Carlos Sainz said he and team-mate Lando Norris “saved the day” in McLaren's fight for third in the championship after finishing fifth and eight in a rain-hit Turkish Grand Prix he described as “one of the most difficult races ever.”
Sainz started from 15th, with Norris one spot behind after the pair were both hit with grid penalties for infringements during qualifying, but they made the most of drying conditions to claim vital points, with Norris setting the fastest lap to leave McLaren five points behind Racing Point.
Sainz said the race was “mentally draining” and said: “We definitely saved the day today. After yesterday, both Renaults in the top 10, both Racing Points in the top three, and we were starting 15 and 16 on the grid.
“To come out [today] as the second best team in terms of points in that battle, it’s a very encouraging. In the dry they have a bit more than us but on race day we tend to do the better job getting points and out-scoring every time we can.
“It felt great because we actually got the tyres working so to feel some grip in the car was good fun. Still very slippery, but with some grip in the tyres you can start playing a bit around with the racing lines.
“You need to be very disciplined with your approach, you just want to stay super focused. It was very tricky to stay fully focused and it was one of the most difficult races ever.”
Sainz said the team had worked hard after qualifying to understand where their problems were, and the knowledge they gathered through that analysis paid dividends even before the race began.
“In the laps going to the grid I already tried a few things and I picked up a lot of confidence because I suddenly felt a tiny bit more grip and it put me on a whole different mindset going into the race,” he added.
“At the start I picked up six places and when [the tyres] switched on it was back to my old good wet weather skills that I like a lot and I could finally be myself again. Yesterday I couldn’t be myself because I couldn’t get the feeling.”
McLaren team boss Andrea Seidl praised Sainz, who will be leaving the team for Ferrari next year, and said that the changing conditions had brought out the absolute best in him.
"A race like today just confirms the quality Carlos has,” he said. “We know from previous races in the last years that he likes all of these tricky conditions, he likes also this wet or mixed conditions.
"He has this talent to take the right approach in terms of risk and he manages to keep the car on track whilst still making progress on track and making the moves stick like he did today.”
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