Norris let a charging Sainz through during the race, and when thanked for this by the team on the radio post-race he replied: “I don’t do it out of choice, I do it because I am [expletive] slow.”
Sainz went on to take the chequered flag in fourth place, which became third when Lewis Hamilton was penalised post-race – marking Sainz’s first podium in F1 and McLaren’s first since 2014.
Reflecting on the Brazil weekend ahead of F1’s season finale in Abu Dhabi, Sainz said: “I must say Lando behaved like a gentleman the whole day, he put a smile on his face even though I’m sure it was not entirely easy.
“But he was genuinely happy for the team, happy for me, and it’s something nice to see. True gentleman, even though he looks like a kid!”
The stewards wishing to hear from Hamilton before rendering a verdict meant Sainz did not get to join Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly for the official podium celebrations, even though Hamilton ultimately passed up the opportunity to defend himself.
But Sainz made it clear that he didn’t mind the way it had panned out, saying it was “different from what I expected from my first podium but something I will never forget”.
“It was a very, very long wait – at least it felt that way,” he said. “But at the same time, once I knew Hamilton got a penalty, I knew the podium was mine. I knew I had respected the yellow flag.
“Of course I want a podium soon that I can do normal, but to get your first podium to actually enjoy it with 60-70 people up there singing and having champagne – I like Max and Pierre, but I like my team also, to share a podium with. So I enjoyed it a lot.
“It felt good, I think as good as it can get, because a podium starting last you never expect it. But honestly, this year we have been so many times best of the rest, that if the only race that something happens at the front I wouldn’t have got the podium, I would’ve been really, really angry.
“So, thank God we got it. It was a great effort by everyone.
“I saw a lot of smiles, a lot of energy, motivation from everyone [at the factory]. I think we all agree we now want one on pure merit, that we don’t depend on the top teams [hitting trouble] and we want to keep getting stronger.”
Sainz enters Abu Dhabi level on points with Toro Rosso driver Gasly in the fight for sixth place in the drivers’ standings, with Red Bull’s Alexander Albon a further 11 behind.
“It’s an interesting battle,” he said. “For me it’s already a success, to be fighting two guys who have been driving for Red Bull, it means this year we have done things properly well, and it gives me the opportunity to try and fight for a position that in the beginning of the year we wouldn’t have really thought about. But at the same time, now that we have a chance, let’s go and get it.”
Carlos Sainz Jr, McLaren celebrates his third position on the podium with the McLaren team
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images