Carlos Sainz asserts Ferrari must investigate the cause of the sluggish starts that saw the team squander a front-row lockout in Sunday’s Mexico City Grand Prix.

Starting third, Max Verstappen sliced between the Ferraris, while Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez was also challenging for the lead before contact with Charles Leclerc.

Reflecting on the initial race start, Sainz said: “Very chaotic, like always in Mexico. Very tricky braking into turn one, everyone tries to outbrake themselves to try and keep the position and I think Checo got the unlucky one, Charles probably a lucky one.

“And it’s how it is, it’s racing and it’s always going to happen here in turn one in Mexico.”

It marked the second consecutive Sunday that Leclerc had lost first place after starting from pole position, having been beaten away from the line by Lando Norris in Austin.

“We need to have a look at the starts,” Sainz noted. “We both didn’t get a very good launch. I think Charles and I got away very similar and Verstappen was just very quick off the line.

Sainz says Ferrari must understand why both cars encountered slow getaways, adding the team struggled all weekend to nail the launch on Mexico’s low-grip track surface.

“We’ve been struggling a bit with the starts since FP1 at this surface and with this grip,” he explained. “We probably didn’t get everything perfect for this weekend after some very strong starts recently. So it’s something to look at.”

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari SF-23. 29.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 20, Mexican Grand Prix, Mexico City, Mexico, Race Day.

The race was suspended on Lap 35 after Kevin Magnussen had sustained a high-speed shunt in his Haas at Turn 9 moments earlier, prompting a second standing restart.

Although Ferrari opted for the Hard tyre on the second start, both Leclerc and Sainz maintained position, despite the latter being edged onto the grass by Lewis Hamilton.

“I cannot even remember what happened,” Sainz issued. “There was so much going on that I need to look back at the start and see what happened.

“I also got boxed into the grass and I had to take avoiding action, so it just shows that one day it’s for you, one day it’s for me. It’s just all of us fighting for each position like crazy and it’s good fun.”    

However, Leclerc would swiftly be overhauled by Hamilton on Lap 40, dropping 9s behind the Mercedes, who was a further 13.8s adrift of race winner Verstappen.

Having resisted pressure from George Russell, Sainz trailed home a lonely fourth. The ex-McLaren driver concedes that Ferrari expected to drop behind the top two.

“Looking at the pace that Max and Hamilton had, it was honestly a matter of time they finish ahead or in front,” he acknowledged. “They are simply quicker are a lot quicker than us in race pace, like we kind of expected going into a race they have some extra pace.

“And we had to manage a lot of temperatures. I had a weird stint on Mediums where I struggled with a front tyre that was grained almost in the formation lap, so we will have to have a look at that one.

“But once we put the Hards on, I think we were just following the pace of the car that this weekend is what it was.”

Sainz addressed that Ferrari’s failure to replicate its strong qualifying pace in the race came as no surprise as “It’s been the case the whole year” for the Italian marque.

“We can fight them in quali, we can beat them in quali,” he continued. “But then come the race, two-three tenths, sometimes one, sometimes four-tenths of pace, sometimes six, it depends on the track. It’s the main weakness of the car and it’s where we’re focusing for next year.”

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