A strong first season with the Scuderia saw the Spaniard rewarded with a contract extension and pay rise, but things have been less smooth this year. Three DNFs have disrupted his progress and led him to slip to fifth in the drivers’ standings, now 73 points adrift of defending champion Max Verstappen.
Things are looking up now, though, as Sainz secured second place at the Canadian Grand Prix. He was unable to overtake the Dutchman in the final few laps as the straight line speed of the Red Bull kept him at arm’s length, but his Ferrari was the fastest car on track.
It means he is still waiting for his first ever race win in Formula 1, but afterwards Sainz was happy with his performance and pleased that he no longer has any fear of pushing his car to the limit. “I want to take it a bit more race by race, you know, not thinking too much about the championship or anything like that,” he said.
“I really want to focus in getting to a track and see if I can get myself in a good window of performance and comfort inside the car. I think this weekend I did that, right since FP1 I looked very quick, both in qualifying and race pace. In the race I was pushing flat out without any fear of losing the car, like I had, for example, in Barcelona.
“Some good progress being made – we’ve changed a few things on the car to try and make it a bit more to my liking, and they seem to be working. But at the same time, I think I need more circuits, I need more different kinds of corners to have a proper feel for that.”
Similarly pleased was his team boss Mattia Binotto, who declared that the Spaniard is now ready to join Charles Leclerc in challenging for race wins. “It has been a very good race and I think race by race he’s gaining confidence, improving his driving and being faster and faster and he is happy, he’s more relaxed,” said the Italian.
“I’m pretty sure that he will prove in the next races now that he is a contender as well, for the win on a single race. I’m pretty happy the way he drove and it’s important for us as the Scuderia that we can count on him as well, to know that he can be very fast.”