Carlos Sainz has credited his approach after outqualifying Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc for Sunday’s Portuguese Grand Prix, doing so for the first time in only his third race for Ferrari.
It was a tricky afternoon in the Algarve hills that only got more challenging as the day progressed and the wind billowed to create conditions that tested all the drivers to the max.
Sainz sent an early warning to his teammate by pipping him in Q1, to which Leclerc responded by going better in Q2 but when it counted Sainz extracted a little more to claim fifth on the grid, best of the rest behind the Red Bull and Mercedes quartet in their own league.
Leclerc was only good for eighth, when it mattered in Q3 Sainz hustled the SF21 a quarter of a second faster around Autodromo do Algarve in its trickiest state.
The Spaniard was content with his day at the office: “It was a very hard qualifying out here in Portimão due to the gusty wind and the tricky conditions but I’m happy with my session.
“When I was out on track I could feel I was driving well and we have been taking good decisions on the setup of the car all weekend.
“The biggest positive for me is that my approach seems to be working fine and the feeling with the car gets better with every session. There is still a lot of room for improvement, but I think today was a good step and I’m happy about that.
“I would have preferred to make it into Q3 with the mediums. My pace was good with that compound and if it hadn’t been for the traffic with another car on the second push I think I would have been in a better position to make the cut.
“However, since I had saved one set of softs after a strong first run in Q1, we decided to avoid unnecessary risks and qualified to Q3 with softs. Once in the top ten, a good couple of laps gave us P5 for tomorrow.
“Despite the tyre disadvantage for the race, I’m confident that with a strong start and tyre management from my side we can fight for good points. Lets race! Hasta mañana.”
Typically, Leclerc did not mince his words dissecting his qualy: My performance in Q3 was just not good enough today and I wasn’t at the level I wanted to be.
“Everyone was struggling in these conditions and I think I pushed a little bit too hard. Once you do that, the rear of the car starts to move a lot and that’s what happened on my fastest lap.
“On the positive side, I did a good job going through on the mediums in Q2, which I think will be a strong point in the race tomorrow, especially at the start. We saw more graining on the softs during free practice.
“I hope that this will give us an advantage with those around me all starting on the red tyres.
We are all really close so in the end, the one who makes the least mistakes will be the one to get ahead,” added Leclerc.
Team sporting boss Laurent Mekies summed up: “All in all, qualifying more or less matched our expectations after what we saw yesterday. Track conditions were very difficult to assess, with an annoying wind, but we secured a good result, getting both drivers into Q3, which only two other teams managed to do.
“Carlos did a great job today, especially in Q3, when he got everything out of the car. Charles could not quite match that in the final part, but his good performance in Q2 means he can start the race on the mediums which, on paper, is a significant advantage in terms of strategy, compared to our closest rivals.
“In this first part of the season, on all three tracks so far, in very different conditions, we have consistently been at the top end of the midfield, always getting at least one of our drivers ahead of the others.
“That was our goal in terms of outright performance and we have achieved it, even though we know we have to work hard to repeat it at each and every Grand Prix.
“Now, tomorrow’s objective is to convert today’s potential in the race,” concluded Melies.