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.