A last-minute change of steering wheel before the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix played a key role in Carlos Sainz’s early retirement from the race.
The Ferrari driver only started ninth and retired on lap 2 after crashing to 14th after a slow escape.
It ended a tough weekend which saw him eclipsed by Charles Leclerc, who took his second win of the season after qualifying on pole.
Sainz failed to get a representative lap in the dying moments of Qualifying 3, with the team sending him out too late to complete a warm-up lap before his final flyer.
Even still, the pace for the Ferrari was such that, under normal circumstances, a solid paying finish was a realistic goal if not for his 2nd lap retirement.
“I made a mistake misjudging the grip for sure,” he said.
“What was clearly wrong today was that we had problems with the steering wheel again.
“We had to change the steering wheel a minute before leaving for the formation lap and the steering wheel was not well positioned on certain switches which meant that at the start I had anti-stall.
“So I started with hard drives and with anti-stall, so I was on the back foot,” he continued.
“Being in a rush to pass and come back, I made a mistake on the hard tire when the tire was probably not ready to be pushed and not ready to pass people, so it’s not great.”
In Leclerc’s hands, the F1-75 was the car to have at Albert Park, the Monegasque racing to victory by more than 20 seconds having maintained a comfortable margin in hand to control the race.
Even taking into account the slow start, it is not unrealistic to expect Sainz to have made his way forward quickly under normal circumstances, a point he concedes.
“This car in the worst possible scenario was able to make a top four with a good comeback,” he said.
“Without the problems of [qualifying]without the problems of [the race] we should have fought for the win so to come away with zero points is very disappointing.
“We need to be more perfect as a team and this weekend we clearly haven’t been.”
Ferrari remain atop the constructors’ championship, a competition they would lead even with only Leclerc’s points tally, having won two of the first three races.
Sainz’s Melbourne result was the first black mark on the team’s behalf, the first time one of its drivers failed to appear on the podium in 2022.
“We weren’t perfect,” Sainz said of his Australian GP weekend.
“It was a bit of a disaster so we have to learn from that and I was the first to make a mistake.
“Certainly the cars are a bit trickier,” he added.
“Hard tires are harder – they are more difficult to manage in starts and [on Sunday] I paid the price.
“Of course there is human error, especially at the start of the season until we learn about these cars.
“But that’s no excuse, I shouldn’t have made that mistake and we shouldn’t have had the steering problems we had.”
The next round of the Formula 1 championship takes teams to Imola for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, a weekend in Sprint format, from April 22-24.