until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

What Sainz reckons Hamilton’s ‘cheeky’ driving did to his race

by Scott Mitchell-Malm, Matt Beer
5 min read

Carlos Sainz believes that without some “cheeky” driving from Lewis Hamilton in the early laps of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, he would have been able to better support his Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc’s efforts to beat Sergio Perez to second in the race and the 2022 Formula 1 world championship.

Leclerc ultimately didn’t need Sainz’s assistance, as he was able to defeat two-stopper Perez on a one-stop strategy.

Sainz said he went into the race fully prepared to drive in support of Leclerc.

“I had clear instructions before the race to don’t even fight him at the start, to not fight him around the pitstops,” he said.

But he lost touch with his team-mate and Perez’s Red Bull in an early battle with Hamilton, which also took too much out of Sainz’s tyres to make it possible for him to one-stop as well.

Sainz lost fourth to Hamilton off the line, citing “a problem in the clutch that we’ve had all weekend that I knew was going to cost me at the start”, but dived back past into into the Turn 6/7 complex at the end of the long back straight.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Race Day Abu Dhabi, Uae

Hamilton went wide, flew over the kerbing and rejoined ahead via the run-off area, just as he had in a similar incident with 2021 title rival Max Verstappen in last year’s contentious finale.

He was eventually ordered to let Sainz back past, doing so on lap four on the way out of the long Turn 9 left-hander.

But he stayed close enough to then mount attacks in the DRS zones on the following lap, the Mercedes making it back ahead of the Ferrari on the run back down to Turn 9.

Sainz made it past Hamilton conclusively at the same point three laps later, by which time he was 3s behind Leclerc ahead and 6s behind Perez in second.

“He let me by, but he let me by in a cheeky way to then get my DRS, passed me again and then it meant that I had to use a lot my tyres to pass him back which cost me quite a lot of race time, quite a lot of tyre usage, which probably forced me a bit into a two-stop and from then on I was on a slower two-stop and couldn’t be in the fight for second,” said Sainz of the Hamilton dice.

Sainz’s theory about where and how Hamilton handed the place back is worth scrutinising, as it was not as clear-cut as the cases seen in early-season battles between Leclerc and Verstappen in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia when allowing the other to pull off a move just before a DRS detection point set up a series of passes and repasses.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Race Day Abu Dhabi, Uae

In this instance, Hamilton still had to stay close to Sainz through 11 corners – both the twisty final sector and the fast sweeps that begin the lap – plus down the pits straight before reaching the DRS detection point just before the Turn 5 hairpin that leads onto the circuit’s longest straight.

But with Mercedes running a higher wing level than its rivals this weekend, the main thing for Hamilton was to make sure there wasn’t a significant straight between where he let Sainz through and the next DRS trigger point.

Asked if there should be specific rules about how places were returned when drivers were ordered to, Sainz said he had no objection to what he felt Hamilton had done because he uses the same trick himself.

Hamilton was not asked by the stewards to hand the position back in this instance, though an investigation of the opening-lap move that required no further action was concluded a lap after he had let Sainz back through.

“I’ve used that rule, or lack of clarity, before, so I’m not going to criticise Lewis at all for that because I would have done something similar,” said Sainz.

“But it’s just how it goes, you get the position at the start with a great move down the inside into Turn 6, the driver decides to cut the chicane and your race is compromised from there on because you’re fighting a car that you probably should have been ahead of from lap one.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Race Day Abu Dhabi, Uae

“I had to use a lot the tyres because of that and in the fight with Mercedes they were pushing us a lot at the beginning to get us to use the tyres and Charles could do the tyre management, I couldn’t and this from there on split the strategy.”

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said Leclerc and Sainz both went into the race on a completely open strategy that was going to be decided by how much chance they got to conserve tyres.

“We were flexible with both drivers because we knew it would have been somehow in between the one and the two [stop], and the difference would be the capacity for saving tyres or not, depending on how much you would be under pressure in terms of driving,” said Binotto.

“So Charles had a bit more margin on the cars behind and could somehow save the tyres more, which gave him the benefit to go for the one-stop, while Carlos had been under pressure at the very start of the race with the Mercedes and somehow we had to switch to the two.

“It was great to see that the team was very flexible, choosing one driver on the one-stop and one on the two, to maximise the race results.”

Sainz ended the season fifth in the championship, between Mercedes drivers George Russell and Hamilton.

Mercedes committed to a one-stop with Hamilton, which meant Sainz ended up behind him on the road again after his second stop.

But the Ferrari was catching the Mercedes at a rate that suggested Sainz would manage to repass even before a hydraulic problem led to Hamilton retiring.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks