Carlos Sainz believes turning in the best drive of his career to date led to his maiden Formula 1 podium at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

After a loss of power during qualifying left him at the back of the Interlagos grid, the Spaniard recovered from dead last on a one-stop strategy to finish a remarkable fourth on the road during a hectic race.

A post-race five-second time penalty issued to Lewis Hamilton for colliding with Alexander Albon on the penultimate lap elevated Sainz onto the podium, ending McLaren’s five-year wait for a rostrum.

“Who would have told me yesterday, when I was so angry about the day that everything was going to turnaround and I was going to go from P20 to P3,” Sainz said.

“It still hasn’t sunk in yet but it’s a very special feeling. Also, the way it developed and the chance to get on the podium with all my team there two hours after the race was also weird but very, very special. A day that I will never forget.

“It’s time to celebrate but it’s also time to keep pushing. I think we are in the right direction and I think McLaren deserves this trophy as much as I deserve it.”

Sainz described McLaren’s decision to stick to a one-stop strategy as a “gamble” but despite being vulnerable at the final Safety Car restart, he successfully fended off the Alfa Romeo duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi.

“I had literally no grip, I was wheel spinning in literally fourth gear at the restart,” he explained. “We were so slow so I couldn’t put any energy in the tyre.

“I got to Turn 1, locked up, just no grip but somehow I managed to pick up the right lines and maybe the rally skills there started helping to handle the car.

“From there onwards it was just defend, defend, defend as much as I could and we managed to finish. It was a race of full attack mode. It was my best [race], definitely.”

The result also confirmed McLaren has clinched fourth spot in the constructors' championship ahead of rivals Renault with one round to spare. 

 

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