Sainz: It felt good to make Leclerc give up in Japan
Carlos Sainz admits it felt good to force Charles Leclerc to give up his pursuit of P5 in the Japanese Grand Prix, as it showed that McLaren were too quick for the deficit to be made up by the Ferrari in behind.
After an early collision with Max Verstappen caused him front wing damage, Leclerc was forced to the back of the grid and into recovery mode to try and make up the positions. He eventually got Sainz in his sights, but was unable to initiate an overtake due to the time between the two cars combined with his tyre degradation.
When asked by Motorsport.com if it felt good to leave a Ferrari in his wake, Sainz responded in agreement.
“Oh yeah, it did. When you have a Ferrari 10 seconds behind, and when they are a couple of seconds faster in race pace, you think you’re not going to make it,” he said.
“But I had been saving my tyres at the beginning of the stint and when I was required to push I was able to find half a second of pace and although he was half a second quicker for the first three or four laps, he suddenly degraded and I kept up the pace and he gave up. It was nice!”
The Spaniard believes that it wasn’t only in the latter stages that McLaren impressed, though, as they kept pace with both Ferrari and Red Bull at certain sections of the Suzuka track.
“And we were able to, for the first time, feel the car working really nicely together in the first sector,” he explained.
“And whenever the team asked me to pick up the pace I started doing 33.5s and Leclerc couldn’t keep up, and suddenly we were managing to hold up a Ferrari and managing to match Albon on pace.
“It’s the first time this year it has happened, so I’m very pleased and proud of that.”
Sainz finished fifth to equal his best finish of the 2019 season, while team-mate Lando Norris ended in 13th.
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