Carlos Sainz insists he has “absolutely no problem” with Max Verstappen, despite his team-mates outbursts during the Australia Grand Prix and despite the contact near the finish.
Toro Rosso qualified well on Saturday, with Verstappen taking fifth and Sainz seventh. Both then ran strongly in the early stages, but the team's race began to unravel after the red flag period.
Sainz was pitted first from sixth after suffering front locking, much to the annoyance of Verstappen, who stopped three laps later, losing time as his tyres weren't ready.
In the latter stages, Sainz and Verstappen were then running behind Jolyon Palmer in the battle for ninth, with the Dutchman becoming increasingly irate as he felt the sister car was holding him up.
“We were all very frustrated with what was going on and we were all struggling for traction with the medium tyre,” Sainz said. “Out of the corners we first of all had not very good top speed and then no traction. It was very difficult to overtake. I am convinced Max was frustrated. I was frustrated and we just couldn't do it and maybe this created a tough situation for all of us.”
At this point, Toro Rosso told Sainz he had one lap to get passed Palmer or he would have to let Verstappen through, an order the Spaniard ignored, although he did soon clear the Briton.
“A bit,” Sainz replied, when asked if his response was influenced by the fact Verstappen similarly ignore team orders in Singapore last year, “but at the end we all know there was nothing wrong with what I did.
“We all agreed it was due to the circumstances. There was a lot going on in that sense, but no looking back we know it [team orders] was not the right thing to do. We were just struggling to understand what to do and what was going on.”
Pressed on if the rivalry with Verstappen could end up hurting Toro Rosso, Sainz said that won't happen.
“Hopefully not, I have absolutely no problem with Max, even after today. From my side to him, nothing happened. It was just one more race. Maybe Max and I are the closest in terms of team-mates. We are always within half a tenth of each other and we are always in the same track position and we are always one second on or off from each other. So, it makes it tough for the team in that sense, but I think we are both mature enough to handle it and will both be mature enough to handle it. Obviously there are emotions during the race and there is a lot going on, but looking back now at the race, we were both just fighting like hell. I think we both put on a good show in terms of overtaking all the way through the race. It just didn't work for us both today.”
Sainz also feels there is no need for them to sit down and clear the air: “We had a meeting and we were both a bit not knowing about what was happening [in the race], but I am convinced there will be no issues. There is actually nothing to have any issues about. You think about the race: What do we need to talk about? Nothing.
“We were both just fighting for position a lot. It is all sorted and there is absolutely no issues at all.”
Sainz eventually finished ninth, one spot ahead of Verstappen, despite the contact in the closing stages.
“Definitely [disappointing] because we know we had the pace today to score higher than ninth and tenth. This is 100 percent sure," Sainz summarised.
"It was a chaotic race and it was hard to get it right. We didn't get it right and this is why we are now in this position.
"But I am convinced it is a one-off and that we can perform better in Bahrain even though it is not such a good track for us."