On the first lap of the Austin race Sainz left the track at the Turn 12 left-hander trying to defend his fifth place against both McLarens. Exceeding track limits allowed him to keep his position to Norris, although Daniel Ricciardo managed to pass both cars before the end of the lap.
Despite losing a net position Sainz was still ordered to let Norris by several laps later. However, Sainz gave the spot back in the Esses before the DRS detection zone at Turn 11, which meant he could use DRS on the following straight to swiftly snatch the position back.
McLaren team boss Seidl conceded that Sainz was “clever” to play out the situation the way he did. While he agreed that what Sainz did was “obviously not the idea” of giving a position back, he said he had no issue with it as it’s not against the rules.
“From our point of view, it was clear that Carlos suddenly got Lando back because he went off the track, so that’s why we clearly expected that he had to give the position back which he then had to do later on,” Seidl said.
“But unfortunately, he did it in a clever way so that he could actually overtake Lando back straight away on the next straight so we couldn’t benefit from that.
“It’s obviously not the idea of giving a position back but let’s see. We need to analyse again in detail, speak with Lando as well what he thinks about it.
“I would say as long as the rules are what they are I have to say hat off to Carlos, he did it in a clever way.”
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF21, Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari SF21, Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL35M,and Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
Sainz was initially reluctant to give back a position at all because he felt he had already done so when he let Ricciardo pass him on the inside of Turn 16 straight after the Lap 1 incident.
“I went side-by-side with both of them into Turn 12,” Sainz recalled. “I was in the middle; I think it was Lando who braked really late on the inside.
“We actually all three nearly took Charles [Leclerc] with us in the attempt to stay ahead of each other. Just to give a bit of space to Lando I decided to go wide to make sure we don’t crash.
“Exiting Turn 15 I took the conscious decision to let – what I thought was Lando – by in Turn 16 just to make sure I didn’t get the penalty from the stewards.
“What actually happened is during that battle, Daniel overtook Lando, so I actually let by Daniel and not Lando.”
Sainz thought it was unfair that he had to yield positions to both McLaren drivers, but after being urged by his race engineer to let Norris past on Lap 6 before Turn 11, he made sure he could nick the place back quickly.
“The stewards deemed that I should give the position back to Lando, even though that would cost me two positions, which would be in my opinion unfair,” he added.
“I had to give the position back to Lando, then I overtook him, and then I started chasing Daniel again.”
Sainz never managed to pass the Australian, partly due to a poor pitstop, and settled for seventh behind teammate Leclerc, Ricciardo and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas but still ahead of Norris.