Sainz says he had enough pace to do “whatever he wanted” in strategically tense Singapore F1 GP

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Carlos Sainz won his second ever grand prix for Ferrari at the 2023 Singapore GP, after holding off Lando Norris’ McLaren and the charging Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell. The Spaniard explained how he had “pace in hand” to strategically manage the final few laps of the race and take the win in Marina Bay.

Photo Credits: Scuderia Ferrari

After leading the field away from his second consecutive pole position, Sainz had to pit on lap 21 after a safety car was called in to recover debris from Logan Sargeant’s crash in turn eight. The Spaniard held on to the lead at the restart, and was instructed by his Ferrari team to keep the field compact in a bid to avoid giving Mercedes a chance of a two-stop strategy – but that was to no avail when Esteban Ocon had an issue in his Alpine and had to park it on the inside of the pit exit on lap 43, meaning a virtual safety car was deployed.

The two Mercedes cars stopped with a double stack under the VSC, but both Ferrari’s and Lando Norris stayed out on their hard tyres that had been for over 20 laps, meaning they had to defend from the two charging black arrows.

With Russell and Hamilton inevitably catching up and passing Leclerc, Sainz had to think strategically to keep the chasing Mercedes’ back, and gave Lando Norris the benefit of DRS usage on the straights in order to slow down Russell’s progress.

Speaking after the race, the now two-time grand prix winner explained how he had the “headspace” and enough pace in his pocket to do “whatever he wanted” as the pair fast approached him:

“I felt under control, to be honest. I always felt like I had the headspace and the pace in hand to do whatever I wanted to do,” he explained.“I’m not gonna lie, you’re under pressure and you obviously are very close to making any kind of mistake, but I felt under control.

“It was just quite tight at the end, but we gave Lando [Norris] a bit of DRS to help him and then in the end, we made it to P1.

“I felt like I could manage well, and we brought it home. That was the best feeling you know. I am over the moon right now.”

The Spaniard said he had thought through the tactics he used in the last few laps in order to keep both Mercedes at bay, and how he would be “dead meat” if he didn’t hold the McLaren within the one second range:

“I knew more or less my pace versus Lando and how difficult it is to overtake here. I knew he was on a hard and if George and Lewis were going to overtake me I would be ‘dead meat’ also, so I needed him to hold on for as long as possible,” Sainz said to Sky Sports. “A couple of laps I was 1.2 or 1.3 seconds ahead of Lando, so I slowed down a bit to give him DRS into Turn 7, which was just enough for him to hold onto them and keep my race under control, [which] not easy because you are putting yourself under risk and you cannot do any mistakes, but it was my strategy and it worked.”

The Ferrari driver explained how he was forced to pit early by the safety car on the first third of the race, and had to manage his pace throughout due to Ferrari’s “limitations” with tyre degradation seen during the rest of the season:

“It was all about – given our limitations with tyre wear and degradation – managing the beginning of the stints to make sure I made it to the target laps that we wanted to do in each compound.

“Obviously the safety car forced us to pit even earlier than we wanted,” he said. “I knew it was going to be a long stint on hard.

“I had to keep George, I had to keep him slowing down to not give him a safety car or a medium tyre opportunity, and it worked to perfection.”

With his second win for Ferrari now under his belt, Sainz praised the team’s ability to “turn around” their season and grab win amidst a period of immense Red Bull domination in F1 2023:

“[It’s] an incredible feeling in an incredible weekend,” he reflected. “I want to thank everyone in Ferrari for making this huge effort to turn around and manage to win this season after a tricky beginning.

“We nailed the weekend, we nailed the race, we did everything that we had to do, and we did it perfect. We brought home a P1 that I’m sure all [of] Italy and Ferrari will be proud of today.”