Sainz feared podium result in Japan had slipped away


Two weeks after his victory in Australia, Carlos Sainz was back on the podium and spraying champagne once again after finishing in third place in the Japanese Grand prix at Suzuka, even though at one point it had looked in doubt.

Sainz started the race from fourth place on the grid but wasn't able to pull off an early pass on McLaren's Lando Norris before the red flags, and had to wait until the McLaren made its own first proper pit stop to move into the top three.

By the time he made his own stop on lap 16 to surrender his early set of mediums for the more durable hard compound tyres, Sainz was down in seventh place with some big names ahead of him that would make it difficult to make progress.

But just when he thought that a podium might be too much to ask for this week, everything started going Sainz' way and he was able to claim some notable scalps on his way back up the running order.

“I had a good race to be honest. I knew the podium was possible if I did a perfect race” he beamed when he was interviewed in parc ferme. “Very happy, because it was quite tough out there with the degradation.

“At times it looked a bit tricky, I didn’t understand exactly what was going on with the one stops and two stops," he said. "Then the clouds came, the degradation went a lot lower, and suddenly I thought that maybe one-stop was quicker - and we were on the two.

"I thought it was going to be very difficult to get back into fourth or P3 [given] how tricky it was to overtake the Mercedes on the second stint, and how difficult it was to follow.

"But when I put the hard on at the end I was very quick, flying out there, and I could get the moves done to get the podium I was really pushing for.

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari SF-24 and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W15 battle for position. 07.04.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 4, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images

“I had to overtake a lot of cars out there today, and overtaking was tricky. Always at Suzuka you really have to nail the last chicane to get a good run into turn 1," he said. "I could finish my moves, but it was tough out there.

“I knew I needed a very big delta to approach Lando and Charles," he continued. "Honestly I thought it was on, that I could get the moves done and get that podium.

"In the end we managed," he added. "I was quick on that hard tyre, I really liked how it gave me a good feeling to push."

With Japan now in the books, Sainz is already turning his attention to future matters - starting with the next race in China, which hasn't been on the calendar in five years because of COVID pandemic travel restrictions.

It will also be the first sprint race of the season in the new 'tweaked' format, which means drivers have just a single hour of free practice to reacquaint themselves with Shanghai International Circuit before things get serious.


"It’s going to be a tough weekend for everyone,” Sainz agreed. “Going into a Sprint, to a track that we haven’t been in four or five years, only one hour of practice, it's going to be a challenge.

“It’s going to be a good one," he predicted, hoping that having next weekend off will help him in his recovery from emergency surgery for appendicitis in Jeddah - not that it's been slowing him down all that much.

"Let’s get a couple of good weeks to keep training and keep recovering, and I’ll get back in China flat-out," he pledged.

And also on Sainz' mind is his longer term future in F1, with his current contract with Ferrari expiring at the end of the year which will see Lewis Hamilton move from Mercedes to Maranello to take his place in 2025.

"Unfortunately I have no clue where I’m going to be next year,” Sainz commented when asked what the situation was looking like for him. “It’s true that we are talking to many teams. They know I’m available, so let’s see what happens.

"It has been a strong start to the season," he pointed out. "With this car you can shine a bit more. With last year’s car I did performances similar to this year but you couldn’t shine.

“I just need to keep focus on what I’m doing, and prove to myself and to everyone that when I’m given a fast car I am maximising what I’m given, and I deliver."

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