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Formula 1 Japanese GP

Sainz "laughing in the car" as Mercedes repeated DRS trick in Japan

Carlos Sainz says he was "laughing in the car" during the Formula 1 Japanese GP when he realised that Mercedes had borrowed the DRS trick he used in Singapore.

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

In the closing laps of last weekend's street race in the Marina Bay track, Sainz slowed down to give DRS to the following Lando Norris in an attempt to keep George Russell and Lewis Hamilton behind on their fresher tyres.

In the end, the ploy worked, and Sainz and Norris finished first and second, with Hamilton taking third after Russell crashed on the last lap.

At Suzuka, the positions were reversed with Sainz catching up with Russell and Hamilton, who were running fifth and sixth.

On older tyres, Russell was told to invert the positions and let Hamilton through, and Russell then asked if Hamilton could in turn give him DRS and help him to defend from Sainz.

Hamilton responded "understood" but the strategy only worked briefly before Sainz got past Russell, having told his team "They are using my tricks against me!"

Sainz admitted that he found the scenario unfolding in front of him amusing.

"Yeah, I found it [funny], actually," he said when asked by Motorsport.com about his comment.

"I was laughing in the car because I could see Lewis backing off in 130R to give the DRS to George.

"And I was like, I need to make sure I attack George into the chicane. If I don't throw him offline, it's going to be impossible to pass them.

"And I went very deep into the chicane, managed to get a bit of a switchback, and then I used the DRS, slipstream on everything to pass him. It was good fun. And yeah, it nearly cost me my own position with my own tricks."

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Sainz felt that Mercedes might have been better off if he'd had Hamilton rather than Russell immediately in front of him.

"I think maybe they had a better chance, honestly speaking, if Lewis would have stayed behind," he said. "But at the same time I would have tried a move on Lewis because George was very slow in the Esses, and eight and nine.

"So I would have tried into 11 or into 13, because they were both very slow there. So we will never know. But it would have been riskier to leave also Lewis behind, because if I got Lewis, I got George."

Sainz conceded that it wasn't easy to attack Hamilton in the closing laps, as the Mercedes driver still had plenty of pace.

"I think today Suzuka proved to be quite tricky to overtake," he said. "And track position was fundamental. I think I was four or five-tenths quicker than Lewis, closing in on him.

"And I don't think that's enough delta to pass. Just could last two laps, I was quicker. But it gets to a point where if you're not one second quicker, you're not passing. Also, Charles took quite a long time to pass George on very worn hards for George.

"And it just proved to me that today it was all about track position, which is what we lost at the pit stop. We were four seconds in front of Lewis - we exit eight behind."

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Sainz admitted that he felt he could have achieved more than sixth place, given that team-mate Charles Leclerc took fourth.

"Yeah, I think today we had better pace than the result showed, no?" he said. "I think we were very quick straight from the start. I think I got a very good start. And then the first stint, I felt like I had a bit more pace than the guys in front. I managed well my tyres.

"But obviously being behind on track position is always going to cost you, especially in a difficult and hot Suzuka to overtake.

"But yeah, honestly, I felt back to normal today. As soon as I got up into a rhythm, I understood the car well, and I was driving well. A shame about the last pit stop, as it cost us quite a bit of race time, but it's what it is."

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