Sainz explains how ‘very cheeky’ Hamilton tactics altered his Abu Dhabi GP strategy
Carlos Sainz was left to ponder what might have been after claiming that his wheel-to-wheel battling with Lewis Hamilton in the early stages of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix forced him to move from a one-stop to a two-stop strategy.
Sainz and Hamilton went side-by-side on the opening lap of Sunday evening’s season finale at the Yas Marina Circuit when the Ferrari driver attempted to dive up the inside of his Mercedes rival at the Turn 6/7 chicane – the pair almost coming to blows.
Hamilton took to the run-off area and slotted in ahead of Sainz, before being told by his team to hand the position back, which he did in the final sector on Lap 4, only to use the lengthy straights at the start of the next lap to edge back ahead.
That meant Sainz had to regroup and attack once more, eventually finding a way through on Lap 8, after which he noted significant tyre degradation and adopted a two-stop approach – while Hamilton, race-winning Red Bull driver Max Verstappen and team mate Charles Leclerc pitted just once.
With Hamilton retiring late on, Sainz avoided having to pull off another move during his run to P4, but reflected post-race: “[I’m] satisfied with that, mainly because we had a very tough first few laps battling with the Mercedes – they put us under a lot of pressure.
“Obviously [there was] the issue with Hamilton at the start. He jumped the corner and then gave me the position very cheekily back, to pass me back, so then I had to pass him back.
“I used a lot the tyre and used a lot the pace there, which forced me into a two-stop, which was a slower strategy. It is what it is, we had good pace, and we can focus now on starting like that next year.”
After a rollercoaster second season at Ferrari, which he ended fifth in the drivers’ standings, three places and 62 points behind Leclerc, Sainz’s attention immediately switched to 2023 and a more consistent campaign from himself and the team.
“We need to focus on starting next season a lot stronger. Unfortunately, this year has been tough. We’ve been on the back foot since the beginning, then when the car was at its best I didn’t put [in] a very good result,” he added.
“In the second half [of the season], we were not at our best, but I was driving a lot better, and I got very unlucky on some occasions – so we’ll try and put everything together next year.”