Sainz: Everyone thought I was mad to start Chinese GP on slicks

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Carlos Sainz Jr. said his Toro Rosso engineers thought he was “completely mad” to start Sunday’s Formula 1 race in China on slick tires, only for the gamble to aid him en route to P7 at the finish.

Rain in the lead-up to the start in Shanghai prompted the majority of the field to start on intermediate tires, with parts of the track being wet on the installation laps to the grid.

Sainz opted to roll the dice and start on slicks, and although he dropped to the very back of the order on the first lap, conditions soon became perfect for dry tires, forcing the rest of the field to pit.

Sainz battled through to finish seventh, coming home behind the Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull drivers in a surprise result for Toro Rosso.

“What a race, I just don’t have words to describe it! On the grid I said I wanted to start the race on slick tires and everyone thought I was completely mad!” Sainz said.

“It sounds like a funny moment now, but when everyone took the blankets off the tires and my race engineer told me that we were the only ones the supersoft tire I doubted my decision.

“When you’re on the grid, about to start a race, and you take a tough decision like today’s, there’s a lot of weight on your shoulders, knowing that you might have blown away a good result for the team… but I then said to myself: ‘Come on trust yourself, it’s the right thing to do!’

“I knew the start and the first four corners were going to be very tricky – and they certainly were! – but from Turn 6 onwards the track was fully dry and I felt confident – the gamble definitely paid off!

“But today’s result isn’t only thanks to this decision; it’s also down to the pace that we showed in damp conditions. After the safety car, I saw myself catching Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes in front and I got super excited.

“It was just an incredible race, I felt so comfortable in the car today and to finally cross the line in P7 is a great result – I’d like to thank the team for the whole weekend, we can all be very happy!”

The result sees Toro Rosso rise to fourth place in the constructors’ championship ahead of fellow midfield rivals Williams and Force India.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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