Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz believes it will “only be a matter of time” before he equals the speed of team-mate Charles Leclerc, having been out-paced at the opening two qualifying sessions of the 2021 season.
The Spaniard failed to advance into Q3 on Saturday at Imola, while Leclerc secured fourth for the start of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, sharing the second row with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Sainz says the data shows he is not slower than Leclerc through the corners, but he admits he has had difficulty in putting together a consistent lap.
“I know he’s [Leclerc] a qualifying expert and, particularly in the Ferrari he seems to be really at home, knowing exactly what to expect from the car when it comes to Q2 and Q3, high grip conditions,” Sainz said.
“He’s an expert, a very, very good driver – but at the same time if there’s something I’ve seen in these first two races, [it] is that I’m not slower than him in any corner.
“I know that if I put the lap together I can be up there, so it’s now a matter of focusing on how to put those laps together, what does he do and what can I do to get better at putting those laps together.
“Maybe I just need more time and more experience. Let’s see, but I’m encouraged by what I see on the data, and it’s only a matter of time.”
By qualifying 11th on the grid, Sainz will have a free choice of tyres to start Sunday’s race on, providing him with an expanded option of strategies.
However, with Imola being a notoriously difficult circuit for overtaking and the Soft tyres holding up well during Friday practice, Sainz is expecting a difficult grand prix.
“Track position is very important here,” Sainz said. “You saw the whole midfield qualified on the Soft, because we know the track position here is key, but we will try [to move forward], we will see what we can do.
“But the Soft behaved well yesterday in the long runs, so it’s going to be tricky to move forward.”