The Spaniard was hoping to get involved this year after an excellent first season with Ferrari in 2021, in which he had little trouble adapting to the new environment.
However, Sainz found himself late in the early stages of this campaign. He just couldn’t feel as comfortable with F1-75 as teammate Charles Leclerc.
That left him a couple of tenths of a second from Leclerc from the start, while he and his Ferrari engineers set out to find solutions to try and make him more at one with the car.
Despite numerous configuration experiments, no changes provided the necessary breakthrough for Sainz. It was just a complete rethinking of his approach to driving the car that helped him turn things around.
Speaking exclusively to Autosport, Sainz said the situation he faced in the first few races was hard to bear because it was something he had never experienced before in his career.
“It was frustrating after such a strong first year with the team, where I had very few problems with the car,” he said.
“I felt like, after the first races of 2021, I knew where the limit of the car was. I only had to find one or two tenths in a certain type of corner and I was ready to race. That’s why the second time of the season was so strong and I managed to make it.
“This year has finally been a competitive car, finally a car capable of fighting for the win, and suddenly I find myself in a position that I have never been in before, which is just over two tenths of a second.
“I’ve never been more than two tenths behind a teammate and I’m scratching my head to see where all this lap time comes from. It was frustrating, because it was the first time I had a competitive car that could afford me fight for victory “.
While Sainz had previously been reluctant to explain how he finally took a step forward in Canada, before clinching his first pole position and British Grand Prix victory, he finally opened up about how he needed to take responsibility for making the things differently.
“I kept pretty secret where my fights came from,” he said. “I think the people who understand the sport and the people who do in-depth analysis, more or less know me by now and they know where the problems come from. But just in short: I had to completely change my driving style.
“I had to change the way I drove, in a very unnatural way. I had to change in an unnatural way and make it natural – which takes a long time.
“I also had to try things with the set-up. Most of it went in the wrong direction, and then we had to rediscover the right direction. It takes races. There are no more tests, so you need to test on race weekends.
“This means that sometimes you have to commit to a race weekend with a configuration where you basically got it wrong for that weekend. And it means that another weekend is not good.
“That frustration built up until the time of the Canadian Grand Prix, where I started to find my way a little bit. And since then, I’ve started to behave a little better.”
Although Sainz didn’t want to reveal any technical secrets, he said the problems revolved mainly around specific corner speeds where Leclerc was doing better than him.
Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
Photo by: Ferrari
“It was all over the place, but it was a certain kind of cornering speed and a certain driving style that didn’t suit me well with this car,” he said.
“Sometimes it happens in the career of a driver. You jump in a car, like I did in 2021, and you do nothing: you drive it and you are fast.
“Then sometimes you jump into a different car, you think you’ve done a good time, but then you see it compared to others and it’s not that fast.
“It’s natural. But it frustrated me that that point in my career had to come when I had a competitive car.”
Sainz said the need for him to adapt more to what the car needed, rather than being able to change the trim to suit him, was driven by the technical limitations in the 2022 regulations.
“The team obviously listened to me and knew where my difficulties were,” he said. “But in an era of budget constraints, and with automotive regulations as simple as we have today, they are very simple cars. You have very little freedom to play with the set-up.
“It wasn’t until the end of the year that we brought a couple of things that really helped me find something more out of the car.
“Everything since Barcelona, which was my lowest point in terms of qualifying speed and race speed, has been for me to practically change my entire driving style and try to find a car that would give me a little confidence “.
Since getting to the top of the car, Sainz has seen an improvement in his form, which he hopes will give him the foundation for a much better 2023 season.
However, despite some very strong performance, he confesses that he is still not as comfortable with the car as he would like.
“There are little things that suddenly build your confidence and that’s where I started thinking I could be fast with this car too,” he said.
“At the start of the year, you always have your doubts. Will this car ever give me the confidence that I had with last year’s car? Will I ever find the right way to drive this car at the level I know Can I? Do you have these doubts.
“But then these little details help you trust the process and all the hard work I had to do, even though there have been many times where I got the tuning direction wrong, with my guidance.
“It’s still not a car that I like, honestly, as far as how to drive it. I still have to think a lot while driving. And I’m not driving quite naturally yet. But at least I know if I had to put it all together, I can be there.” .