Carlos Sainz concedes that Ferrari thought more teams would opt for the Soft tyre during the United States Grand Prix Sprint race.

Sainz was the only driver on the grid not to start on the Medium tyre, but he utilised the grippier rubber to overtake both McLaren drivers on the opening lap to rise to fourth.

However, Sainz began to struggle as early as the seventh lap of the 19-lap encounter, enabling both Norris and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez to overtake him in consecutive laps.

The Spaniard was able to keep George Russell at bay to come home sixth but admitted that his mid-race troubles left him fearing he could tumble out of the points.

“Being the only one on Softs doesn’t give you a lot of confidence,” Sainz professed. “We thought there were going to be more cars out there with Soft and then obviously mid-race once Lando [Norris] and Perez passed me and George was attacking me, I thought we were just going to go backwards.

“I managed to recover the tyre well and did some good defending in order to keep him [Russell] behind and we brought home a P6 that at one point it didn’t look like it was going to be possible.”

Pressed on whether the Soft tyre will be used in the grand prix, Sainz replied: “It’s an option for 10,12 laps. Where you want to do them [the stint] is a matter of choosing when.”

Last time out in Qatar, Sainz also ran the softest available tyre in the Sprint, enduring similar degradation issues against those on the more durable Medium compound.

But the Ferrari driver insists that the situations are not comparable because this time around he was the only driver out on the track circulating on the red-walled tyre.

“Yes, today was easier,” he said. “But at the same time I was the only one, so I was the only one out there struggling, while in Qatar we were all in a group [of] four or five cars suffering a lot, so today was out there on my own trying to survive.”

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari in Sprint parc ferme. 21.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 19, United States Grand Prix, Austin, Texas, USA, Sprint Day.

Sainz, though, has defended Ferrari’s strategy decision by insisting that the team’s data suggested that the Soft tyre would be a good option to adopt for the shortened race.

“First of all, if we go for Softs it means that our tyre model suggests that it’s not a bad tyre to go on,” he explained. “If not, we simply wouldn’t even consider it.

“It suggested that it could be a decent tyre for this race as [in] previous years the Soft has been a decent tyre here. This time around, clearly we need to analyse if we can do something because was it worth the risk? Maybe it wasn’t. But we need to analyse how we can maybe do a bit better there.

“In the end it paid off at the start, but at one point it did look like it was going to be very tricky.”

Sainz has echoed the comments of team-mate Charles Leclerc, who noted that Ferrari splitting strategies in the Sprint could provide a strategic advantage for Sunday.

“We learned some valuable information for my team,” Sainz addressed.

“Tomorrow, there’s plenty of strategies available out there and now we know how the soft behaves we can map it and compare it to the Medium.”

Having claimed third in the Sprint, Leclerc will line up on pole position on Sunday, five positions ahead of Max Verstappen, who dominated the Saturday race from the front.

But Sainz accepts that Verstappen will swiftly overhaul both Ferrari cars at some stage. “Yeah, that is not news,” he remarked.

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