Scuderia Ferrari Spanish driver Carlos Sainz felt the Maranello team had the potential for a stronger performance last weekend at the Suzuka circuit, with the Japanese Grand Prix revealing “better pace than the results indicate.”
The Spanish driver entered the race following a surprising victory in Singapore at the Marina Bay street circuit, disrupting Red Bull’s 15-race win streak and Max Verstappen’s string of 10 consecutive victories this season.
The Italian side was aware that it would not be able to repeat the performance in the Japanase Grand Prix. Suzuka was anticipated to be a race primarily centered on tire degradation, an area that has historically posed challenges for Ferrari with their SF-23. To guard against a potential undercut by the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, Carlos Sainz opted for an extended stint on the track, hoping to have better race pace in the final stages of the Suzuka race and therefore recover the position on track. However, Ferrari left him out too long, causing him to rejoin behind Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, with the latter pursuing a one-stop strategy.
Mercedes found itself entangled in a team orders dispute involving the two British drivers. This situation presented Carlos Sainz with an opportunity to overtake George Russell in the final stages of the Japanese Grand Prix ultimately securing a fifth-place finish, but the Spaniard did not have the time to attempt an overtaking move on Hamilton. All in all, this accomplishment was achieved despite Carlos Sainz’s struggles with car setup throughout the practice sessions over the weekend, as explained by the Ferrari man.
The Spaniard also pointed out that there was more pace in the Ferrari SF-23 car than the outcome may show: “We had better pace than the results show. I think we were very quick straight from the start, the first stint I felt like I had a bit more more pace than the guys in front. I managed my tyres well, but obviously being behind in track position is always gonna cost you, especially being difficult in Suzuka to overtake. I felt back to normal, as soon as I got up into a rhythm I understood the car well. A shame about the last pitstop as it cost us quite a bit of race time, but it is what it is.” – he added.
Carlos Sainz admitted that he made the choice to continue on track after Lewis Hamilton was called to the pits for a tyre change and confirmed that he took into consideration his pace on the Medium tyres in the second stint: “A bit surprised at how little degradation we got in the first stint, when everyone boxed out of the way my in-lap was very quick.”
“But we decided to play safe and we stayed out to protect from Hamilton and Alonso, but it was a bit lower degradation than expected as I could manage my tyres as well. Now we need to focus on and keep doing a good job there, because I feel like we had more pace than others.” – Scuderia Ferrari Spanish driver Carlos Sainz concluded.