Carlos Sainz said he was lucky after his car caught fire dramatically at Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix.
As Charles Leclerc claimed his first victory in three months to revive his hopes of challenging Max Verstappen for the world championship, with the Dutchman second and Lewis Hamilton third, his teammate Sainz was in grave danger when a fire broke out in the rear. rear. of his damaged Ferrari.
On the uphill fourth corner of Spielberg’s Red Bull Ring, Sainz was left fighting gravity as his car backed onto the track.
Within half a minute, Sainz’s car was engulfed in flames, and the TV director cut to the Spaniard desperately trying to get out of his burning machine.
But a few seconds later, the television feed returned to the scene of the grisly accident, with Sainz seen fleeing from his car before sitting on the edge of the grass with his now-off grilled Ferrari.
An officer placed a chock under Sainz’s right front tyre, helping him escape, but the 27-year-old, who won the British Grand Prix last weekend, believes help may have arrived sooner. what came
“It wasn’t an ideal or easy situation, for sure, because I could see in my mirrors that my car was on fire,” Sainz said.
“I was hitting the brakes but as soon as I tried to jump I didn’t want to let the car go completely free, out of control and rolling backwards.
“I was calling the marshals to come and help me, to put something in the tires to keep the car from rolling. But the whole process was a bit slow and at some point there was so much fire that I had to move and I had to jump.
“It’s definitely something we need to look at how we could have done it a little bit quicker, because it wasn’t an easy situation to be in.”
Sainz’s retirement, with just 14 of the 71 laps to run, allowed Hamilton to claim his third podium finish in as many races with Mercedes teammate George Russell fourth, despite a first lap collision with Sergio Perez. from Red Bull. The Mexican could not continue.
A traveling Dutch contingent of 60,000 fans turned the 11th round of 22 into a home match for Verstappen.
And after he pulled away from pole, amid a plume of orange smoke generated by flares, it looked like his man would follow up his sprint win with another win. However, Leclerc had other ideas.
On lap 10, the Monegasque, whose season has been cut short by mechanical failures and poor strategic decisions, was dragging on Verstappen’s Red Bull gearbox, and after two failed attempts at turns 3 and 4, the driver from Ferrari made his move stick a couple of times. laps later with a nice move in the fourth corner from the right.
Red Bull reacted immediately by bringing in Verstappen for a tire change.
Leclerc stopped on lap 26. He came out of the pits 6.7 seconds behind Verstappen, but moved ahead of his title rival for the second time just six laps later.
By lap 50, Verstappen was back in the lead after Ferrari called Leclerc in for his second stop. But three laps later, at the exit of Turn 3, Leclerc passed Verstappen for the third and final time.
Leclerc complained of a stuck throttle in the closing stages but crossed the finish line 1.5 seconds ahead of Verstappen, with Hamilton, who made up five positions from eighth, a further 40 seconds behind.
Russell impressed by driving from 19th, after he was stopped for repairs and was subject to a five-second penalty after he rejoined Perez, to finish fourth.
Leclerc has cut the championship deficit from 44 points to 38.
The Ferrari driver said: “I definitely needed it. The last five races have been incredibly difficult for me but also for the team.
“It’s been tough race after tough race, and I felt like everything was against me. So to finally show that we have the pace in the car and that we can do it, it’s amazing.”
Leclerc, Verstappen and Hamilton were later handed a suspended £8,500 fine after their physios entered the parc fermé without permission before weighing the drivers, a breach of existing FIA rules.