The Maranello outfit came under fire in the immediate aftermath of Paul Ricciardo’s race, when television coverage gave the impression that the pitwall was indecisive and confused about its tire strategy for Sainz.
With Spanish media in the race, Ferrari had to make a late decision on whether or not his tires would make it to the end, and ultimately decided he would need another stop.
But as Sainz battled with Sergio Perez for a place on the podium, the French GP broadcast showed Ferrari strangely inviting him in just as he was passing his Red Bull rival as he passed the pit lane.
Ferrari strategy director Inaki Rueda explained that the timing of the televised message made it look like the team had made a huge mistake, when the reality was that things were much more under control than that.
Speaking in Ferrari’s regular post-race strategy briefing, Rueda said: “The way television production delivers data to viewers, there is a delay.
“In this case, you saw Perez and Carlos fighting on the 41st lap. We talked to Carlos and we saw that Carlos couldn’t overtake Perez on the back straight, and in the 10th change we actually called Carlos.
“Of course he fought with Perez. He thought he would have him in the circle afterwards, so he decided to say, ‘Please don’t come in. Not this round’.
“Now you’re watching live television.” That call came on the TV channel at turn 15, just after entering the pit: which is pointless, because we’re calling the driver so late that he can’t actually respond to our call?’
Carlos SainzFerrari F1-75
Photo credit: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
Rueda said that with the medium tire’s expected life of 25 laps, and Sainz needing to get 35 laps out of them, pushing hard all the way with them would not be an option.
Plus, with a five-second penalty for an unsafe release earlier in the race, there was no way Sainz could pull away from Perez and George Russell behind him enough to hold the position.
So instead, Ferrari decided to leave it late enough to secure a guaranteed fifth place and an extra point for fastest lap.
“This [penalty] “it actually changed our whole approach to that last transition, because even though Carlos was able to pass Russell and Perez, he was never going to be able to open a five-second gap on them when they had to nurse those medium tires all the way,” he said.
“With this in mind, we decided to put Carlos in and make sure he came back and got the extra point for fastest lap.”