Carlos Sainz, a brilliant defensive moment
In any sporting context, unexpected actions are often etched in the minds of fans. This is true in motorsport as well, with iconic moments like Mika Hakkinen’s overtake on Michael Schumacher at Spa in 2000 (with Ricardo Zonta caught in between) or Valentino Rossi’s daring pass on Casey Stoner at Laguna Seca in 2008, resulting in Rossi going off-track downhill. And, of course, there’s Gilles Villeneuve, who remains in the hearts of Ferrari fans well beyond his five victories during his tumultuous career.
Carlos Sainz, in today’s highly technological and less human Formula 1, managed to bring out the driver in him. He made a seemingly audacious choice to defend against the charging Mercedes by allowing Lando Norris, his immediate pursuer, to close in and benefit from the DRS (Drag Reduction System) advantage within a one-second gap. This strategic decision turned out to be the key to his victory. The Ferrari driver used the DRS train behind him to impede the Mercedes’ overtaking attempts, despite the Mercedes cars being much faster than the front-running duo.
Comparisons to Gilles
Some have compared Carlos Sainz to Niki Lauda for his race vision, while others drew parallels to the formation of cars seen during the 1981 Jarama Grand Prix under the brilliant direction of Gilles Villeneuve. Villeneuve’s last unforgettable victory saw him fend off Jacques Laffitte, John Watson, Carlos Reutemann, and Elio De Angelis (with a gap of just 1.2 seconds separating the first and fifth) on the straight and resist tenaciously in the twisty sector.
Recalling this Grand Prix was René Arnoux, a former driver well-acquainted with Villeneuve, interviewed by Rai Radio 1 on the Radio Anch’io Sport Italian program. Rene Arnoux said: “I saw something from the past; Sainz’s victory reminded me of Gilles’ win in 1981 at Jarama, Spain. I remember that race well; I immediately abandoned the race lead, went to the back straight, and watched about three-quarters of the race. Gilles stretched on the straight while the others, like Jones and Lafitte, remained behind throughout the race. Yesterday, Sainz started very well, didn’t give up, and had a great race. I’m happy because we saw a very competitive Ferrari with a beautiful setup. It’s not easy to have such a tightly contested race from start to finish, with monsters like Lando Norris, Lewis Hamilton, and George Russell behind. Holding them all off was a fantastic achievement, both for Carlos Sainz’s first win this year and for Ferrari, which has returned to a very high level.” – he pointed out.
Rene Arnoux concluded with a comment on Ferrari’s resurgence observed between the races in Monza and Singapore: “No one made a mistake. Excellent strategy, everything was perfect. I hope Ferrari is on the right path now, and we’ll see more victories this year. Charles Leclerc? He shouldn’t think too much about his teammate. If he starts asking himself questions, he becomes weaker.”