Carlos Sainz Jr, Ferrari, Paul Ricard, 2022

“We need to decide now”: Inside Sainz and Ferrari’s French GP strategy dilemma

2022 French GP team radio transcript

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Ferrari’s decision to bring Carlos Sainz Jnr in for a second pit stop moments after he’d made a pass for third position was hotly debated after the French Grand Prix.

Ferrari’s decision appeared to have cost Sainz a podium finish. It didn’t help matters that the presentation of the discussion on the radio gave the impression they called Sainz in at the exact moment he was overtaking Sergio Perez, which was not the case.

However that moment came amid several laps of discussion between Sainz and the Ferrari pit wall over whether he should come in. The driver told them as early as lap 38 they needed to make a decision on their strategy “now”, but he didn’t come in until four laps later. Whether or not the decision was correct, the hesitation clearly cost them.

Carlos Sainz Jnr’s radio messages during the French Grand Prix

Having lined up 19th on the grid, Sainz was immediately passed by Kevin Magnussen, the only driver who started behind him. Sainz had to get his set of hard tyres into their operating window while the majority of his rivals began the race on mediums.

Lap: 1 Position: 18 Lap time: 1’55.014
Adami K2 off.
Lap: 2 Position: 16 Lap time: 1’41.355
Adami Think about mode X. Think about mode X, it’s available.
Lap: 3 Position: 15 Lap time: 1’39.779
Adami Good job there. DRS enabled. Currently P15.
Adami Car behind 1.1 second.
Lap: 4 Position: 14 Lap time: 1’40.095
Sainz started his day on the back row of the grid

By the fifth lap he had already moved ahead Yuki Tsunoda (who was hit by Esteban Ocon on the first lap), Zhou Guanyu, Nicholas Latifi, Valtteri Bottas, Pierre Gasly, Mick Schumacher and Alexander Albon. But having got his tyres up to temperature they were soon getting too hot.

Lap: 5 Position: 13 Lap time: 1’40.063
Adami Good progress these. P13. Magnussen 1.8 in front.
Lap: 6 Position: 13 Lap time: 1’39.942
Adami Think about FS1 if it makes sense for turn 10.
Lap: 7 Position: 13 Lap time: 1’40.380
Adami Magnussen car in front, one second in front, Magnussen lap time 40.3.
Sainz I don’t have grip.
Adami Copy that. Diff mid plus one.
Sainz Everyone on medium quick.
Adami Understood.
Adami Temperature-wise, tyres are ready.
Sainz Yeah but they’re overheating already.
Adami Understood.
Adami Brake shape plus one, brake shape plus one.
Adami Try to let them down cool down, increase [lift and coast] if you can.
The Ferrari passed a string of cars in the opening laps

Haas chose a two-stop strategy for Magnussen and Ferrari hopes others would follow, clearing a way for Sainz. But they were to be disappointed.

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Lap: 8 Position: 12 Lap time: 1’40.042
Adami Charles lap time 39.3, 39.3. Update on tyre phase when you can.
Adami The pace is good, you are doing to do the job.
Lap: 9 Position: 12 Lap time: 1’40.240
Sainz It doesn’t feel that way but okay.
Adami And Magnussen boxed. So hopefully they trigger the pit stops.
Adami If the traffic makes a big difference there you have four cars: Ocon, Ricciardo, Stroll and Vettel.
Lap: 10 Position: 12 Lap time: 1’40.712
Sainz DRS train.
Adami Copy.
Lap: 11 Position: 12 Lap time: 1’40.664

Sainz continued to make progress, picking off the Aston Martin drivers to move into the points-paying positions.

Lap: 12 Position: 11 Lap time: 1’40.397
Adami Good job there. Lap 11 completed. Charles lap time 39.3.
Lap: 13 Position: 10 Lap time: 1’40.468
Adami No DRS for Stroll.
Adami Making good progress there. Ricciardo next. 1.7 in front. Ricciardo on medium. 40.5.
Adami Think about [unclear]
Lap: 14 Position: 10 Lap time: 1’40.435
Adami Ricciardo no DRS. Ocon in front is three seconds in front of him.
Lap: 15 Position: 10 Lap time: 1’40.116
Adami Charles lap time 39.0. Ricciardo 40.9, 40.9.
Adami We have completed 14 laps, 14.
Sainz This tyre is not good.
Adami We prefer Plan B for Bravo. We prefer Plan B.
Sainz Copy.

Only Magnussen’s team mate had followed his move onto a two-stop strategy. At the front, Max Verstappen’s efforts to pass Sainz’s team mate prompted Red Bull to make his first pit stop early.

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Lap: 16 Position: 10 Lap time: 1’40.359
Adami We believe it’s all down to overheating for tyres, obviously.
Lap: 17 Position: 9 Lap time: 1’40.049
Sainz It’s taking me like two or three laps to pass every car.
Adami Yeah, understood. Copy that. try to recover temperatures with more [lift-and-coast], eventually. Ocon car in front, 2.4.
Adami Max has stopped for new hard and he’s at turn one now.
Lap: 18 Position: 10 Lap time: 2’17.570
Adami Ocon lap time 40.5 and Charles in front 38.9.
Adami Switch position red, switch position red.
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Paul Ricard, 2022
Leclerc’s crash turned the race on its head

The race then took a dramatic turn. Charles Leclerc crashed out of the lead, and the resulting Safety Car period was unhelpful for Sainz. Ferrari took advantage of the opportunity to make a low-cost pit stop and get him off the hard tyres he disliked, but it left him with a long stint to run on medium rubber.

Adami Charles crashed at turn 11. Let me know for flap adjust.
Sainz Yeah. I don’t know. I’m a bit puzzled with the balance.
Adami Okay. Let me know.
Adami Pit confirm and box.
Sainz Yeah. I’ll take one.

Making matters worse, Ferrari released Sainz into the path of Albon in the busy pit lane. They warned him at the last second, but he had little time to react. Sainz made reassuring noises about the situation on his radio, but it didn’t convince the stewards his exit had been conducted safely.

Adami Hold on brakes and K2. Traffic, traffic, traffic!
Lap: 19 Position: 8 Lap time: 2’20.344
Sainz It was okay. It was bit close.
Adami Try and cool down the car. Try and cool the car down. [unclear] the Safety Car line. No cars out. Charge on and cool the car.
Adami Charge button off.
Sainz I left the space there, going out. I did everything I could.
Adami Understood. And plan D, plan D for delta right now.
Sainz Yeah makes sense.
Adami And Charles lost the rear entry turn 11. Mid-corner turn 11. Mode FW and charge button off.

Even behind the Safety Car Sainz could tell he preferred his new set of tyres, and though he had concerns about his front wing the team quickly assuaged them and he was ready to continue his rise through the field.

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Sainz Yeah this tyre already feels a lot better.
Adami Charge button off and forward on brake balance. And work on your front tyres.
Sainz Which position, are we?
Lap: 20 Position: 8 Lap time: 2’20.535
Adami P10.
Sainz How much did we lose at the pit stop? What position?
Adami Safety Car in this lap. Prepare your tyres. And we are P8. We are P8.
Sainz Who are the leaders? In front of these three, yeah?
Adami …in front of those cars. Safety Car approaching turn eight and mode race. Charge on and will be only K2 on for the restart. And reset your toggle position to the middle.
Sainz Why do I feel very little front wing? Check the front wing, there’s very little aero balance.
Adami Understood. And brake shape zero. Safety Car exiting turn 11 and Verstappen approaching turn 11.
Adami And all is okay from data. Can push.
The medium tyres performed better for Sainz on the Ferrari

Within a few laps of the restart Sainz had picked off the McLarens and Alonso, and was now lapping as quickly as race leader Verstappen.

Lap: 21 Position: 6 Lap time: 1’38.725
Adami Alonso next and you are in the race.
Adami Try to bring the tyres in, even if you are fighting.
Sainz Yeah, I’m trying.
Adami Copy.
Lap: 22 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’38.744
Adami [State of charge] seven.
Adami [Unclear] when you can.
Adami Alonso 0.4 behind. FS1, consider.
Adami Stay in [state of charge] seven, should be enough.
Sainz Talk to me about this tyre.
Lap: 23 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’38.393
Adami Try to bring them in nicely. You are P5, Verstappen 37.7 on hard.
Lap: 24 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’37.941
Adami Increase [lift-and-coast] for better tyres and FS1 or that.

Inevitably, Sainz’s unsafe exit from the pits attracted a penalty. Impressively, when Adami described his penalty as a “stop and go”, Sainz immediately corrected him, pointing out it was a time penalty and not an immediate summons into the pits.

Lap: 25 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’38.128
Adami Unfortunately we have a five-second stop and go penalty, we are serving it at the next pit stop.
Sainz It’s not stop-and-go…
Adami Five-second penalty, yeah, five-second penalty.
Sainz I am quicker than these guys, no?
Adami Yes you are quicker, we are in the race.
Adami Verstappen 38.3.
George Russell, Mercedes, Paul Ricard, 2022
After a few laps, Sainz demoted Russell for fourth place

By lap 26 Sainz was within striking distance of Russell, though it took him a few laps to find a way by. Once he’d cleared Russell, Sainz went after Perez.

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Lap: 26 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’37.889
Adami Russell 39.0, let’s go hunting.
Adami Now Russell reporting a lot of understeer at turn four.
Lap: 27 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’38.043
Adami Tyres are ready, you can push on them.
Lap: 28 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’38.320
Adami Verstappen 37.9.
Sainz He moved late under braking.
Adami Okay understood we’ll look into it.
Lap: 29 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’38.257
Sainz I’m quicker than Hamilton. It’s difficult to pass these guys.
Adami Copy that.
Adami It’s all about overheating, as you know. [Lift-and-coast] suggested as you are doing, good job.
Lap: 30 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’38.211
Adami Verstappen 37.7 for info.
Adami [State of charge] seven, Russell one second behind. Russell is down on battery, 1.1 behind, good job. Russell 1.4 behind. Verstappen 37.5. Hamilton 37.6. Perez 38.0.
Lap: 31 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’38.513
Adami You’ve got a third strike turn three for track limits, previous lap.
Sainz Copy.
Perez three seconds in front, Russell 1.4 behind.
Sainz Yeah my battery is very low.
Adami Keep the [state of charge] as it is, it will come up.
Lap: 32 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’37.963
Adami Switch red, switch red.

Anticipating a potential second stop, Sainz told Adami he wanted an extra turn on his front wing the next time he came in.

Lap: 33 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’37.975
Sainz Yep it’s coming back with the battery and tyres.
Adami Copy, that’s good.
Adami Verstappen 37.8.
Sainz Check on the Hamilton pace?
Adami Hamilton 39.2. He went off, that’s why he lost one second.
Sainz We can go up on the flap for next…
Adami Copy. Switch position grey. Hamilton was on a 37.7 his best lap three laps ago.
Lap: 34 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’38.081
Adami Verstappen 7.9. Hamilton 8.5.
Adami And Perez 8.3.
Lap: 35 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’38.172
Adami And Verstappen 7.9. Hamilton 8.1.
Sainz told his team he wasn’t coming in – then passed Perez for third

Once he caught Perez, Sainz began losing time. He warned the team it wouldn’t be easy to pass the Red Bull, which was quicker on the straights. With an eye on whether his tyres would make it to the end of the race, Ferrari began considering whether to pull him in for a second stop.

Sainz was eager for the team to make a decision as quickly as possible, as the later a second stop came, the less time he would have to make up places up later.

Lap: 36 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’38.599
Lap: 37 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’38.416
Adami Perez [unclear], Hamilton 38.7.
Sainz It looks very difficult to pass this guy. Especially with their top speed.
Adami We are very good in 11 and 12, take advantage.
Lap: 38 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’38.310
Adami 16 laps to go.
Adami We are considering plan A. 16 laps. Have a think and let me know. 16, considering plan A.
Sainz We need to decide now. But I think it’s difficult.
Adami Copy that.
Lap: 39 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’38.703
Sainz Where is George?
Adami He is 3.2 behind.
Sainz No we cannot so think about something.
Adami Okay, understood.

Ferrari took the decision to bring Sainz in. However they hesitated, first because they were waiting for cars behind him to drop further back so he would have less traffic to deal with after his stop.

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Lap: 40 Position: 4 Lap time: 1’38.348
Adami Okay copy plan D confirmed. Plan D confirmed. Clearing traffic behind.
Sainz Do we know if Red Bull is stopping or not?
Adami We believe they are staying out until the end. We believe they are staying out.
Sainz Then let’s stop. Then let’s stop.
Adami Copy that.
Adami Stay out, stay out, stay out.
Lap: 41 Position: 3 Lap time: 1’38.857
Adami Two more laps to clear traffic, two more laps.

By the time Ferrari decided they were ready to call Sainz in, he’d finally got a good run on Perez, who he passed. Before that he brushed off a message from the team calling him to pit.

As Ferrari later pointed out, the delay in broadcasting messages on the world feed explains why viewers heard the message after Sainz had passed the pit lane entrance as well as Perez. They say the exchange happened at the exit of turn 10, which tallies with the lag typically seen on messages broadcast on drivers’ onboard streams on F1 TV.

Ferrari finally brought Sainz in on lap 42. He left the pits with a huge pace advantage over the cars around him, but little more than 10 laps left to use it.

Adami Box Carlos, box. Pit confirm and box.
Sainz Not now! Not now!
Adami Stay out, stay out.
Lap: 42 Position: 7 Lap time: 2’05.219
Adami Come on guys [unclear] call me box then.
Sainz Happy to go to the end.
Sainz What do you think? Let’s do one more lap.
Adami We think box now. We think box now.
Sainz Okay. Okay, okay, okay.
Adami Give you plus 0.2. There will be the five-second penalty.
Adami Confirm and box. Hard on brakes and K2 on. Five seconds.
Adami Watch the white line? You’ll come out close to Ocon. Pace delta three seconds. Stroll approaching behind. K2 off. Ten laps to go.
Lap: 43 Position: 8 Lap time: 1’44.372
Lap: 44 Position: 7 Lap time: 1’36.242
Sainz What pace do I need?
Adami 35.5.
Adami [State of charge] six, suggestion. Lando car in front lap time 39.0.
Adami Perez and Russell are fighting hard, they are at turn 13/14.
Sainz What is their pace?
Adami Perez lap time 38.3. You have the fastest lap so far.
Lap: 45 Position: 6 Lap time: 1’36.208
Adami Lando lap time 39.3. Fernando four seconds in front. Fernando lap time 38.7.
Having finally made a second pit stop, Sainz passed Alonso and the McLarens for fifth

Sainz, who had wanted to stay out another lap on his mediums, immediately had second thoughts about the strategy. Ferrari told him the decision had been necessary due to the age of his tyres.

Lap: 46 Position: 6 Lap time: 1’36.243
Sainz I don’t understand why we boxed, we would have pulled away.
Adami We were short in tyre life.
Adami Russell lap time 37.6, info.
Lap: 47 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’35.852
Adami Fernando lap time 38.3, two seconds slower.
Lap: 48 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’36.611
Adami And five laps to go.
Lap: 49 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’47.636
Sainz Ah, I don’t understand.

Sainz’s slim hopes of catching Perez and Russell again were thwarted when Zhou retired from the race, triggering a Virtual Safety Car period.

Adami Virtual Safety Car, stay out. Stay positive.
Adami Charge button on.
Lap: 50 Position: 5 Lap time: 2’00.875
Adami Try to keep temperature in the tyres. It’ll be soon, the ending, be prepared.
Adami They are moving Zhou’s car at turn six. K2 on. Ending, ending.
Sainz Still ending?
Adami Yeah, still ending, still ending. Probably a glitch there. Ending now, again, ending.
Adami And K2 on.
Sainz We have fastest lap?
Lap: 51 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’35.781
Adami Yes, confirm. Three to go.
Lap: 52 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’36.352

After the chequered flag fell, Sainz still felt the team should have gambled on leaving him out. By pitting for fresh tyres he had been able to set the fastest lap and gain an extra point. But even if he had only been able to out-run Russell by staying out, Sainz could still have banked more points.

Lap: 53 Position: 5 Lap time: 1’36.446
Adami And last lap, last lap.
Finishing position: 5
Adami And mode slow. And P5 confirmed. And you showed master class out there. Good overtaking manoeuvre and good job there.
Sainz Yeah thank you. It was tough.
Adami We were boxed in with strategy there with the tyres not going to the end. It was tough, I know but you did what you could.
Sainz Yeah, I know, but we had nothing to lose by staying out.
Adami Understood. Some pick-up please.

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2022 French Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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10 comments on ““We need to decide now”: Inside Sainz and Ferrari’s French GP strategy dilemma”

  1. the hesitation clearly cost them.

    No, it didn’t. The unsafe release costed them, more exactly 5sec. Pitting 4 laps earlier, as mentioned, wouldn’t have changed anything. He finished like 11,5sec behind PER, there’s no way he would have caught PER and passed him too with an extra 4 laps. It was a decision between continuing and see what happens once he was in P3 OR pit like 10 laps earlier than he actually pitted 2nd time and hope his tyres are still good enough to pass PER. My opinion is that, maybe there were afraid a little bit too that the tyres won’t last, but I think the decision behind the 2nd pit stop in like the ”last moment” was to get the FL from VER while being sure he can’t stop again too… but Ferrari couldn’t tell SAI this reason: that they possibly threw away his P3 just to stop VER from gaining 1 more point.

    1. The upside being that it’s a two point differential in Sainz’s putative title fight.

    2. That seems a fair assessment @mg1982

  2. The stop immediately after having passed Perez didn’t make no sense at all. They should either have committed to a two stopper at least half a dozen laps earlier or go to the end.
    In my opinion the latter was definitely worth the try. The soft tyres were still good enough to pass Perez and the claims that they would neither make it to the end nor allow him to pull away is highly speculative and probably only out of self defense.
    Perez was also fighting was Russel so both lost further time.
    They could have waited a couple of laps longer to see how things would play out.
    If he really wasn’t pulling away fast enough they could still pit, pass McLarens and Alpines in a flash and pick up fastest lap.
    So nothing to lose, really…
    Ferrari strategy simulation seems to have difficulties to adapt to scenarios out of the norm and decision making is taking to long.

    1. They could have waited a couple of laps longer to see how things would play out.
      If he really wasn’t pulling away fast enough they could still pit, pass McLarens and Alpines in a flash and pick up fastest lap.
      So nothing to lose, really…

      This actually makes sense. Wonder why I didn’t think of it!!

      Sainz passed Alonso with 5 laps to go, they definitely had buffer to see how easily the 5 second gap was building. True.

      Such a strange situation, at first they argued for long should whether they stop or not. The longer they argued the worse the decision looked. But as you rightly said, had they waited even longer, the decision would have seemed better.

      The only explanation for their stop is that Ferrari felt DNF due to tyre failure was a real risk, which IMO was not inconceivable especially in the Ferrari garage. As I said below, Ferrari could be thinking that degrading medium tyres may have played a part in Leclerc error and hence, they wouldn’t want Sainz to also face the same issue

      1. Agreed. They were not in the mood to take any risks. Having a tyre blowing up must have been their worst nightmare especially after what happened to Leclerc.
        The pressure on the whole team must be immense.

  3. Fantastic read!

    The more I think of it, it feels Ferrari decision was right. Sainz was no more than 0.5s quicker than George / Checo on any of these laps. His average pace was probably only 0.2-0.3s better. He couldn’t have negated the 5 second gap to either of them. Plus, it is not inconceivable that Ferrari were thinking that degrading medium tyres may have played a part in Leclerc error and hence, they wouldn’t want Sainz to also face the same issue.

    Taking 11 points with 100% guarantee is a better choice than having a toss-up between 1) very low probability of 12 points, 2) even lower probability of 15 points, 3) High probability of 10 points or 4) very low probability of 0 points

    What would have been fun is if they had continue to argue for another 3-4 laps and then pitted under VSC and then come charging back at George and Checo in the last 2 laps on a car almost 2-3 seconds per lap faster.

    1. if we give 20/10/69/1 % chances for those 4 options you listed, expectation is 10.8 points. Sounds pretty close, so going with the decision that takes a point from Max as well seems correct.

  4. Reading this I’m more and more baffled that Checo handled the ending of the VSC so badly and treated it as if the glitch cost him his position. It seems clealry something the drivers and pit walls are used to dealing with.

    1. It did sound like most of the other teams took that in their stride.

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