Carlos Sainz says Ferrari’s decision to spend Friday running in Suzuka experimenting with a raft of set-up changes resulted in him struggling to get into a rhythm with the car.
After scoring pole position in Monza and translating that into a podium, Sainz went one better in Singapore to end Ferrari’s prolonged win drought by taking the victory.
While Red Bull has appeared to put its troubles aside as Max Verstappen topped the opening two practice sessions, both Ferrari drivers wound up inside the top five to mark an encouraging start to its weekend.
Ferrari’s prospects have been bolstered further by the addition of a new floor, but the Spaniard insists the update is not targeted at performance improvements.
“I just got it in FP2, Charles ran it in FP1 and it seemed to work,” he said.
“It’s not a big step, it’s nothing – really fine-tuning the aerodynamics of the car but we dedicated the whole Friday to try different mechanical settings in the car, try different set-ups, just experimenting here and there and hopefully tomorrow we can put the whole package and make a step forward.”
Having taken advantage of Red Bull’s troubles to end its unbeaten run last weekend, Sainz accepts Red Bull has returned to the head of the field in Japan.
However, he is optimistic that the Italian side is capable of usurping both McLaren and Mercedes in qualifying tomorrow.
“Yes definitely seems to be competitive, especially over one lap we can be there or thereabouts behind Red Bull and Max, I think it will be a very tight fight with McLaren and Merc, yeah very tight quali between us six for that second row and I think if do a good job and nail everything tomorrow we can put ourselves in a good position,” he added.
Prior to Monza Ferrari’s form had continuously fluctuated amid problems with getting on top of its capricious SF-23 car.
However, an extensive amount of testing in Zandvoort has enabled the team to understand its package better, with Sainz disclosing that a set-up direction he had pushed for prompted Ferrari’s breakthrough.
But the two-time F1 race winner admits the experimentations conducted by Ferrari on Friday prevented him from getting into a comfortable rhythm inside the car.
Pressed on what improvements need to be made overnight, Sainz issued: “Just to put everything together with the set-up, we’ve tried so many things that it was a bit difficult to get into a rhythm that session because we were changing a lot of things in the car so we did on purpose.
“Now hopefully tomorrow I just choose the car that I want to run this weekend, put everything together that I want to do.”