Carlos Sainz says he was having “big moments” during qualifying for Formula 1’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as he struggled for front-running pace.
Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc captured second to Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, in a session which took place without Max Verstappen after his Q2 failure, but Sainz was left only fifth.
Sainz will start Sunday’s race in Jeddah from fourth spot, due to Leclerc’s penalty, but was left counting the cost of not feeling at ease with the SF-23.
“Mainly from qualifying onwards,” Sainz said of his struggles. “In FP3 I had a decent feeling with the car but, for some reason, sector one was big weakness for me today.
“I couldn’t get the tyres to give me the feeling to push in Turn 1 and 2 and in the high-speed every time I was pushing a bit too much I was snapping and having big moments so, in the end, I was losing 0.3s or 0.4s, which is a lot for just one sector.
“There was clearly something there that I didn’t understand or wasn’t able to put together.
“I was playing a lot with preparation laps, out laps and never switched the tyres on for the first sector. Other than sector one it seemed to be OK, so without this tomorrow we can have it good.”
Sainz suggested Ferrari’s focus on Sunday performance compromised its prospects but outlined that “Charles showed what the car is capable of – so I think if we had a clean day we would be starting P2.
“So, we didn’t have a great qualifying, I had to use two sets [of tyres] in Q2, because of that big moment, I didn’t have two new sets for Q3 and we actually decided to save one.”