Carlos Sainz and George Russell have both praised the challenging nature of Formula 1’s Dutch Grand Prix venue despite their crashes at Zandvoort on qualifying day.
Sainz lost control of his Ferrari through the Turn 2 right-hander and slammed into the barriers on the outside of the Turn 3 banking just 20 minutes into FP3 on Saturday morning.
His mechanics were able to repair his car in time for qualifying and he managed to secure sixth place on the grid, just 0.010s slower than his team-mate Charles Leclerc who he’ll share the third row with for Sunday’s race.
“It happened very quickly,” Sainz explained when asked about his FP3 shunt.
“At the beginning I didn’t know what had happened, then I had a bit of an analysis, I bit of a cooldown in my head, and after what I’ve seen in qualy it’s very clear.
“I was centimetres off-line, there’s clearly less grip than on [the racing] line, there’s a bit of sand, and I missed the apex by maybe 20cm in that lap, you can see maybe that I pulled up a bit of dust and I think that is enough to create an accident at this circuit.
“And it’s what makes it so challenging, it’s what makes it so incredible as a driver, so enjoyable, because you know you cannot put a foot wrong and today we see drivers paying [for] mistakes in qualy, and I paid it in FP3.
“It’s always tricky to recover the confidence in qualy, because you know you cannot put 20cm wrong, and I managed, but it was a tricky one.”
Sainz labelled Zandvoort as the “biggest challenge of the season for the drivers” beyond Monaco and Baku, and believes it’s what more F1 circuits should be like in the future.
“I felt like I deserved to crash, just to be 20cm off line, because this is how a circuit should be,” Sainz added.
“The prices that we all paid when we were doing mistakes out there is how Formula 1 should be and how we want the circuits of the future to be, and not the direction they went in 10 years ago, that it’s been unfortunate.”
Russell was another victim of Zandvoort as he crashed in Q2 while trying to haul his Williams into the top-10 shootout for the fourth time in five weekends.
He fell foul to the tricky penultiamte corner as he speared into the gravel and backed his Williams into the barriers.
🚩 RED FLAG 🚩
Russell slides into the barriers
He manages to get going again, radios his apologies to the Williams team and heads back to the pits #DutchGP 🇳🇱 #F1 pic.twitter.com/Ia3t1c2OnE
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 4, 2021
Russell made it back to the pits, but his qualifying day was done. He accepted full responsibility for the accident.
“Today was totally my mistake and I hold my hands up, so apologies to the team, that wasn’t good enough to my standards,” when asked by The Race about the crash.
He added that “everybody relishes the challenge” of circuits like Zandvoort.
“Even though it caught us out today, I want circuits that punish you if you make a mistake,” Russell said.
“To be honest, with the nature of that off, I’d probably have ended up in the same position had there been a run-off or not.
“But it’s exhilarating when you’re pushing those limits. It’s a real driver’s favourite and I hope tomorrow, the race will be exciting.”
There was likewise a crash in the same session for team-mate Nicholas Latifi, who himself conceded: “I’m not mad about the way the run-off was, it’s supposed to be penalising when the driver makes a mistake.”
F1’s title rivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton were split by just 0.038s in qualifying and both echoed the praise of the circuit’s challenging nature.
“It’s a different kind of sensation and feeling but it’s definitely in my top five [circuits],” Dutch GP pole-sitter Verstappen said.
“It’s old school, you never want to hit a barrier, it hurts but it’s part of it. We also race in Monaco right? There the barriers are even closer. I know that myself, but it’s part of it. It’s good.”
While Hamilton said: “I personally like this type of runoff area, it’s more old school and I think today people have been safe.
“But it’s like the old days in the sense that it doesn’t reward mistakes and that’s how it should be.”