Carlos Sainz had to play a tactful game towards the end of F1 Singapore GP with his rival Lando Norris in order to keep the win.
Having controlled the F1 Singapore GP for much part of the day, Ferrari’s Sainz came under pressure towards the end of the race when both the Mercedes of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton pitted for fresh rubber where they had about 15s to cover.
On the medium compound, both Russell and Hamilton quickly managed to get on the tail of Sainz and McLaren’s Norris with few laps to spare. It was then the Spaniard went with his instinct and used his former teammate in order to keep the Mercedes pair behind.
Sainz purposely pushed Norris into Russell while giving DRS which negated the pace of Russell and forced him to push harder to pass the McLaren driver. The Spaniard agreed it was a risky strategy, but that is what he had considering the pace of Mercedes.
That strategy eventually worked when Russell made a mistake on the final lap and that sealed the win for Sainz. The Spaniard’s tactics was somewhat understood by Norris too, who was happy with the DRS in order to keep the Mercedes behind.
At one point he almost lost the place but post that main attack, Russell couldn’t attack him. While the Mercedes driver crashed out, Norris also touched the wall just before him but his scare was short-lived as he did not hit that hard as Russell did.
Mercedes pit stop and concern –
Sainz: “At the beginning, not so nervous because I felt like I had a lot of pace in hand to push the last 12-15 laps. But immediately, I felt like as soon as I started pushing, my tyre degradation started to kick in. And I think Lando and I were sliding a lot, then it surprised me quite a lot how quickly the Mercs managed to pass Charles and close the gap on Lando and me. And at that point, I thought okay, it’s not going to be easy and these last five, six laps is going to be a fight. And at that point, obviously I had to change a bit the strategy. I had to give Lando a bit of a cheeky DRS boost, and that helped us to keep them behind and win the race and get the get the win for Ferrari that feels great.”
Playing tactful game using Lando Norris and the risk –
Sainz: “It’s always tricky. Because you always put yourself under extra pressure, no? Because then you know that then you cannot have a lock-up. You cannot have a single mistake or a snap because it means that then Lando’s going to have a chance to overtake you if he’s on DRS. So yeah, at that point you decide to give him the DRS, hoping that that’s going to be enough to keep the Mercs behind. There was in particularly one lap that I think Lando defended into 16-17, and then I had to slow down a lot into T1-2-3 to give him DRS again. I think that move actually, saved my race, saved also Lando’s P2 because I feel like there, if not, I would have been also dead meat, if the Mercs would have passed Lando, I think they could have got passed me pretty easily.
“This is a sort of strategy that you always keep in the back of your head in tracks like Singapore, where it might come in useful at some point. The thing is, obviously, it’s easy to think about it, at least, it’s easy to have in mind, but it’s a lot more difficult to execute it because it does put you under some extra pressure and it comes with its risks. And it’s all about having that commitment to do it and to put yourself under that extra risk. But I felt like that was my only real chance of winning the race and I wanted to win, especially when I heard that 1.3s/ 1.4s gap up to Lando after he defended into 16, to take the decision to slow down in Turn One and Turn Three. I was like ‘well, I hope these works’ because if not it could look really, really bad on me, but it worked. Some days you need to trust your instincts, trust your feeling. I’ve been trusting that, these last two weekends and it’s working well.”
Trust on each other –
Sainz: “It always feels a bit better when you have someone that you get on well with and that you respect, both as a driver and as an athlete. As a person, it always feels better to share those good moments. And don’t get me wrong, I think if he would have had a chance to pass me at any point he would have gone for it, for the win, but I just knew that that 0.8s/0.9s gap was enough to know that we could play smart. But yeah, what was obviously a great moment and we were joking about it and having a good laugh about the weekend and yeah, enjoying the moment.”
Norris: “I haven’t much more to add. I think Carlos has said it well, it’s always nice to be on the podium with whoever that you respect and get along with so the first time we’ve been able to be P1 and P2 – it’s in the wrong order! – but it’s alright for now. And yeah, I guess we had our first podium in Monaco, we were both there, so yeah, for Carlos to be on the top step is obviously great and he deserves it. He’s done a very good job the last few weekends but to be up there too and to share it and yeah, just all of us, we’ve always got along since 2018, 2019 so yeah, always a pleasure and I’m sure and I hope there’ll be more moments like it.”
Protecting P2 more than winning –
Norris: “It was protecting P2. George couldn’t overtake me, he struggled to overtake me when he had a five, six tenths advantage, so the chances of me getting past Carlos with maybe a one-tenth advantage, there was no chance. Carlos played it smart. There was no need for me to try and attack him. The more I attacked him, probably the more vulnerable I would have been from both the guys behind and I wouldn’t be sitting here, we wouldn’t be on the podium if I played it differently, you know. So, it was stressful, stressful last few laps, for sure. I think we both knew as soon as the VSC came out, we had to put in a stint-and-a-half and try to open up the gap as big as possible. But they still caught us. And then it was about not making a mistake.
“I knew with George, he was going to pressure me a lot. He did and I had to defend quite a bit into 15, or 14. That’s when Carlos backed off after that when there was a little bit of a gap and allowed me to get the DRS which was very helpful. So I think we together played it in a smart way to get the Mercs to stay behind us. The last lap then I had a bit more of a breather. I hit the wall, where George also hit the wall, but I hit it with the front so I kind of panicked a bit, thinking maybe I just messed it all up, but it damaged the steering, in terms of it was just off-centre. But luckily, it wasn’t nothing more than that. So an amazing race, a stressful race from start to finish. A lot of management, but perfectly executed.”
Help from Sainz –
Norris: “I mean, he made a couple of mistakes. But no, I think our pace was strong. Honestly, I think initially I started to catch him myself. I think our pace was a bit better towards the end of stints. The Ferrari was probably better in the initial part of stints. So, I think that would have caught up to him ever so slightly anyway. I think I would have got into DRS. But it was more that when there was a gap, when I was most under pressure from George, that’s when he most helped me out. So yeah, I guess it helped me keep him from not getting under pressure, from getting attacked, because I’m sure if I had got overtaken, Carlos would have had a lot more stress too, you know? But he drove a good race. Both George and Lewis and, of course, Carlos, drove a great race to not make any mistakes, not have any lock-ups or any of these things, and finish the way we did.”
Here’s how the battle panned out: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.2023-singapore-grand-prix-the-frantic-final-laps-as-sainz-battles-to-hold-off-norris-russell-and-hamilton.1777300254289144255.html
Here’s how F1 Singapore GP panned out