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Formula 1

Why Sainz’s failure is even more painful than it looks

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

Carlos Sainz Jr has revealed that the brake failure that ended his Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying early has bigger consequences than simply leaving him down the grid.

Sainz will start the Bahrain GP 15th after failing to post a laptime in the second part of qualifying because a brake-by-wire failure caused his rear axle to lock at Turn 1, spinning him round and halting his session.

The McLaren driver had looked like a strong contender for a top-six start until then, but he believes the bigger setback is that the spin has “completely destroyed” that set of medium tyres.

F1’s rules only allow tyres damaged in qualifying to be replaced if they are the set that a driver must start on. As Sainz did not progress to Q3 he is not required to use those tyres and that means they must simply be discarded.

It means Sainz goes into Sunday’s race at the high-degradation Sakhir circuit with a new set of medium tyres to start on but not a second set, and he said “the lack of strategic options and missing that medium tyre that has got me even more angry after the disappointing quali”.

An irony within that misfortune is Sainz was so quick in Q1 he had progressed to Q2 having used only one set of soft tyres, which would have given him an extra run in Q3 – not always the case for the midfield teams that progress to the top-10 shootout.

Instead, Sainz is left to rue a weekend in which he looked like having “a bit of an upper hand on other teams” becoming a case of “damage limitation”.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Bahrain Grand Prix Practice Day Sakhir, Bahrain

“What hurts more than the spin itself or more than the brake failure is having to start the race 15th without a set of medium tyres,” he said.

“I can already tell you that my options are slim, because of losing that set of mediums.

“And there are not that many options.”

Sainz said that some McLaren team members have already joked that his first podium in F1 came in the chaotic Brazilian Grand Prix last year when he started last.

He said that shows “everyone is in good spirits” but believes his prospect for the race is “fighting more to try to get back into the points more than getting back into the top five”, especially as the entire top 10 will start on mediums rather than softs after they all shunned the soft in Q2.

“There’s already been quite a bit of damage done with having to start so far back, and everyone in front starting on the mediums,” he said.

“So it’s not like by starting on a hard or soft or medium you have any kind of advantage.

“It is a bit more damage limitation than anything else.

“So far this weekend the car has been good and I’ve been particularly comfortable and happy with the set-up and the balance of the car.

“Hopefully tomorrow when I wake up I’m a bit more happy and more encouraged than right now.”

Lando Norris, McLaren, Bahrain, F1

Team-mate Lando Norris was sixth-fastest in Q2 but will only start ninth after making an error at Turn 1 on his hotlap in Q3.

Norris said that mistake was “pretty frustrating” because he would have probably joined Racing Point driver Sergio Perez on the third row and outqualified both Renaults.

“There was just a bit more potential,” he said. “It wasn’t like we didn’t have the speed, I think we did.

“But I made one mistake in Turn 1 and it proved costly.

“It shows how close it is, but also shows just how difficult it is to put everything together and one mistake can be three or four positions.”

McLaren will therefore start the Bahrain GP behind its two main rivals for third in the constructors’ championship.

The team trails Racing Point by five points while Renault is 13 points behind McLaren.

Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris, McLaren, Bahrain, F1

Team boss Andreas Seidl would not go as far as calling it a “blow” but admitted it was a “disappointment”.

“We had an issue on the rear brake line causing the failure so it’s something we need to analyse in detail,” he said.

“Of course it’s a disappointment after a very good run of reliability so far this year to have this issue.

“We had a competitive car yesterday and today. We had the potential to be close to Perez.

“But in the end it doesn’t count what would have been possible.

“What counts is the final result, which is disappointing, and it simply means you have to try to make up for it tomorrow and do a better job next time.”

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