Carlos Sainz has opened up on his struggles in the first half of 2022, saying he had to completely change his driving style to get on top of Ferrari's F1-75.
After an encouraging debut season with the Scuderia in 2021, in which he outscored highly-rated teammate Charles Leclerc, hopes were high that Sainz could carry his good form into 2022.
However, while Ferrari produced a car capable of winning races for the first time since 2019, Sainz instead found himself firmly in the shadow of Leclerc, who won two of 2022's first three races to grasp the early initiative in the title race.
"It was clearly, first of all, frustrating after such a first strong year with the team, where I found very few issues with the car," Sainz told Motorsport.com.
"I felt like, after the first few races in 2021, I knew where the limit of the car was. I only had to find one or two tenths in a certain type of corner and I was ready to compete. That's why the second half of the season was so strong and I could get on top of it.
"This year was finally a competitive car, finally a car able to battle for wins, and suddenly I find myself in a position that I've never found myself before, which is being a bit more than two tenths off.
"I've never been more than two tenths off a teammate, and [I was] scratching my head to see where is all this lap time coming from. It was frustrating, because it was the first time I had a competitive car that could allow me to fight for wins."
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A complete change of approach
While Sainz would not be drawn on the specific source of his troubles with the F1-75, he did acknowledge that the only way to be competitive was to drive in a different manner from that to which he had been accustomed.
The Spaniard added that it was only at the ninth round of 2022 in Canada that he managed to turn a corner with his driving style.
"I kept it quite secret where my struggles came from," said Sainz.
"I think people who understand the sport, and people who do in-depth analysis, more or less know me by now, and know where the issues came from. But just to make it short: I had to change completely my driving style.
"I had to change completely the way I was driving, in a very unnatural way. I had to change to an unnatural way and make it natural: which takes a long time.
"I also had to try things with setup. Most of them were in the wrong direction, and then coming back to find a good direction, and this takes races. There's no testing anymore, so you need to test in race weekends.
"That means sometimes you have to commit to a race weekend with a setup where you basically got it wrong for that weekend. And it meant another weekend not performing.
"That accumulated frustration until I think it was more or less Canada that I found a bit my way. And since then, I've started performing a little better."
Sainz still 'not driving naturally'
Sainz's improvement behind the wheel of the F1-75 manifested itself in pole position and a debut win at the British Grand Prix, one race after Canada.
However, the Spaniard cautioned that he was still not 100 percent happy behind the wheel of Ferrari’s 2022 challenger.
"There are little things that suddenly raise your confidence and that's where I started to feel like I can also be quick with this car," said Sainz.
"At the beginning of the year, you always have your doubts. Is this car ever going to give me the confidence I had with last year's car? Am I ever going to find the right driving to drive this car to the level that I know I can? You have these doubts.
"But then these little details help you to trust the process and trust all that hard work that I had to do - although there were many times that I had got it wrong with the setup direction, with my driving.
"It's still not a car that I like, honestly, in how to drive it. I still have to think a lot while driving. And I'm not driving fully naturally yet. But at least I know that if I put everything together, I can be there."
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