'Felt Good To Pass Him, Break Issues Or Not': Sainz On Challenging Verstappen

Sunday, 24 March 2024 at 16:10
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Carlos Sainz won the 2024 Australian Grand Prix, and even though it was partially thanks to Max Verstappen's retirement, he was leading when that happened.
The Spanish driver started the 2024 F1 season almost perfectly, recording a podium finish in Bahrain. But after that, Sainz was forced to miss the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix because of surgery, and when he returned to the Albert Park Circuit, his condition was questionable.
At times, it seemed that the Ferrari driver might even miss another race, but after he completed the first set of Free Practice sessions and also started on Saturday, it was clear that he would race on Sunday.
Moreover, Sainz seemed to be faster of the two Ferrari drivers on Saturday, out-qualifying his teammate, Charles Leclerc, and starting on the front row alongside Verstappen.
After winning the first two races of the season, the three-time World Champion was obviously the favorite, but the race pace simulations suggested that the Italian team may be able to fight Red Bull in Australia.
That proved to be true early in the race, as Verstappen struggled in the opening laps, and Sainz even managed to pass him shortly before the Dutch driver retired his car due to a brake problem.

"I don't know. I saw him... obviously pushing on lap one and I was like, ‘OK, I'm going to push with him too and challenge in the car’. But obviously it could have been the brakes, as he said."

Although it seems that Verstappen struggled since the race start, possibly making the overtake easier for the eventual winner, it didn't matter much for Sainz, who enjoyed the feeling of overtaking the Dutchman.

"I don't know, honestly, but it felt good to pass him, with brake issues or not, because it is tough, you know, to pass Max on track and the Red Bull. But it's what we've said from the beginning – if you are there and you can put Red Bull under pressure, you can sometimes get it done."

He's the only driver who managed to beat Verstappen in the last 21 races, and he did it twice, so something is clearly working for the Spanish driver, who currently doesn't have a contract for the 2025 season.
After the race, he asserted that to challenge the best, he needs to stay close at all times and make sure that any opportunity that comes his way will be used.

"But you need to be there, and we need to be there more often if we want to win. There will be tracks where we are strong like we saw last year. And this year it seems like our race pace is better even on those tracks that we are stronger. And together with a good development programme, I hope that we can challenge Red Bull more often."