Sainz had put himself in position to score big points by being one of the few drivers to forego a fruitless switch to slicks in the early stages of the race, which allowed him to recover from an early off.
However, while he was keen to roll the dice late on and equip dry tyres, McLaren opted to play it safe – and while Sainz ended up a strong fifth, he lost out to midfield rivals Daniil Kvyat and Lance Stroll, who had gone through with the gamble.
“During the safety car i said let’s go on the slicks but at the same time it was too risky so I perfectly understand that we didn’t pit because no one did actually out of the top five cars,” Sainz recalled.
“I did have the feeling it was the right thing but at the same time it was very risky so I back the team totally and when you see Kvyat celebrating a podium and Stroll in front of you and they were really far behind [earlier], it feels very bitter right now.
“But at the same time, I don’t think we would’ve done anything differently. We just did everything perfectly and the guys who had nothing to lose, just took a decision – a risky decision – that turned out to be right.”
McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl said the team had to prioritise simply getting points on the board given the race of attrition had already claimed some of the usual frontrunners, as well as both cars from McLaren’s main midfield rival Renault.
“Towards the end of the race, seeing who dropped out, and that the Renaults also dropped out, we played it conservative, staying in line with what was happening at the front, and obviously the two cars behind took the risk and benefited from it, so well done to them,” Seidl said.
“In the end what made the great result for Stroll was taking the gamble from P14 to go on dry tyres two laps earlier than anyone else, so well done to them.
“From our point of view we didn’t want to take a risk at this point, because you could crash out and then you have a different discussion after the race.
“When you speak to Carlos, he’s disappointed, but given where we have been in the middle of the race we can be very happy with P5.
“And again, with the calls towards the end of the race we simply played conservative, because for us it’s more important to score the points on the table, especially with a race weekend like that, with our main competitors dropping out, [rather than] trying a gamble from P5 to go for glory.”