Carlos Sainz believes he will be at his strongest in the latter stages of the season as he seeks to continue his consistent form at Ferrari.
The Spaniard won the British Grand Prix in Silverstone having pushed Max Verstappen hard for the win in Canada, and he looked as though he was going to pass the reigning champion to finish second behind team-mate Charles Leclerc in Austria.
His second engine failure of the season put pay to those chances, but the performance itself was in keeping with a run of form in recent rounds that are symbolic of a driver beginning to feel more at one with his car.
The 27-year-old had also ended the Monaco Grand Prix second before his third retirement of the season in Baku, and his performance in Monte Carlo followed on from a nightmare at his home race.
Sainz endured non-finishes in Australia and Imola after crashing in both of those weekends, so his recent form is a significant step up on his start to the year
“I think we’ve been doing a better job these last few weekends,” he told Sky Sports.
“Monaco was already a bit of a turning point, fighting there for pole position, also in Baku we fought [for] pole, in Canada we fought for the win.
“I’ve been picking up a bit of momentum; I wouldn’t say I’m 100 per cent there yet. I think there’s things still to improve, like we saw in the race in Silverstone.
“Definitely I feel a lot more in touch and like it could come anytime again soon.”
Sainz himself recently conceded that he was “not really” looking at the championship after a tough start to the season, and the former McLaren driver is three race wins behind leader Verstappen in the drivers’ battle.
However, after out-qualifying Leclerc in Canada and Britain, and taking advantage of a slice of fortune from a strategic error on his team-mate’s side in Silverstone to claim victory, anything is possible in the final 11 rounds of the season.
“I say let’s see at the end of the year,” stated Sainz.
“I think it’s still early, it was early when I finished P2 in Bahrain and everyone said it’s going to be an easy walk in the park for Ferrari.
“I said it when I was in my low moment in Barcelona after the spin in the race, and I say it now: it’s too early still to tell and to say.
“I understand people that say [I’m not a title contender], because it hasn’t been my easiest start of the season.
“But if you look closely to my last four or five seasons in F1, I’ve always peaked in the second half and I’ve always done a very strong second half, so let’s wait and see.”
Sainz is fourth in the Drivers’ Standings, 22 points adrift of third-placed Sergio Perez who, along with the Ferrari driver, retired from the Austrian Grand Prix.
Leclerc’s victory in Spielberg was his first since Melbourne in round three, and it launched him back above Perez into second in the championship.