Carlos Sainz‘s triumphant victory in Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix was largely thanks to his strategic driving abilities. One of his key tactics was ensuring Norris, who finished second, remained within DRS range during the race’s final moments. This tactic effectively used the McLaren driver as a deterrent to the fast-approaching Mercedes vehicles.
There were instances where Sainz had to relinquish his lead significantly to reintroduce the pursuing McLaren driver back into his slipstream. His strategy worked flawlessly, with George Russell failing to pass Norris before his last-lap collision with the wall resulted in his race-ending accident.
Ferrari team played a significant role in strategising for the Singapore Grand Prix, including backing up the field and planning to circumvent the undercut with Charles Leclerc acting as a barrier. However, Ferrai Team Principal Fred Vasseur clarified that Sainz was the brainchild behind the late-race DRS tactic.
Vasseur praises Sainz’s strategic decision, “It was the idea of Carlos…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.”
Sainz affirmed that had any of the Mercedes vehicles surpassed Norris, he would have lost his winning position. “It’s always tricky because you always put yourself under extra pressure”, he confessed.
He further elaborated, “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 is enjoying a promising run since the summer break, with pole positions in Italy and Singapore. When asked about his sudden increase in performance, Sainz attributed this to a meeting with his engineers during August.
He elaborated on the meeting, “In terms of car and driving understanding, I think before the summer break there was this already decent feeling with everything. 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.”
He added, “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.”
According to Fred Vasseur, team principal, the way Sainz immediately acclimated to the car setup during recent weekends has significantly contributed to improved performance. He praised Sainz’s readiness from lap one of FP1. Vasseur explained, “If you don’t have so many sets of tyres, it means that if you are starting the weekend a step backwards, it is clear you have to overshoot the limit. And also, for the team, in terms of preparation, it’s the best approach you can have.”