pass Massa thanks to the VSC situation and provisionally moved up to sixth.
From Lap 32 onwards, the race evolved into a thrilling pursuit. Carlos had the edge at first, racing on softs while his rival Massa was on mediums. Nevertheless, he was conscious of the fact that tyre-wear would play against him as the race progressed. He managed the gap carefully and thanks to Kimi Raikkonen’s retirement climbed up to fifth.
Felipe Massa drew closer to Carlos, helped by his edge both in terms of Top Speed and tyres. But the Spaniard made the most out of his car around the twisty sections of the track to ensure that the Williams wouldn’t overtake him in the long back-straight, where DRS was available. But then, Fernando Alonso joined the party and became a greater problem. The driver from McLaren overtook Felipe Massa and then attacked Carlos in the closing stages of the event. Considering the Spaniard was 29 kilometers/hour slower than the leaders, it came as no surprise when he lost the battle against his rival. He was overtaken in the back-straight.
Still, Carlos crossed the finish-line in a magnificent sixth place. He was six spots higher than his teammate and matched his best ever result in the series despite the well-known deficit his car suffers in terms of performance.
After getting out of the STR11, the Spaniard from Toro Rosso felt happy about his race. “I am sixth, but almost ten races later than Barcelona and we know that we didn’t have almost any development since then. Maybe this result is worth more than that one. I am delighted. It all turned out great. Maybe we gambled a bit with that final stint on soft tyres, but I don’t think that the final result could have changed much otherwise”.
Carlos' fighting spirit was notorious up until the last lap of the race.
"You saw me there. I did all I could. I took different lines. I know Fernando, I know what he was going to do at every moment, but in the end he got me with Top Speed and DRS. I'm happy, because I made his life difficult despite having less speed".
"In the first lap I picked up a good line going to Turn 1 and I could recover the spots that we maybe didn't win at the start. Now let’s see what we can do in Mexico. This is going to be difficult to repeat. I thought this wouldn't happen again, that we'd fight for a P10 maxium. Today we go home with a P6... It's like a victory".
Last but not least, Helmut Marko, responsible for Red Bull's junior program, praised Carlos' performance. "It's the best race I've seen from him in Formula 1".
The Great Circus travels from the United States to Mexico, were next week the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez will host its Grand prix. Free Practice will begin on Friday, but on Thursday we will already publish Carlos' thoughts and quotes ahead of one of the last three races on the calendar.
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