The most anticipated driver
Carlos Sainz enters this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix as the winner of the last race in Singapore, where he secured pole position and, most importantly, his first win of the season. It was a significant victory not only in terms of statistics, as he became the first non-Red Bull driver of this championship to stand on the top step of the podium, but also for how the triumph unfolded, with a strategically intelligent and risky defense in the final laps of the race.
A move that ultimately paid off 100%, marking Ferrari’s first victory in about a year and a half: “We had some nice celebrations after the win in Singapore, and I had fun with the whole team, mechanics, and engineers,” the Spanish driver told f1.com. “We celebrated on a short night because we finished at 2:00 AM after the debrief, but we still had a great time, and it was beautiful to see the team celebrating after a tough year that was hard for everyone. In doing so, we gave everyone the opportunity to celebrate, and it was a great moment.”
Suddenly competitive SF-23?
But what was the recipe that brought Ferrari back to the front in Marina Bay? According to Carlos Sainz, there wasn’t a specific technical insight from the engineers, but rather a combination of factors that pushed the SF-23 to unleash its full potential, as it has in other instances throughout this season: “We put all the things together. I don’t think the car suddenly became closer to what I wanted or how I wanted it, except for a setup change that would have helped me with my driving style,” he explained. “The car is still difficult to drive, we still struggle a bit in long corners, but it’s also a car that can give you the opportunity to snatch pole position as Charles did in Baku, as we almost did in Monaco, and as we did in Monza and Singapore. So, it can give us some great moments, and we want to experience them again.”
Carlos Sainz and Scuderia Ferrari are, therefore, arriving at the Suzuka circuit with the main intention of securing a welcomed repeat, even though expectations don’t entirely favor the Maranello team. However, after Singapore, nothing is impossible: “I think this will be a tougher weekend and could present our limits again, but at the same time, I’m more optimistic than before,” he concluded. “Now, I want to stay focused on the fact that if we could put in a good qualifying lap and then defend the position in the race as we did last weekend, looking a bit more in the mirrors, a good result could come.”