Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, Circuit of the Americas, 2021

Sainz admits he let Ricciardo pass him by mistake on lap one

2021 United States Grand Prix

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Carlos Sainz Jnr says he let Daniel Ricciardo pass him by mistake on the first lap of the United States Grand Prix.

The Ferrari driver intended to let Ricciardo’s team mate Lando Norris overtake him after he passed the McLaren driver off the track at turn 12.

Sainz arrived at the corner in between the two McLaren drivers on the opening lap. He ran wide at the exit of the corner and rejoined alongside Norris. The pair went into turn 13 side-by-side where Sainz claimed the position.

The Ferrari driver realised he needed to relinquish the position to his rival because he had left the track. He tried to do this into turn 16, where he slowed down.

However Ricciardo in the other McLaren, who had passed Norris in the preceding corners, came through on the inside of Sainz instead.

Sainz explained how the confusion arose. “I got a poor start off the line and this put me on the back foot,” he said. “So instead of being on the attack on the soft tyre I was defending from the McLarens.

“I actually managed to pass them back, then I went side-by-side with both of them into turn 12. I was in the middle. I think it was Lando who braked really late on the inside. We actually all three nearly took Charles [Leclerc] with us in the attempt to stay ahead of each other.

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“Just to give a bit of space to Lando, I decided to go wide to make sure we don’t crash. When I rejoined the track I am ahead of Lando and Daniel in that order and exiting turn 15 I took the conscious decision to let what I thought was Lando by during turn 16 just to make sure that I didn’t get a penalty from the stewards.

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Circuit of the Americas, 2021
Report: How Sainz obeyed order to let Norris past, then re-passed him, in “clever” unseen move
“But what actually happened is during that battle Daniel overtook Lando. So I actually led by Daniel and not Lando because now Lando was the third of the group.”

On lap six the Sainz was told by his team to let Norris past, based on their conversation with race control. Sainz disagreed with the decision, but went along with it.

“The stewards still deemed that I should give the position back to Lando even though that would cost me two positions which would be in my opinion unfair,” he said. “But that was it really. I had to give the position back to Lando, then I overtook him and then I started chasing Daniel again.”

Norris said he came close to colliding with Leclerc when he dived down the inside of Sainz and Ricciardo at the start. “I was very nervous because Charles was just ahead so if I braked too late and locked up I would have crashed into him and I was very close to doing it. And I knew Daniel was on the outside so I didn’t want to do anything stupid.

“I had to almost take the cautious approach and therefore it didn’t pay off. If Charles wasn’t there, then I think I could have got both of them. So a bit of a shame.”

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2021 United States Grand Prix

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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9 comments on “Sainz admits he let Ricciardo pass him by mistake on lap one”

  1. He made things a lot easier for the stewards than if he hadn’t let Ricciardo past.

  2. So letting Ricciardo past was a mix-up from his side after all, rather than his race engineer Adami mixing up the Mclarens.

  3. “Just to give a bit of space to Lando, I decided to go wide to make sure we don’t crash.

    No you deliberately went off to gain an advantage, just as you did in T1.

    1. @balue Unlikely a planned move to gain an advantage, as he gave the place back (or so he thought) of his own accord a few corners later. Better to be cautious than fall victim to Norris’ first-lap dive-bomb.

      Actually it looked like he lost ground going wide at the start, relative to the Mclaren, and lost the place for the first sequence of corners, so no advantage gained there.

      1. @tflb He did it to avoid getting passed by both McLarens as would have happened had he not cheated.

        As for T1, he deliberately went off in order to take a wider curve to keep momentum up, which worked beautifully as that’s why he was able to pass Ricciardo in the esses.

        1. @balue No, he didn’t, and no, he didn’t. At the start Ricciardo had the place fair and square all throughout the first sequence of esses, he got out of shape though later on and Sainz put a really good move on him. By that point any momentum gained from going wide was long in the past. Perhaps watch it again.

          1. The momentum wasn’t what got him past Ricciardo, it was keeping the momentum through T1 that caused him to be in a position to get Ricciardo through the esses. With a tighter T1 following the rules and staying on track, he would obviously not have had the opportunity as the accordion effect was playing out in the esses. And yes, it was entirely deliberate.

  4. I had the advantage of watching on TV with all it’s aerial shots rather than little vibrating mirrors sat inches from the ground and I wasn’t even I wasn’t sure which McLaren he let through initially.

  5. What would happen if Lando fell to the back suddenly? I s Sainz expected to give up all those positions? Bit silly I think.

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