Carlos Sainz has come to the defence of his Ferrari team after he was told to pit to serve a five-second penalty at the French Grand Prix on Sunday.
Sainz had started at the back of the grid after taking an engine penalty following his reliability failure at the Austrian Grand Prix two weeks prior, and he made his way up into the top 10 in the opening stint.
He did so on the Hards, but the Safety Car was deployed at an inopportune moment when team-mate Charles Leclerc crashed out of the lead.
He was therefore forced to make his mandatory pit top onto the Mediums much earlier than he would have wanted, making it difficult for him to make it to the end of the race.
The situation was exacerbated when he was given a five-second penalty for an unsafe release during his stop, so the team had a decision to make.
They could either leave him out until the end on dead Mediums with a penalty to serve at the end, or he could pit, serve the penalty and try to come back through the field.
The Scuderia called him in just as he was passing Sergio Perez for P3, and he passed Esteban Ocon, Lando Norris and Fernando Alonso late on to claim fifth, taking the fastest lap in the process.
The option may have been there to send him to the end and open out a sufficient gap to Perez, but Sainz has full faith that his team made the right call under the circumstances.
“I think the team is doing a very good job on strategy this year,” he told Sky Sports, despite all the strategic blunders they have made.
“I still believe at Ferrari we get super criticised for things that other teams might be going through also in the pit stop windows.
“And every time there is a tricky moment on strategy, we are discussing things, but we are not a disaster like people seem to say we are.
“We like to discuss things, we are open about them, yes I was in the middle of the overtake [when he was told to pit] but the team believed that was the right lap to stop and come back through the field.
“I believe that maybe at the time it was maybe better to risk it and stay out and see what happened with the tyres, even if it was the medium tyre on the limit of the life.
“But I had just made it to P3 and I saw a podium position and I said, ‘maybe if I make these tyres last, maybe I can finish on the podium.’
“But, we will never know.
“It was a feeling, the team has a lot more data on the computer, they have a lot more numbers to go through and they took that decision.
“I’m 100 percent convinced that they did it with the best intentions and the best spirits, it’s just we need to keep progressing and we need to analyse everything and see how we can do better.
“But I’m convinced that we’re doing a good job there.”
The Spaniard himself did wonder if it might have been more prudent to stay out rather than pit but, with more information available to him after the race, he theorised might have ended up further back if he had tried.
“My point of view was that if I couldn’t pass Checo I would box,” explained Sainz.
“Because there is nothing really going on and I cannot pass Checo, let’s box and try and come back.
“The moment I passed Checo I was like ‘okay, I’m P3, let’s see if I can pull away five seconds and make it to the end with these tyres.
“At that stage, our numbers said it was impossible to make it to the end, plus the five-second penalty to risk losing positions to Fernando or whatever, so the team [played it] safe.
“We knew P5 plus fastest lap was good points, and we took the points plus fastest lap.
“In the moment, maybe my feeling was different, but until I see the numbers and everything it’s impossible for me.
“I think we will never know what would have been the best.”
Max Verstappen claimed the win after Leclerc’s crash as he opened his championship advantage out to 63 points.