Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez only fought for third place in Miami. The Ferrari driver had the better end for himself. Both struggled with different problems. One with his body, the other with the technique. Both face the role of number two on the team early this season.
This world championship seems to end in a duel between Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen. After victories it is 3:2 for the world champion in the Red Bull. After championship points 104 to 85 for the Ferrari driver. After pole position 3: 1 for Leclerc. After racing kilometers in the lead 832 to 606 for the Monegasque in the red car. Both are making their mark on this young season.
As a result, the respective teammates become shadow men. Sergio Perez shone with pole position in Saudi Arabia and lost a potential race win to an early first tire change and an ill-timed safety car. The Mexican led the field in the first five Grands Prix in 86 kilometers of racing. Carlos Sainz manages 16 kilometers in the lead.
Perez closer to Verstappen
The two have been on different journeys this season. Perez has managed to close the gap to Red Bull chief driver Verstappen. It is 4:1 for the Dutchman in the qualifying duel. But Perez is not that far away. 0.240 seconds in Bahrain, 86 thousandths in Australia, 45 thousandths in Miami. Imola's 1.8 seconds were due to the changing track conditions.
Sainz is doing differently. Last year he drove at eye level with his teammate. In the first five races he falls away in comparison. The late brakeman Sainz finds it harder to adapt to the F1-75. The Madrilene lost five times in qualifying. He was 0.129 seconds behind in Bahrain – thanks to a good final lap. Actually, he was constantly half a second slower than Leclerc in Sakhir.
In Saudi Arabia it was 0.177 seconds. Melbourne must not count. Sainz was unlucky with a red flag. In Imola he had an accident during qualifying. In Miami he raced onto the front row of the grid, 0.190 seconds down. That was a respectable result after an accident in training. In the race, a larger gap opened up again between the Ferraris.
No drinking problem in the Ferrari
It was Sainz's third self-inflicted slip-up of the season. The mistakes in Australia (race) and Imola (qualifying) damaged the psyche. The crash in the second training session in Miami also affected the body. Sainz felt the consequences in the race. "It wasn't an easy race. Neither with the tires nor with the heat. The car moved a lot and slipped," explained the 27-year-old. "I wasn't at 100 percent. For two reasons: Because of the accident in practice and the missed races in Australia and Imola.You feel it immediately on the neck when you are missing so many racing kilometers. I paid the price for that."
Sainz only managed eight kilometers in Australia and Imola (cleared by Daniel Ricciardo). It was all the more important for him to see the checkered flag at the premiere in Florida. With the icing on the cake third place."The podium isn't exactly a relief, but one that I needed," said an exhausted driver. "I needed the race distance to get my body used to it again. To feel the tires in used condition. The car with a full tank."
Sainz seemed pretty upset after the race. Reports were circulating that there was a problem with the hydration system in his car. Ferrari denies that. Sainz was only reminded by his race engineer in the final phase that drinking, which is normal.
Sainz bites his way to the podium
Sainz lost the start to Verstappen and was therefore no longer able to play the man-marker for his team-mate. At the beginning, the second Ferrari driver kept up well with the leading duo The speed crumbled from lap 18. It became clear from lap 23 until the only tire change. The medium tires were becoming less and less, and Sainz felt his neck more and more.
The 27-year-old was also constantly losing on the hard tires : between half a second and a second per lap "I made a few mistakes. Simply because I tried things out with the car." The safety car gave him a breather for a few laps. Sainz badly needed it. The last eleven laps were a sprint to the finish.
Perez pushed behind him with fresh medium tyres. "I knew that I had a good chance if I could survive the warm-up process with my old hard tires and keep it behind me for the first three laps after the restart." Sainz manages it and rewarded himself with the third podium of the season. "We have did a good job with the energy management of the battery. I had juice in the places where he could have attacked. In this respect, too, I take something with me from Miami.
Number 2 stamp?
Sainz knows he has to keep working on himself to beat his teammate. "I don't want my physical problems to be understood as an excuse." In his own team he faces the stamp of number two early on. Leclerc is already 51 points ahead of him. That's a lead of two race weekends on points.
For Perez, the World Cup stand looks a little friendlier. He is third with 66 points - 19 missing to team captain Verstappen. But at Red Bull it is obvious who the chips are on. Verstappen has been out twice this season, Perez once. Otherwise the distance would be greater.
The Mexican struggled with the technology in Miami. The Red Bull is still too vulnerable. In the race, a sensor failed.Perez drove long distances with 25 to 30 hp less power. "He was close to the task. It cost him half a second on the straights. The top speed was gone," explained team boss Christian Horner.
With a lack of speed on the straights, Perez had to push his car harder in the corners. And paid it at the tires. "It was difficult to manage with the tires. I lost quite a bit of grip towards the end." Even in the final sprint on the fresh medium tires after the end of the safety car, the veteran struggled. "I just had no grip."
Sainz and Perez: As it currently looks, both are dependent on their teammates slipping up to get to the top of the podium. For Perez it would be the third time. Sainz, fifth in the World Championships, is still chasing his first career success after 145 Grand Prix. In these statistics, he ranks seventh. If he doesn't win in Barcelona he will draw level with Derek Warwick.