Carlos Sainz won Driver of the Day for the 2023 Italian Grand Prix after managing to turn his pole position into a podium finish for Ferrari in front of the adoring Tifosi.
The Spaniard started first on the grid, the fourth time he’s done so in his career, after an impressive showing in qualifying on Saturday.
After Sunday’s start was delayed following Yuki Tsunoda’s retirement on the formation lap, Sainz showed he was ready to fight after keeping world championship leader Max Verstappen behind him off the line and into the first corner.
From there the big question was how long Sainz could keep the charging Red Bull behind him, with the Ferrari proving more than a handful for the Dutchman.
Try as he could, Verstappen found it difficult to get past Sainz, who made perfect use of Ferrari’s straight line speed and positioned his car in the right places when needed in order to maintain the lead.
Unfortunately for Ferrari and the Tifosi, Sainz’s resistance was eventually broken, as his tyres gave way, with Verstappen slipping past on Lap 15.
While the Dutchman then sprinted off into the distance, Sainz did his best to ensure a podium-finish after all the top runners came in for fresh tyres.
Sainz even harboured hopes of finishing second as he expertly kept the Red Bull of Sergio Perez behind him for an extended period of time.
The Mexican eventually took second on Lap 46, but Sainz’s race didn’t end there as he was then involved in a spirited battle with teammate Charles Leclerc for third.
Although Ferrari fans likely had their hearts in their throats after a few hairy moments, Sainz eventually held on to cross the line third, earning him the Driver of the Day for the 2023 Italian Grand Prix.
Sainz’s first podium of 2023
Sainz’s third-place finish was his first podium of the season.
It couldn’t have come at a better place for the Ferrari driver, who soaked in the adoration of the Tifosi while accepting his trophy on the podium.
It also came on his birthday weekend, as Sainz turned 29 on Friday, and he admits he enjoyed Sunday’s race despite it being a tough one from start to finish.
“Very tough, very tough,” Sainz said after the race. “It can’t get any tougher than it was today. To keep up with the Red Bulls, I paid the price with the rear tyres but I did everything I could to defend.
“Hard racing, it’s always a pleasure to race Charles when we had a chance. We had fun out there!