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.

F1: Valtteri Bottas urges Lewis Hamilton to clear up Mercedes future and sign

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MONACO (AP) — Valtteri Bottas is urging Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to sign a new contract, even though his own future is uncertain.

Bottas needs to convince Mercedes to give him a new deal for next year. Hamilton, meanwhile, is stalling on signing a new one even though an offer is in place. Hamilton was again asked about his contract situation on Wednesday, and maintains he’s in no hurry.

“There isn’t any sticking point. There just hasn’t been any rush,” Hamilton said. “There’s no discussion with anybody else, there’s no consideration for anybody else, it’s just (me) taking my time.”

But Bottas would like Hamilton’s future cleared up.

“For sure I would. First of all, I would like to stay here. That is my goal for the long term. It would be nice if Lewis wants to stay and finds an agreement,” Bottas said at the Mercedes motorhome. “I enjoy working with him, I enjoy the challenge he gives me. I enjoy the fact he’s four-time world champion and at the moment I’m none. It makes me try harder to be better.

“It wouldn’t change my mind that I want to stay here, but I think we work well together,” he added.

Last season was their first together. Bottas was drafted in from Williams as an emergency replacement after Nico Rosberg retired. He won three races but he stood out more as the ideal support driver as Hamilton reclaimed the F1 title.

Bottas understands Mercedes expects improvement.

“We had a chat before the season and naturally we expect performance gains compared to last year, being closer to Lewis,” Bottas said. “That’s what you need to do in the second season.”

However, Bottas says he has not been set a specific target in terms of points or where he finishes overall.

“There’s no magic number,” he said. “There’s no clause or anything, so it’s how the team feels I’m performing.”

Bottas finished third overall last year behind Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel and Hamilton.

He is in the same overall position – 20 points behind Vettel and 37 adrift of Hamilton – heading into this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.

The Finnish driver would be closer if not for a dramatic finish at the Azerbaijan GP last month. With victory seemingly guaranteed, he sustained a tire puncture and ended up with no points. He bounced back with a fine drive for second place in Spain two weeks ago.

“I feel like I’ve met my performance targets. Pace-wise I’m on the level I need, but result-wise I’m not happy,” Bottas said. “It’s been strange. But I know if I keep improving very good things will come.”

He has faced a considerable amount of criticism with observers questioning whether he can compete at the top level. Yet driving under the constant pressure of having a point to prove has also made him more resilient.

“For sure it makes you tougher and better,” he said. “From each difficult weekend, I feel I’ve been able to turn it (around).”