Tough race due to the strategy choice and the lack of Top Speed
Suzuka, October 9th 2016.- The Japanese Grand Prix took place today at the Suzuka Circuit and Carlos Sainz finished it in seventeenth place. The Spaniard from Scuderia Toro Rosso made a good start and felt happy with his overall pace, but in the end the lack of Top Speed of his STR11 and the strategy choice he followed, a choice which required many overtakings to prove useful, costed him a gradual loss of positions. The final result was far behind the original expectations he had for today’s race.
Just like the leaders, Carlos started the race on soft tyres. He recovered two places at the start, putting himself in a comfortable twelfth place until the first round of pit-stops. But the team chose to stay out five laps more than his teammate and the decision didn’t save him any traffic at all. Carlos emerged behind the two McLarens but was slower than them in terms of Top Speed, so he couldn’t overtake them despite being much faster. That situation translated into a steady and gradual loss of time.
As the leaders, Carlos started the race on a set of soft tyres. He recovered two places in the start and stabilized himself in twelfth place until the first pit-stop round. The team chose to leave him out five laps more than his rivals, but that decisions didn't avoid him traffic, the contrary. He emerged behind the two McLarens, and slower than them in terms of Top Speed. Carlos couldn't overtake them despite being much faster, and as such he steadily and gradually lost time.
The Spaniard neither enjoyed an advantage on the tyre side, because he was on the same compound as his rivals, the hard one. He completed 24 laps on them. During this period he was overtook by the two Williams, who had stopped later after starting on mediums and had fresher rubber and a competitive edge in terms of Top Speed. Carlos tried his best to keep them at bay and he held them back for as long as he could.
In the closing chapters of the event, Carlos pitted for softs and was only able to overtake McLaren’s Jenson Button. Then he found himself in a tight fight with his friend Fernando Alonso, but the lack of Top Speed of the STR11 didn’t help him fulfill his mission despite trying on many occasions. He reached the chequered flag in seventeenth place, just less than nine tenths behind Alonso.
Carlos was obviously upset about his race as he talked to the media at the end of the Grand Prix. “The race went wrong. Pace was good at first, I was better than my teammate, but the team decided that I should stay outside longer for the first stop. Then I was holding back the two Williams and approaching the two Haas, but I stopped and exited just behind the McLarens. That’s where we ended up. Our pace was way better than what you could see from the outside, just as in other occasions. But when you’re stuck in traffic and overtaking is impossible, you just can’t show it”.
Considering the final result, the strategy was not the optimum for the day. “We finished P17, so it’s likely that it wasn’t the right choice. Pit-Stops were fine, but we knew beforehand that our goal was to race in clean air, to race without having the need to overtake. But I was asked to overtake all race long and it’s impossible when you are lacking 20 kilometers/hour. We used DRS, but still weren’t even close. We’ll have to analyze many things”.
His fight with Fernando Alonso caught the attention of the TV cameras for a while. “It was very difficult to overtake him. He had an edge of 4 or 5 kilometers/hour and that made it impossible. But as soon as we were free from traffic, we had great pace. I don’t know if it would have been enough to make it to the points, but for sure it was enough to be further ahead. The problem is that we almost didn’t have a single lap in clean air”.
Toro Rosso's team boss Franz Tost shares Carlos' opinion. "Starting from P13 and P14 made it a difficult race for us today. We simply don't have the speed on the straight lines, something you certainly need to perform well. Both drivers did a good start and after the first lap we moved up to P11 and P12. Our pit-stops were also carried out well, but we lost time in traffic and therefore we were only able to finish 13th and 17th. Fortunately, neither Haas nor McLaren scored any points, but of course the last four races of the season won't be easy for us, because all the others made steps forward with the development of their Power Units – as we are out with last years' specification, we simply face a disadvantage regarding speed... We just have to be focused and finish the season in a reasonably good way".
Formula 1 will travel now to a different continent. The Asian leg of the season is over and in two weeks’ time it will be the of the United States Grand Prix in Austin, a scenario which brings sweet memories to Carlos after the seventh place he clinched there in 2015. We will follow it via www.carlosainz.es and our Twitter account @carlosainzinfo.