Carlos Sainz has spoken of his surprise and happiness at being able to fight the top teams at the Japanese Grand Prix.
The McLaren driver finished P5 behind Alex Albon, moving him up to P6 in the Driver’s Championship ahead of Pierre Gasly, but he was able to hold off the Red Bull driver for a large part of the race.
“Honestly it’s been a perfect day,” Sainz said in the paddock post-race.
“Qualifying lap was clean, the start was clean and then the race, I managed to extend the first stint a lot, and that gave me opportunities to be strong at the end of the race with the medium tyre.”
The Spaniard was running in P4 after avoiding the collision between Verstappen and Leclerc at the start, and ran there for much of the race, having enough pace to stay ahead of the Monegasque and fight the Red Bull of Albon.
“When Albon and Leclerc pitted, one in front and one behind me, to manage to hold on to their pace was probably the nicest surprise of the year, nicest surprise for the team, to manage to have that space, and to manage to match the pace of Leclerc and Albon for those laps was very special,” Sainz concluded.