As if Ferrari’s day was not difficult enough in Budapest on Sunday, Carlos Sainz discovered after the race that there was a plastic bag stuck to the side of the car.
The Spaniard had started the race second behind George Russell after the polesitter’s superb lap in qualifying, and he went longer in the first stint than the Mercedes.
A slow stop for the 27-year-old denied him the chance to clear Russell in the pits, and also cost him a position to team-mate Charles Leclerc.
The Monegasque managed to pass Russell in the middle stint, before the Scuderia inexplicably called him in for a set of Hards, responding to a stop from fourth-placed Max Verstappen, who was not even a threat at that stage of the race.
Both Russell and Verstappen passed Leclerc as a result, while the reigning champion – who had started 10th on the grid – jumped the Briton in the pits.
Verstappen went on to take victory, while Sir Lewis Hamilton recovered from seventh to take second on Sunday, passing Sainz after both drivers had gone longer in the middle stint to pit for Softs late on.
The 27-year-old struggled for raw pace throughout the race as he struggled to pass Russell before being beaten on track by Hamilton.
After climbing out of the car, Sainz spotted something that might have been costing him more performance.
“I just found when I stepped out of the car that there was a plastic sack on the side of the car,” he told the Race.
“I don’t know if it was costing me downforce because it was quite big.”
Mercedes’ race pace has been on par with that of Ferrari of late, including in Sunday’s race, which is confusing for the Spaniard following a strong showing during Friday practice.
“We clearly struggled as a team, today we were a bit puzzled because we expected a good race pace coming from Friday,” explained Sainz..
“But it is clear that in these lower temperatures, the track condition changes we had, there was clearly something going on with the car and the tyres.
“We were just not fast, something to analyse and to probably look back, re-group, see what we did wrong for these kinds of conditions and come back after the summer break with a better package.”
The 12-time podium finisher, and winner of this year’s British Grand Prix, conceded that the slow first stop made his life more difficult during the race.
“The first [stop] cost me the overcut on George, which obviously would have simplified the race because you don’t have dirty air,” added Sainz.
“I could have, I think, done an overcut with the last pit stop but it is what it is. We have been decent on pit stops all year but it is true there are, now and then, a couple of pit stops that are failing us.
“We need to analyse what we can do better as we want to be stronger in the second half, I don’t know what we could have done better on strategy but I can tell you that when the pace is bad like it was today, strategy is always difficult.
“If you don’t have pace with any compound you are always going to struggle with strategy because you have very little flexibility.
“Yes, the pit stop cost me today two times but do you include that as a strategy, I don’t know.”
In the end, Ferrari were just lacking pace.
“Today we were just slow, and if you compare our pace to Red Bull on Friday to our pace to Red Bull today, there is clearly something in the car and the tyre that we were just not doing right,” stated Sainz.
Sainz finished fourth, and Leclerc sixth, as Ferrari lost more ground to Red Bull in the championship.