Carlos Sainz clinched a stellar victory at the Singapore Grand Prix, and part of his success can be attributed to a brilliant strategic move – keeping Lando Norris within the DRS (Drag Reduction System) range of his Ferrari. This key maneuver played a crucial role in fending off the relentless Mercedes cars, securing Sainz’s triumph on the prestigious Marina Bay Street Circuit.
Sainz’s triumph at the Singapore Grand Prix was nothing short of a masterclass in race strategy. While Ferrari played a significant role in managing much of the race, including using Charles Leclerc as a buffer for the first portion of the race, Sainz’s decision to keep Norris within DRS range was entirely his own. This move was pivotal in keeping the Mercedes duo at bay.
“It was the idea of Carlos. I don’t want to say it’s obvious, but he knew he was more at risk with Mercedes than with Norris. With Norris we had the same tyres, and almost the same pace from lap one. We were not really at risk with Norris except if we lost the tyres, so it was a clever move from Carlos to keep Norris into the DRS.”
Ferrari’s team principal, Fred Vasseur, confirmed that the late-race DRS strategy was Sainz’s idea, highlighting the driver’s profound understanding of the race dynamics. Vasseur praised Sainz’s strategic acumen, acknowledging his role in clinching the victory for the Scuderia.
“It’s always tricky because you always put yourself under extra pressure. You know that then you cannot have a lock-up and 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 in DRS. So, at that point you decide to give him the DRS, hoping that’s going to be enough to keep the Mercs behind.”
Sainz himself was candid about the challenges he faced during the race. He mentioned a critical period on laps 16-17 when he had to slow down significantly to ensure Norris remained within DRS range. Sainz believed that this move not only saved his own race but also ensured Norris’s P2 position. He admitted that had Mercedes managed to overtake the McLaren, they would likely have secured the win, leaving Lewis Hamilton and George Russell on the podium.
“If the Mercs would have passed Lando, I think they could have got past me pretty easily.”
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and George Russell indeed found incredible performance towards the end of the Singapore Grand Prix as everything seemed to fall in line for the British drivers. Unfortunately for Russell, he failed to maximize this performance, following Norris into the wall and crashing out of the race’s final lap. While this allowed Hamilton to take his 196th podium of his career, it was arguably George who deserved the P3 finish.
“I just sat down with my engineers in the summer break, and we said: ‘okay, what can we do to start putting the whole weekend together, because clearly we have a lot of pace, we were doing some good things but we are never putting the whole thing together.’
“[We thought] let’s see what we can do to improve that and start having consistent performances in the second half, because the potential is clearly there this year.
“Zandvoort was a very good weekend. Monza was almost perfect and here I feel like it was the perfect one. Makes me very happy and proud that when you work, you analyse, and you also have the speed like I’ve had this weekend, it is always paying off.”
Sainz’s recent performances have been noteworthy, with him showcasing significant improvement at Ferrari’s home race as well. Reflecting on his progress, he mentioned a crucial meeting with his engineers in August that helped them pinpoint areas of improvement with the SF-23. This introspection and subsequent action have evidently paid off, with Sainz delivering consistently strong performances. Fred Vasseur highlighted Sainz’s newfound confidence and readiness from the get-go, saying that the Spanish driver has truly come into his own in the world of Formula 1.
“The biggest difference is that he is ready from lap one of FP1. Zandvoort was also the same – although he didn’t do FP1 [at the Dutch GP] we had the rookie FP1, but from lap one FP2 he was there and it’s the best way to prepare the quali.”