The last leg of the Marina Bay Grand Prix picked up intensity when Esteban Ocon‘s deserted Alpine initiated a virtual safety car. Consequently, the duo of Mercedes drivers halted for a set of new medium tyres.
Drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton whittled away at the frontrunners’ edge, positioning themselves as potential winners. Concurrently, Carlos Sainz requested updates on Norris’s distance, aiming to reduce his leading gap enough to keep his ex-teammate within the DRS range.
This strategy set a defense for Norris, and when Russell attacked with only three laps remaining, Sainz was compelled to back down, thereby continuing to carry the McLaren driver along. Sainz later elaborated that this particular tactic was a conscious plan he had stashed away for just the right moment. From his end, it demanded complete dedication to successfully implement.
“The strategy I had to give Lando a bit of a cheeky DRS boost, that helped us to keep them behind,” Sainz said. “This is a sort of strategy that you always keep in the back of your head on tracks like Singapore, that might come useful at some point.”
However, he added that devising the strategy and its execution were two diverse elements, the latter placing him under additional pressure and presenting enhanced risks. He asserted that it required absolute commitment alongside embracing that extra risk, which he was willing to undertake since that stood as his sole opportunity to win the race.
Echoing concern over the fine line he was treading, he said, “When I had that 1.3, 1.4-second gap to Lando after he defended into Turn 16, to take the decision to slow down in Turn 1 and Turn 3. I was like ‘I hope this works’ – because it could look really bad on me.”
He added, “But it worked, sometimes you need to trust your instinct, trust your feeling. I’ve been trusting that these last two weekends and it’s working well.”
Norris clarified that a counterattack on Sainz was not in his game plan. He was instead concentrating on retaining his second position, even though he was in close quarters with Sainz. Norris reasoned that any impulsive move for the race lead would have rendered him an easy target for the Mercedes pair.
“Carlos played it smart,” Norris acknowledged. “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.”
He concluded, “We wouldn’t be on the podium if I played it differently. I knew George was going to pressure me a lot, and I had to defend quite a bit into Turn 14. When Carlos backed off after that when it was a little bit of a gap and allowed me to get the DRS, it was very helpful. I think we together played in a smart way to get there.”