Carlos Sainz chuckled at Mercedes strategy in F1 Japanese GP as Charles Leclerc got confused between the two Red Bull cars.
A week after the happenings in Singapore GP, Mercedes wanted to do the same against Ferrari’s Sainz in F1 Japanese GP. Being on a one-stop, it was George Russell leading teammate Lewis Hamilton and the Spaniard in the fight for fifth.
Both Hamilton and Sainz were on fresher tyres as Russell requested his team to try what the Spaniard did in Singapore where he gave DRS to Lando Norris to keep the Mercedes at bay. But his request was turned down with Hamilton allowed to pass him.
They then tried to keep off Sainz using Hamilton’s DRS but it was too late as the Spaniard managed to get Russell to end up sixth. “I found it funny, actually,” said the Ferrari driver to media. “I was laughing in the car because I could see Lewis backing off in 130R to give the DRS to George.
“And I was like, I need to make sure I attack George into the chicane. If I don’t throw him offline, it’s going to be impossible to pass them. And I went very deep into the chicane, managed to get a bit of a switchback, and then I used the DRS, slipstream on everything to pass him. It was good fun.
“And yeah, it nearly cost me my own position with my own tricks. I think maybe they had a better chance, honestly speaking, if Lewis would have stayed behind. But at the same time I would have tried a move on Lewis because George was very slow in the Esses, and eight and nine. So I would have tried into 11 or into 13, because they were both very slow there.
“So we will never know. But it would have been riskier to leave also Lewis behind, because if I got Lewis, I got George. I think today Suzuka proved to be quite tricky to overtake. And track position was fundamental. I think I was four or five-tenths quicker than Lewis, closing in on him.
“And I don’t think that’s enough delta to pass. Just could last two laps, I was quicker. But it gets to a point where if you’re not one second quicker, you’re not passing. Also, Charles took quite a long time to pass George on very worn hards for George. And it just proved to me that it was all about track position, which is what we lost at the pit stop.
“We were four seconds in front of Lewis – we exit eight behind,” summed up Sainz, who had to be content with sixth after winning the grand prix in Singapore. He even ended up behind teammate Leclerc, who was fourth on the road after having a better run.
The Monegasque too had a funny moment when he came across a slowing Red Bull of Sergio Perez, who he initially mistook it to be Max Verstappen. The reporters then clarified to him that it was Perez who slowed under the VSC period due to contact.
“I saw Max stop at the virtual safety car, I don’t know what happened then, and I thought he wasn’t in the race anymore,” Leclerc said. “He was basically stopped on the left and we all overtook him. So, I thought I was doing a podium until the last lap, when I actually looked at the board and I was P4! Oh right, maybe that was Checo.
“Because I thought Max was out of the race at that moment, it was just confusing for me. But McLaren were super strong, so there were no surprises. It was the maximum we could do. The pace wasn’t as strong as the McLarens and they also had very low tyre degradation. But a weekend like this is good in a way, because it confirms exactly what we understood in the last few races.
“Sector one [the twisty Esses] is definitely one of our main weaknesses compared to McLaren. That’s where most of the time is lost and we’ll be working on that for the rest of the season. In the last four races we learned a lot about our car, but there’s still characteristics we cannot change until the end of the season,” summed up Leclerc.
Here’s Mercedes camp about their strategy