Valtteri Bottas might have won the Turkish Grand Prix of 2021, the Finn’s maiden race win for the season, and Verstappen may have recaptured the title lead, but there was more to Istanbul Park’s dramatic 58 lap run than just the triumph of the top three. If there was anything like a ‘Did You Know‘ series for the ongoing season, then perhaps the fact that Carlos Sainz Jr. extended his point-scoring run to nine consecutive Grands Prix would make it to the first chapter of the book.
It’s a period that marks a new chapter of sorts for the Scuderia family, one that has, over the course of the sport’s last two seasons, experienced some crushing lows. Destabilised last year by Sebastian Vettel’s flailing form and Leclerc’s ‘here-and-there’ successes, Ferrari now has in their ranks two solid drivers, one who’s going to be a king one day and the other, a Spaniard who’s proven in his debut season in red that he’s a tough cookie.
And lest we forget, a consistent point scorer.
While Carlos Sainz Jr. didn’t even finish in the top five of the race, finishing eighth in the end, the fact that he mounted a solid recovery drive from the very back of the grid is sufficient evidence of his excellent race.
Carlos Sainz Jr.: Solid potential, great results
To overtake on a race track is one thing, but to do it in situations that are adverse to grip and test the very potential of a car is something worth applauding.
That Carlos Sainz Jr. was able to force his SF 21 through the field, overtaking one car after another in a fashion much similar to his favourite number proved that while Bottas was the winner, the Spaniard was indeed the smooth operator.
For all practical purposes, starting a race from the rear end of the field is akin to a student putting in 48 hours of study right before an exam on a 24-hour schedule. It’s that demanding. Not just on the body, but also on the mind.
In the 58-lap run under wet weather, Sainz made no fewer than nine bold overtakes.
This is where Carlos Sainz Jr. excels, as seen in several races since the French GP.
Not once since the French GP has Sainz finished outside the top ten!
Following a disappointing eleventh-place finish at Le Castellet, Carlos Sainz Jr. has only soared northward in race craft and point-scoring consistency. He’s managed to outpace Leclerc in four of the nine races that have followed hence.
While in Hungary he finished a brave third, managing to edge past Fernando Alonso in the closing stages of what was an exhausting event, at the Istanbul Park, Sainz was on the money from the word go.
The overtakes & the smooth overtaker
The first of the 27-year-old’s moves was on the outside of George Russell’s Williams on turn 14. By as early as lap 6, the man who started from the rear of the pack was up into fourteenth.
Next, he’d claw his way past Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo two laps later. This meant by lap 8, the Ferrari was prancing and on P12.
The next of his victims would be the unsuspecting Alpine of Esteban Ocon, Sainz making a fast move on the slow turn three toward the end of lap 9.
And then, five laps later, i.e., lap 14, he was already inside the top ten.
His moves were brave, bold and carried a statement of intent, much like his brilliant pass on Lando at Sochi inside the opening lap itself. Interestingly, Sainz also holds the barest of advantages over his teammate Leclerc in the 2021 F1 driver standings, where with 116.5 points, the Spaniard is P6 by half a point.
Can this slight advantage balloon into something mega in what’s left of this season?
Carlos Sainz Jr’s Best Race In Red?
At the conclusion of the race, Sainz himself even said he felt the race in Turkey was his best for Ferrari, saying ‘This was one of my best races, and probably my strongest with Ferrari! That first stint in those tricky conditions was very intense but good fun. I overtook at different parts of the track and using all kinds of lines, so I really enjoyed myself. It was a pity we had a problem during the stop, because the pit stop itself was fast, but we need to analyse why it took so long to release the car. Instead of coming out behind Ocon I would have come out closer to Lando, and during the last ten laps I was one of the fastest on track, so I feel we could have finished the race further up. Anyway, these things can happen and I definitely have a lot of positives to take from today. I am starting to have a lot of fun with the car and to understand it better and better, so I look forward to the upcoming races and to keep building momentum.’
if the Spaniard continues this strong form, a first win for Ferrari may be just around the corner…