A heavy crash on Friday coupled with a lack of race distances under his belt left Carlos Sainz suffering with neck pain in Sunday’s Miami Grand Prix.
But that didn’t stop him from putting his Ferrari on the podium, the Spaniard third on the day.
Sainz’s weekend at the Miami International Autodrome went from bad to good with the driver beginning his weekend with a thumping crash in Friday’s practice and wrapping it up with champagne on the podium.
That third placed was hard-earned as he spent most of the 57-laps holding Sergio Perez at bay, and doing so with a sore neck.
“I’ve been better,” said Sainz after the race.
“Obviously, after the crash from Friday I still had a bit of a neck pain going into the race, but I had to manage it and I fought through it.”
Sunday’s grand prix brought an end to Sainz’s two-race run for crashing on the first lap of a grand prix having done so in Australia and again at Imola.
He concedes those DNFs may have also played a role in his sore neck as his neck muscles hadn’t completed a grand prix distance since late March.
“I wasn’t feeling 100 percent,” he said, “but maybe also the fact that I haven’t done the last two races. So, the neck feels that.
“And it’s a combination of those two things that maybe I was paying a bit the price and at some stages of the race I couldn’t push 100 per cent.”
Sainz has now either finished on the podium or retired from all five of this season’s races.
While his campaign began with back-to-back top-three showings, it then slumped to back-to-back retirements.
Asked if it was a ‘relief’ to be back on the podium, he said: “It’s not so much a relief – but it’s needed.
“I think I needed to complete a race distance, to get the body back to shape, and also get the feel for the car on used tires, high fuel.
“I was still doing a couple of mistakes out there during the race, just because I was trying the car and trying myself out there.
“The important thing is that we got a full race in, but at some stages of the race I was pretty quick and also the battles and the feeling with the car in battle with Checo, you know what to do with the battery, with the tyres, I think it gave me a good understanding of what to do in the future.”
His tussle with Perez ran from lights to flag with not much breathing room involved especially in the final stint when Perez pitted for a second time for medium tires while Sainz stayed out on his old hard tyres.
That made the restart after a late Safety Car a tricky few laps for the Ferrari driver.
“I mean, on a new medium, against me on a very used hard, he had everything on the cards, you know, to pass me on, on the first two, three laps, in the warm-up phase of the tire,” he said.
“And I was pretty sure that, once I got the tires up to temperature, I could maybe stay, more or less, ahead.
“But yeah, I think we did a good job on defending, managing all the battery. They’re also pretty quick on the straight, which doesn’t help. I think it was a tough, tough defence, but it was good.”
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