Carlos Sainz has good reason to want to forget about the Russian Grand Prix after a second frustrating race there in as many years.
His first appearance at Sochi Autodrom was blighted, of course, by the massive FP3 crash that threatened – but ultimately failed – to remove him from the rest of the weekend but, while his retirement from a points position in the race was gut-wrenching, it was at least more clear-cut than what transpired in 2016.
Having just missed the top ten in qualifying, Sainz was well-placed to take advantage of the chaos that ensued at turns two and three, but became collateral damage in the first collision between Daniil Kvyat and Sebastian Vettel, interrupting his immediate progress.
“I got a great start, better than [Lewis] Hamilton and Max [Verstappen] and passed them both,” the Spaniard recounted, “Obviously, Hamilton, with his power, passed me before turntwo2, but then there was this clash just in front of me, Kvyat and Vettel, and I picked up a part of Kvyat's front wing. It went into my radiator and sidepod and, from the exit of turn two until the safety car came out, I had no power from the engine. It went in to protection mode or whatever, so after all the places I had picked up, I went back to P16 - from P9 to P16 or something like that.”
As he tried to reset the engine, Sainz struggled without the added benefit of the aero assistance the missing power would have given – 'my first twelve laps was without 40 or 50 points of downforce and two seconds per lap slower - before Toro Rosso opted to change his strategy in a bid to boost his fortunes. However, Lady Luck refused to smile on the #55 machine...
“Stopping on lap twelve for the soft tyre and having to do 40 laps on the softs, we knew the whole race was really compromised,” Sainz noted, “I managed to save the tyres a lot at the beginning because I knew I had to go very long - but then I found [Jolyon] Palmer...
“I passed him, but I didn't see him on the right and apparently I got a penalty of ten seconds when I've never seen a penalty because of that with anyone. The race was just a disaster from then on.”
Even after reviewing the incident on video, Sainz remains convinced that he was harshly adjudged to have been the perpetrator of Palmer's off-track moment despite making contact with the Briton's Renault.
“First of all, at the exit of turn two, if you want to pass you go on the inside for turn three, but he decided to go round the outside and I was never expecting him,” he explained, “I was looking in my left mirror to see him, suddenly he loses the car on the dirty part of the exit of turn two, and we crash. That is when I felt 'oh, there's someone on my right, he's not on my left'...
“First he loses the car, then we touch and then he goes wide, [but] I think the stewards interpreted that I forced him off the track. Anyway, a ten-second penalty for this kind of accident, for me, you cannot even race anyone. I didn't even see him, he was there on the right, he lost the car a bit himself with wheelspin on the dirty side. All the [TV] interviews were asking me 'what was the penalty for?' and I said 'I still don't know, I need to watch the video'… Now, watching it, it's even more clear.”
With only one pit-stop planned, Sainz had to carry his penalty to the end, but had already dropped out of the points when he locked up, allowing Jenson Button to take tenth place with the chequered flag in sight. The extra ten seconds added to Sainz's race time then dropped him to twelfth behind the recovering Daniel Ricciardo.
“The team told me [about the penalty] and I got into a compromise because I was there in the group, the one with the most laps on the tyres but the one who needed to push the most,” he sighed, “I decided I'm going to try and push and see if the tyres last, but knowing that the tyres cannot do more than 35 laps and we have to do 40...”