Sainz 'almost crashed' with Hamilton during crazy Lap 1 at Portimao

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Carlos Sainz revealed he almost collided with Lewis Hamilton en route to the lead on Lap 1 of the Portuguese Grand Prix.

Starting seventh, the Spaniard cruised past those ahead of him, as light rain caused havoc in the middle sector due to a combination of low grip and low tyre temperatures.

Indeed, reflecting on the madness that unfolded during the first few laps, Sainz admitted his surprise at how little effort was needed to pass the two Mercedes'.

“Especially driving around them, it was pretty easy actually,” the McLaren driver told Sky Sports.

“It was not actually a really tough battle or anything like that, it was just driving around them like they drive around us most of the time.

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“I nearly crashed into him [Hamilton] because he was braking so early, but I could just drive around the outside no problem.

“Now I see Valtteri, and I was expecting, because it was not raining anymore, I was expecting him to pick up the pace. I don’t know, I was just super comfortable.

“Then I’m on top of him, I try to show my nose to try and make him a bit nervous and look in the mirrors, and he misses a bit the apex.

“I think that got me into the lead."

With reports of rain already coming through on the formation lap, plus the issues drivers have had generating tyre temperature all weekend, Sainz thinks the key was a concerted effort he made to get as much heat as possible into his Pirellis.

“I put a lot of emphasis on the warm-up lap to try and make sure I got the tyres up to temperature," he continued.

“Then you see a few cars here on the medium tyre, others on the soft, but I think those extra few degrees on the soft tyre and those extra degrees that I put on the formation lap gave me this good first lap.”

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Eventually, conditions normalised and Sainz quickly fell behind both Mercedes', Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari.

A late move on Sergio Perez then secured a final position of P6 by the chequered flag.

But commenting on why McLaren appeared to slip back so quickly, the future Ferrari driver pointed to the recent tyre issues the team has been suffering from.

“We’ve been struggling the last couple of races with the cooler temperatures,” he said. “Our car tends to understeer a bit in mid-corner, and that damages the front left quite a lot.

“It has been a feature of our car recently, and we need to keep investigating why, because today, without the graining, after leading at the start, I think we could have at least finished P4, P5, with a normal race.”