Sainz: Verstappen clash saved me from bigger drama

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On lap 3, Sainz attempted to get past Verstappen, but then got into contact with the Red Bull, creating a front right puncture.Sainz pitted and changed to medium tyres, rejoining the race at the very back of the pack. Having commented on Verstappen on the team’s radio “I cannot believe this guy”, the Spaniard went on to set the fastest lap on lap 7, 1.2s faster than anybody else at the time.

Carlos Sainz says his clash with Max Verstappen saved him from a “more dramatic” day in the Bahrain Grand Prix, as he believes a gearbox problem would have cost him a points finish anyway.

McLaren driver Sainz and Red Bull rival Verstappen made contact at Turn 4 early in the race as the Spaniard attempted to pass the Dutchman for fifth position.

The clash resulted in Sainz getting a puncture and needing to pit, as he dropped to the bottom of the field.

Verstappen went on to finish in fourth position, and was only stopped from scoring a likely podium by a late safety car that prevented him for overtaking the ailing Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.

McLaren retired Sainz’s car with a couple of laps to go in the race, and the Spanish driver revealed a points finish would have been unlikely because of a gearbox problem he had all race long.

“I’m trying to look at the positives,” said Sainz. “A good start, a good first lap, the cars in front weren’t opening the gap and I could stay with the top six without problems.

“Then I don’t think we would have finished in the points because my gearbox failed all throughout the race.

“We had a gearbox problem that was making us lose almost a second per lap, so if I had overtaken Verstappen I would have been fifth and then suddenly I would have had the gearbox problem, then it would have been even more dramatic.”

When asked if he felt he had the pace to be on the podium, he said: “I prefer not to think about it.”

Sainz labelled his clash with Verstappen as “racing”, but said the Dutchman had hit him very hard.

“Well, it’s racing, it’s incidents. All I can say is that I started well, I did all I had to do and tried everything I had to try and I ended up worse off. It was my turn to get puncture thanks to how hard he hit me.

“The normal thing would have been that we both got a puncture and to be both out of the race. He was lucky to continue, but he hit me really hard and that was it.”

Verstappen, for his part, argued Sainz probably had not seen his Red Bull.

Stewards investigated the incident and deemed no further action was required.

“He tried to go around the outside and braked late, I guess he didn’t see me,” Verstappen said.

“In these cars you are blind to what is happening next to you. I braked late and saw him turn into the corner, so I had to take avoiding action. We clipped wheels and it was unfortunate.”NEXT ARTICLE

On lap 11, just as Hamilton had come within DRS range of Vettel, Verstappen pitted, becoming the first of the top 5 to do so. He switched to medium while his team mate Gasly had switched to a new set of softs two laps earlier.

One lap later, Bottas pitted too, taking on a new set of softs. Bottas returned to the track just behind Verstappen as the Dutchman had made optimal use of his brand new tyres to edge ahead of the Mercedes. It didn’t last long though, as Bottas made a pass stick through Turn 3.

Around lap 33, another series of pitstops started, with Verstappen the first one, taking on another set of mediums, just like Hulkenberg. This promoted Norris into 5th until he stopped to switch back to softs again, rejoining in 9th.

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