Track Interviews – Conducted by David Coulthard
Carlos Sainz, your second grand prix victory and, I have to say, what strategically-brilliant racing you had there. You did one-stop, your tyres were gone at the end, but you did it under the heat of Singapore.
Carlos Sainz: Yeah, an incredible feeling. An incredible weekend. 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 – but now this weekend, we nailed the race, we did everything that we had to do. We did it perfect and we brought home a P1 that I’m sure all Italy, all Ferrari is going to be proud and happy today.
I don’t know what you were doing in the summer break but since you came back, your performances, you can see the hunger and desire. You’ve been beautifully rewarded with that victory here today – but it was like a chess match. You were very strategic in the beginning but then in the end you had to push one hundred per cent.
CS: Yeah, it was all about, given our limitations with tyre wear and degradation, all about managing the beginning of the stints to make sure I made it to the target laps that we wanted to do on each compound. Obviously a Safety Car forced us to pit even earlier than we wanted and I knew it was going to be a long stint on Hard. I had to give George… I had to get him slowing down, don’t give him a Safety Car or a Medium tyre opportunity – and it worked to perfection. It was just quite tight at the end – but we gave Lando a bit of DRS to help him and in the end we made it P1.
See, I find that incredible, that you’re thinking ‘I’m going to help Lando, so he then isn’t under pressure from the Mercedes’. Other than the obviously, the fact that you were being hunted down in the last few laps, was there any scary moments in that grand prix for you?
CS: I felt under control, to be honest. It was… I always felt like I had the head space and the pace in hand to do whatever I wanted to do. I’m not going to lie, you’re under pressure and you obviously are very close to making any kind of mistake but I felt under control, I felt like I could manage well and we brought it home. That was the best feeling, y’know? Over the moon right now.
Lando, you’ve equalled your best result. You’re getting closer to that first victory but after what was the usual Singapore madness with the Safety Cars and the uncertainty on the tyres, you, like Carlos, only did one stop. It was a hot, hard race at the end there.
Lando Norris: It was. But Carlos was generous helping me get DRS. It helped my race, and also helped his. It was tough. We knew it was going to be tough as soon as the Mercedes boxed, especially with only a couple of cars for them to overtake. But we’re on the podium, P2, we held them off, we did everything we needed to do and more – so super-happy!
We saw George Russell was pushing hard and was being pushed hard by his team-mate, and in the end he clipped the wall and went out of the grand prix. That was really the last bit of pressure you had.
LN: I know. I hit the wall on the last lap at the same place.
You hit the wall?
LN: I did the same. I think he copied me! Just did it even worse. No, I feel for him, he fought a tough race, he was probably one of the quickest… he was the quickest today, I would say. So, it helped me a bit: the last couple of corners I could chill just a little bit more. Good points for the whole team as well with Oscar there – but everyone – Carlos, Charles, Lewis and George, we all pushed each other the whole way. It was stressful but it paid off.
It’s an obviously question in the heat of Singapore but put us in the cockpit. Physically, how tough was that grand prix?
LN: I’m good to go! Do it again!
Lewis Hamilton, third place, not the ultimate result you want but brilliant comeback, strategically, at the end. This is your 196th podium and your seventh here in Singapore. We saw you battle hard with your team-mate, we heard you on the radio saying “tell George to hurry-up!” and then, unfortunately, he clipped the wall.
Lewis Hamilton: Well, firstly, congratulations to Carlos and Lando, they did a great job today, their strategy worked. We rolled the dice this weekend, we went on with a different amount of tyres into Qualifying, with the option to be able to do what we’ve done today. I felt like it was a two-stop but I think the team did an amazing job today to really get us back up there. It’s a little bit of a shame about the first corner, but nonetheless I just kept my head down, kept pushing. And, of course, extremely unfortunate for George. We were pushing so hard to catch these guys and our tyres were so hot. But I know he’ll bounce back. He’s been phenomenal all weekend.
We saw you sitting just before coming up to the interview. This is a hard race – but that’s why you love it.
LH: Yeah, this is how it should be. It’s incredibly hot. I think I only lost 2kg today, so it’s not so bad.
Carlos, what a race, many congratulations, tension throughout. What aspect of this victory are you most proud of?
CS: It’s difficult to pick one. Honestly everything. Everything. We have to be extremely proud of the weekend that we’ve put together. We’ve had one opportunity this year to win the race, which was here in Singapore, and we nailed it. We didn’t put a foot wrong all weekend and yeah, there was a lot of moments out there where we were a bit under pressure and we kept it calm, we kept our plan, our strategy. We had to play with tyre degradation, with pit-stop gaps, with DRS, and playing with all that, and managing to keep everything under control, we managed to bring home a win that was never easy, but that definitely feels incredible.
Given your pace all weekend, just how confident were you prior to the start?
CS: Yeah, it was very difficult to tell before the race whether we would have the race pace to win but I felt like even if we didn’t, by managing and controlling the gaps and controlling the pace and the tyre degradation, I could create myself the opportunity to win. Obviously keeping P1 at the start and then from there controlling the race. It was a whole plan and that Safety Car came a bit too early and going into a Hard tyre on Lap 20 wasn’t my preference, especially because I had managed very well the Medium and I felt like we could have gone a lot longer. But it was the right call and then yeah, that stint on Hards was always under control until the VSC came out and gave the Mercs the opportunity to two-stop. And we were clearly under a lot of pressure there at the end.
Well, how nervous were you about the Mercs in those closing laps?
CS: At the beginning, not so nervous because I felt like I had a lot of pace in hand to push the last 12-15 laps. But immediately, I felt like as soon as I started pushing, my tyre degradation started to kick in. And I think Lando and I were sliding a lot, then it surprised me quite a lot how quickly the Mercs managed to pass Charles and close the gap on Lando and me. And at that point, I thought okay, it’s not going to be easy and these last five, six laps is going to be a fight. And at that point, obviously I had to change a bit the strategy. I had to give Lando a bit of a cheeky DRS boost, and that helped us to keep them behind and win the race and get the get the win for Ferrari that feels great.
How did you manage the gap to Lando without leaving yourself open to attack from Lando?
CS: It’s always tricky. Because you always put yourself under extra pressure, no? Because then you know that then you cannot have a lock-up. 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 on DRS. So yeah, at that point you decide to give him the DRS, hoping that that’s going to be enough to keep the Mercs behind. There was in particularly one lap that I think Lando defended into 16-17, and then I had to slow down a lot into T1-2-3 to give him DRS again. I think that move actually, saved my race, saved also Lando’s P2 because I feel like there, if not, I would have been also dead meat, if the Mercs would have passed Lando, I think they could have got passed me pretty easily.
So Carlos, quick at Monza last time out, brilliant race victory here in Singapore. What does this mean for Suzuka next weekend?
CS: Honestly, I don’t think it means much, I think this year, it’s going to be a bit like this. We’ve had two great weekends in a row, but I think the two tracks that we’ve been to have suited our car. In particularly this one, a high downforce track. I’m incredibly proud of the effort that the team has done to bring a much better high downforce package here, and be much more competitive than in Zandvoort – but I still think there’s going to be tough weekends out there where we’re not going to be fighting for podiums, and we’re going to get P5s, P6. We just need to make sure we keep getting those if that’s the maximum that the team and the car can do those weekends. But what I’m more proud of is that we had one chance to win this year, and the team under pressure responded. I also responded and we managed to put together a perfect weekend in the one chance that the Red Bull and the situation gave us, and the speaks well of the progress that Ferrari is doing, we are doing in terms of race execution.
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